Success Story: Fikani Bicycle Transporting Service

People hire bicycle ferries to ride across town (sitting on the back of the bikes) or carry goods like fertilizer and crops to/from market. The rough roads are hard on the tires.

People hire bicycle ferries to ride across town (sitting on the back of the bikes) or carry goods like fertilizer and crops to/from market. The rough roads are hard on the tires.

Business Members: Stanly Kumwenda (23), Janet Banda (20), Harry Kumwenda (child)
Product: Bicycle Transportation Services
Area served: Manyamula, Malawi
Received SIA grant: $100 on October 9, 2014
Profit after 3 months: $105

Stanly and Janet married young. His parents never had money for enough food or clothing for everyone. The newlyweds were eager to start a good life together and yet they faced many challenges. They came to Canaan Gondwe, Spirit in Action Small Business Fund (SBF) coordinator and mentor, for advice on building a more successful future for their family.

I kept on explaining about the God-given potential within us,” writes Canaan in his report on their progress. “I had series of talks, even citing some people in the village who had changed their situation for the better.” Stanly was an enthusiastic learner, eager to move forward and put what he was learning into action. Canaan talked to him about dreaming and visioning for the future, business research, getting focused, working hard, and also about “getting disciplined with any money that comes his way.”

Stanly, Janet, and other new grant recipients completing their business plans with the guidance of Canaan Gondwe (standing).

Stanly, Janet, and other new grant recipients completing their business plans with the guidance of Canaan Gondwe (standing).

Stanly likes bicycling and so Canaan told him about the Small Business Fund program and suggested that he start a transportation business to carry people and goods around the village on a bicycle. Stanly and Janet attended the official SBF Training sessions with Canaan and prepared a business plan together. When they received the first grant of $100, they went straight to buy their first bicycle.

Within three months of hard working, Stanly bought another “fairly used” bicycle to expand the business. He has recruited a friend to work for him – job creation! – and now two bicycles are on the road every day for the Fikani Bicycle Transporting Service.

Stanly happily reports an income of about $7.50-$12.50 each day! Canaan continues to mentor him about expanding the business and saving for the future. He is pleased with the family’s progress reporting that, “Stanly and the family are now food secure and are progressing well in life. They plan to buy iron roofing sheets and build a better house of their own soon.”

A step up with a small grant, dedication and hard work, and mentoring support all have helped Stanly and Janet build the life and business they had only dreamed was possible. A grateful Stanly writes that “God is gracious and faithful; I never expected such a turn around on my family.”

Rock on, Emmanuel!

Rock on, Emmanuel!
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Emmanuel’s band bought their instruments with a Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative low-interest loan. They have since paid it back, after playing gigs around the village.

“Feel welcome, feel welcome!” The band – with keyboard, a drum kit, and a whole line of singers – sang us into the full meeting hall.  The music, the dancing, the warm smiles certainly made us feel very welcome. Boyd and I settled in to meet and share with the members of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative (formerly called the Manyamula Savings and Loans Group – MAVISALO) in rural Malawi.

“I  want to give a testimony of what this group has done for me.” The band leader, Emmanuel Cachari, declared.

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Notice the “local looking” cymbal in the upper left corner of the photo.

“If you look closely at my musical instruments you will see that some look local and some look exotic. The ones that look local, that is my beginning.” Indeed, one of the cymbals on the drum kit was clearly a piece of pounded metal, with drilled holes to make the right kind of ringing sound.  The room filled with applause, celebrating just how far the group had come.

They band had been playing gigs at weddings and other celebrations, earning about $10 US Dollars per show. But their “local looking” instruments left something to be desired.

Then, Canaan Gondwe, the leader of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative (which has received several SIA Community Grants) invited them to join the Cooperative. The band used the Cooperative as a place to save their earnings. Soon, they were able to receive a low-interest loan of about $280 to buy the “exotic” keyboard and drums. The change in quality of their instruments helped them secure even more gigs and now they have saved over $1,000 in earnings, even after paying back the loan.

The key to business is “hard work and focus,” Emmanuel confirmed to us. And the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative is a way for people to be able to expand their businesses and succeed through their hard work  – just as he did. “I hope many of us will change for the better,” he said of his 165 fellow Cooperative members.

Emmanuel finished his testimony by sharing a big dream with us: “I hope, in time, we will be visiting you in the U.S.” he said, as the room erupted with cheers and whistles of support. We look forward to rocking out with this band again soon!

More stories about the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative:

*See* Spirit in Action! New video!

*See* Spirit in Action! New video!

SIA Volunteer Extraordinaire, Carmen Hernandez, created this beautiful film for us using footage and photos captured by Boyd Cothran during our visit to Africa (Summer 2014). Her aim was to show what we do, and how we try to have a positive attitude in all our endeavors. Thank you, Carmen!

(For more of Carmen’s non-SIA work, visit her website: http://www.isntitbeautiful.co.uk)

Malawi Small Business Fund in Five Photos

Malawi Small Business Fund in Five Photos

Five photos from our visit with Small Business Fund families in Manyamula Village, Malawi in July. For more about the Small Business Fund, read the FAQs here.

Rev. Issac started his photography business in 2007. He has reinvested his profit to purchase speakers and a TV screen so that he can provide slideshow and video services to his clients. On the wall of his house was a photo he took of me and Boyd during our visit in 2011!

Rev. Issac started his photography business in 2007. He has reinvested his profit to purchase speakers and a TV screen so that he can provide slideshow and video services to his clients. On the wall of his house was a photo he took of me and Boyd during our visit in 2011!

Rev. Issac has hired these two young men to form bricks for a new rental house. They will make about 15,000 bricks for the project, which will be left to dry for 3 days in the sun. The bricks will then be  burned to increase their strength. The men will earn about 1 cent per brick, or about $150 for the whole project.

Rev. Issac has hired these two young men to form bricks for a new rental house. They will make about 15,000 bricks, which will be left to dry for 3 days in the sun. The bricks will then be burned to increase their strength. The men will earn about 1 cent per brick, or about $150 for the whole project. SIA is a job-creator in Manyamula.

Love's Bean Shop is the only one in the market that sells dried beans, which are a popular source of protein. Love is HIV+ and uses some of her business profit to travel to the nearest town to receive the treatment that keeps her healthy.

Love’s Bean Shop is the only one in the market that sells dried beans, which are a popular source of protein. Love is HIV+ and uses some of her business profit to travel to the nearest town to receive the treatments that keeps her healthy.

Children at Nellie's school recite their colors and ABC drills for us. The school started in January with just 7 children and it has already grown to over 50 students. Nellie has hired 2 other aids to help her with caring for and teaching the children.

Children at Nellie’s school recite colors and ABC drills for us. The school started in January with just 7 children and it has already grown to over 50 students! Nellie has hired 2 other aids to help her with caring for, feeding, and teaching the children.

 

McDonald used his Small Business Fund grant to purchase a treadle water pump, to replace the watering can for irrigating his farm. His grandchild had died just days before our visit and so we took time to pray with him after admiring his tomato, mustard greens, and squash crops.

McDonald used his 2010 Small Business Fund grant to purchase a treadle water pump, which replaced an old watering can for irrigating his farm. One of his grandchildren had died just days before our visit and so we took time to pray with him after admiring his tomato, mustard greens, and squash crops.

Read more stories about Spirit in Action in Malawi!

What’s in a smile?

The bright, sun-flooded room was filled with community members. They were excited to welcome us as visitors from the US to their rural village in northern Malawi. They sang; a guy played the keyboard and another a makeshift drum set. And then there sat the local traditional leaders of Manyamula Village. All looking bored and disaffected. I was introduced as the representative of Spirit in Action, which has helped fund the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative, whose members sat before me. I smiled and waved. Then Canaan Gondwe, leader of the Cooperative, introduced the traditional leaders. They barely blinked their eyes in acknowledgement of the appreciation of their presence.

Julius and Mestina in front of their new home, without smiling.

Julius and Mestina in front of their new home, without smiling.

Later, I mentioned this stone-faced reaction to Boyd, my husband and fellow visitor. He suggested that perhaps it was the custom to let the respectful words fall on unmoved faces.

The next morning we went to visit a number of families who had received Spirit in Action’s Small Business Fund $150 grants. We heard and saw the evidence of the change in the lives of these families – people had been able to save and build houses with tin roofs and cement floors. Mestina Tembo told us about her successful donut and scone business. She sells at three markets a week, traveling as far as 32km to sell her baked goods. Through this and a little income from renting out their old house, they have been able to build a new house and invest in pigs. The new house, which has plastered walls on the inside, was described by our guides as, “not something a villager would have.” In other words, Mestina and Julius Tembo were thriving as a result of their business and the investment by SIA and the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative.

Mestina told us this amazing story of success without cracking a smile. I realized that the lack of a smile made me question if the positive change was something to be endured rather than an achievement to be proud of.

Mestina with Tanya. Showing off the family's new kitchenware, with a smile.

Mestina with Tanya. Showing off the family’s new kitchenware, with a smile.

As we moved from her house to see the pigs out back, I mentioned this realization to our local interpreter, Winkly Mahowe. I told him that I noticed few people smiling as they told their stories and posed for pictures and that in the US we are always telling each other to smile; that we like to see smiles. Around the world, Americans are known for (and sometimes chided for) our excessive smiling.

We went back inside to take more photos of Mestina and Julius in their lovely home, and just before we took the “snap” (the word for photo in Manyamula), Winkly interupped and said something to the effect of, “oh yea, these crazy Americans said they like to see people smile in photos. Would you mind?” Everyone laughed and the couple obliged, showing all their teeth as they smiled for the camera.

Fikire and her daughter Iris, posing in front of their house-in-progress.

Fikire and her daughter Iris, posing in front of their house-in-progress.

I immediately noticed a shift in my perception of Spirit in Action’s impact on this family. The smile – even though I knew they had been asked to do it – signaled to me that their business and pigs were big accomplishments; that there was a feeling of pride and joy in the household.

After noticing the difference in myself when I listened to an unsmiling versus a smiling person, I kept that cultural touchstone in my mind. I realized that I hadn’t yet learned the full cultural significance of the smile/not smile in Manyamula.

A boy laughs as he jumps into Boyd's photo of a sack of maize.

A boy laughs as he jumps into Boyd’s photo of a sack of maize.

It’s not that people don’t smile in general in Manyamula. There were plenty of jokes and laughter – teasing about World Cup team picks, about how people used to live before things started to look up – among friends and family members. The stern look seemed to be especially reserved for important stories and photos.

Winkly told more people that day to smile for the camera. And I continued to smile during the rest of the visits, as fit my nature and my joy that day. But looking back through the photos of that visit, I noticed that Boyd had picked up his cue from the local traditional leaders. In the group photo with community members, he stared unsmilingly at the camera. Such is the cultural give and take of a site visit.

 

 

 

Boyd and Tanya with members of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative. Pictured with the unsmiling traditional leaders.

Boyd and Tanya with members of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative. Pictured with the unsmiling traditional leaders.

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