Welcome another Small Business Fund coordinator team!

Spirit in Action is expanding and strengthening our Small Business Fund network!

I met Naomi Ayot when I was visiting Kampala, Uganda in 2014. She was working for Raising the Village at the time and I met with her to hear about an update on the Bucece sustainable agriculture grant. She also safely delivered me from a sketchy bus stop to my hotel, for which I will be forever grateful!

I was impressed with Naomi’s professionalism and passion for helping others, and so I am extremely pleased to be able to welcome her to the SIA SBF team! When I talked to Naomi, she knew immediately a village that could really benefit from our $150 grants and business training. Better still, she knew a local leader there that would work with her.

Naomi and Santa Enume reviewing the Small Business Fund materials.

Naomi and Santa Enume reviewing the Small Business Fund materials.

Santa Enume is a respected leader in the Akwiridiri village in northern Uganda, a midwife and community elder. This very rural village was heavily affected by the violence of the Lord’s Resistance Army in the last 20 years and as a result there are a lot of female-led households, widows, people living with HIV/AIDS, and orphaned children. Santa Enume is eager to work with these women and their families to help them start small businesses and improve their lives and the community in general.

This SBF Team model has been very successful in Nairobi, with Wambui and Josephine. Wambui is my direct contact and she works with Josephine who lives in the Koch slum where we give the grants. Josephine provides the hyper-local knowledge necessary to make the SBF work for the women, and Wambui helps prepare the reports and keep me updated.

Women from 8 SBF groups in Korogocho slum. Wambui, the local coordinator stands behind Tanya. Josephine is pictured left of Tanya.

Women from 8 SBF groups in Korogocho slum. Wambui, the local coordinator stands behind Tanya. Josephine is pictured left of Tanya.

The closest computer to Santa Enume is about 20 miles away. Clearly, it would be difficult for me to communicate directly with her. However, with cell phones ubiquitous throughout Africa, Naomi can easily keep in touch with her and relay information to me. Del would be impressed with all that is possible with technology these days!

In December, Santa Enume made the long journey to be with Naomi, so that they could review the SBF materials, report forms, and training tools. They also took time for prayer together. Last month we sent the funds for the first three new small businesses to a newly established SBF bank account. I’ll keep you updated as these new businesses get off the ground! In the meantime, please give Naomi and Santa Enuma a warm welcome!

Small Business Success in Kenya!

Small Business Success in Kenya!

Five small family businesses received $100 initial grants from Spirit in Action in March, 2015. These families live in Korogocho*, one of Nairobi’s informal settlements, under very marginal conditions. With their profits they are paying for school fees, rent, and buying more food for their families. 

Wambui Nguyo, the local SIA mentor and Small Business Fund Coordinator, send the following reports from three of these businesses:

Mwangaza (Light) Group – Cooked Maize

Ann, (pictured above) has bought a jiko (portable, charcoal burning stove) since her first grant and increased the amount of food she cooked per day. Currently, she is able to pay schools fees for her daughter who is in High School. Before this grant, she could buy maize floor in packets of 2-3 kilos, and she can now afford to buy dozens of kilos as a time. The only drawback to her business was that her structure was destroyed by some people who they felt she was doing better than them. In her own words, she said she felt ‘uplifted’ from her former status. During this meeting, she was called with news that her daughter-in-law was going into labour and she was needed. This was because her family depended on her financially to help them in every way she could.

photos quote wambuiNeema (Grace) Group – Tailoring Services

The leader of the group, Pheris has already bought a new sewing machine, just like she promised she would after her first grant. She can afford to pay rent and buy food, which was a challenge earlier on.

Ebenezer (Stone of Help) Group – Cooked Food

Pamela had done a survey on the schools around her area that did not offer lunch but where parents gave some money to their children for lunch. This was her target area and she has already got an informal contract with two schools to provide rice and beans during lunch time. She does not borrow anymore and is able to return her kid to school that had been sent away due to lack of fees. She can also provide her two children with some snacks which was a luxury in the past! Her challenge so far was that since she sells from the roadside, her structure that she used to do her business on was taken away during a construction of the road that was being extended. But she said, she can afford to buy another.

*More trivia! According to Wikipedia: Korogocho is one of the largest slum neighborhoods of Nairobi, Kenya. Home to 150,000 to 200,000 people pressed into 1.5 square kilometers.

Listening to our Coordinators to Improve SIA

Listening to our Coordinators to Improve SIA

How far is it from Lilongwe, Malawi to Nairobi, Kenya? It doesn’t look so far on an ordinary map of Africa. But then, maps of Africa rarely convey just how large the continent is! Officially, Google Maps says it would take only 25 hours to drive the 1,168 miles between the two capitals. There’s no way you’d get off that easily…

true-size-of-africa

The US fits in just one corner of Africa!

The point is, our local Small Business Fund (SBF) coordinators from different countries don’t often get to meet each other. So I was so excited when I learned that Canaan Gondwe SBF Coordinator from Malawi would be in Kenya for another conference. I immediately arranged for him and Wambui, SBF coordinator in Nairobi, to meet and discuss their work with Spirit in Action.

When I read Canaan’s report of their meeting last month my heart was so full of joy! How wonderful for these two passionate SIA leaders to be able to share with each other about their experiences and challenges with SIA. This exchange is exactly what helps SIA grow, improve, and stay responsive to the needs and reality on the ground.

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From Canaan’s report of their meeting:

SUCCESSES

With joy, we shared a number of positive impacts of the SBF Program in our 2 respective countries and these included:

  • Reduced gender-based violence in the SBF group families
  • Better housing
  • Better food
  • SBF Business groups attain better medication in private clinics
  • Increased incomes
  • Peer business support
  • Acquisition of small scale livestock
brick home Malawi

Harriet in front of the house she built with business profits and a low-interest loan and now rents out to a school teacher. (Malawi)

GROWTH AREAS AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

We also looked at areas of growth which needed attention now or later for effective implementation of our work.

Improving mobility: Monitoring of work is a very important tool in order to produce quality work and results. As the number of SIA SBF group businesses increase in our respective countries, there is a need to discuss the possibility of providing better transportation for all coordinators to ease transport challenges that are currently faced. [This challenge is increased when the business groups are spread out within a larger rural village area.]

Security: Wambui highlighted an issue of security as she works in Koch slum areas. She told me about the violence that now and again takes place there. She narrated that she works with all sensitivity as she travels in the slum areas. She explained that she doesn’t use one route to come in and out of the area. We brainstormed on the issue and suggested that every time she comes into the slum area, she should be making pre-calls to groups so that they welcome her at designated places of security and walk to the working area with members of the SBF.

EXPANSION OF SIA’S WORK

Tanya had requested that in our meeting we also look at the expansion of the work in our countries. We discussed the issue and agreed that the following characteristics are important when considering new coordinators:

  • People with some skills of managing community work
  • People with high financial integrity
  • People who can agree to work on volunteer basis
  • People with team spirit and cooperation

We also looked at preparing these pre-coordinators by providing some formal or informal grooming before they are absorbed into the system.

CONCLUSION

It was a paramount meeting and this enabled us to enhance our insights of how best to implement the SBF Program in our respective countries. It was joy to meet Wambui and hear from each other. Thanks to Tanya who thought about taking advantage of my trip to Kenya to meet Wambui who is within the capital city.

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Thank you to Canaan and Wambui for their honest feedback and continued passion in serving SIA and their communities! SIA’s growing impact relies on the expertise of our excellent local coordinators and we welcome more discussion about these opportunities to improve our programs. 

From skills training to employment

From skills training to employment

One of the exciting new groups that SIA is partnering with this year is Progressive Volunteers, a Kenyan grassroots organization that coordinates local volunteers to improve the poorest communities in Nairobi. We supported them with a grant to purchase several sewing machines and to rent a training space for dressmaking, tailoring, and sewing machine handling classes.

Onyango, the project coordinator, reports on their great success so far in helping people get trained and employed:

“The training center project runs classes for single mothers and girls, to give them relevant tailoring skills to enable them get skilled employment from Ruaraka industries. The first phase of the project saw 43 women trained on embroidery and sewing skills. The second phase began in mid-August and will run till 19th December with 39 trainees.

“To date, 26 of the trained women and girls have managed to secure employment with Rafiki Clothing Industry as machine operators. Two of the trainees were retained in the training centre to help with the management of the centre. The rest of the trainees have been absorbed in private businesses in Kariobangi North and Mathare North markets. This is our success so far this year.” Congratulations to these women and the trainers!

In 2016, Progressive Volunteers hopes to help five women secure funding – grants or low-interest loans – to purchase sewing machines and start their own small tailoring businesses.

New Businesses in Malawi

New entrepreneurs ready to start their small businesses in Malawi, with the help of a SIA grant.

New entrepreneurs ready to start their small businesses in Malawi, with the help of a SIA grant.

A new round of Small Business Fund (SBF) groups in northern Malawi have submitted their business plans and received their initial $100 grant! The first three listed are being mentored by our newest SBF local Coordinator in Malawi, Hastings Phiri. We welcome and wish the best to these new businesses:

  • Tyezee Bakery
  • Mtenthe Winne Tea Shop
  • Gregory Grocery Shop
  • Monily Welding Shop
  • Tawona Grocery
  • Malonje Crop Sales
  • Wangani Cattle Selling
  • Towera Grocery

A time to renew our shared vision

A time to renew our shared vision

“A time to renew our shared vision of working in the community so as to achieve a greater impact in alleviating poverty, and also share success stories!”

Wambui Nguyo, Small Business Fund Coordinator in Nairobi, Kenya, offered the above tagline summary of our Small Business Fund Coordinator Conference in Kasozi Village last July. We traveled from five different countries (United States, Malawi, Kenya, Nigeria, and our two hosts in Uganda), arriving at the end of a small dusty, dirt road to met for three days to discuss all things Small Business Fund.

Uganda is quite a bit more tropical compared with Kenya and Malawi, so we shed our warm sweaters (which we necessary in the cold Nairobi rain) and brought out the sun hats and gathered under a pop-up awning for our morning meetings and evening check-ins.

Our conference meeting room in tropical Uganda!

Our conference meeting room in tropical Uganda!

Our Coordinators range from 12 years to less than 1 year experience with our program and so that sharing between coordinators was rich and welcome. I also had chances to share my thoughts and experiences from the office side of things.

“I met with veteran coordinators of SBF who had a lot of successful stories,” Wambui wrote after the conference. “Just listening to them on how they try to conduct their training is something that I will take back with me. There is need to mentor the groups more before giving the initial $100.”

A Focus on Sustainability

One of our most vibrant discussions was about how to coach groups about conducting their new business with an eye toward sustainability; focusing on the long-term, rather than short-term activities that will leave the family in the same state of poverty. Ofonime Nkoko, SIA SBF Coordinator in Abak, Nigeria also highlighted how he will focus more on mentoring, “This training is very helpful to me. The areas to be noted most are: the mindset preparation; the need and the right time to give out the money; the demand, investment, reinvestment, sustainably, and Share the Gift theory.

Sharing the Gift

Seeing how the SBF program is implemented in each unique community situation (rural or city, in different countries) was part of the fullness of the conversation. “It was helpful to know there are several ways of Sharing the Gift e.g. mentoring, training others on certain skills, etc.” wrote Wambui, the newest coordinator in attendance.

DSC05439_1024

Wambui and Canaan during a tea break between conference sessions.

Canaan, whose community in Malawi has a thriving culture of Sharing the Gift for SIA participants reflected, “I learned how Sharing the Gift implementation can spur more community empowerment and development.”

Dennis Kiprop, SBF Coordinator in Eldoret, Kenya captured the enthusiasm of the group and our willingness to learn from each other in his evaluation, “The time at the conference was good. The discussions in the mornings as a team were especially helpful and encouraging. I learned from the other coordinators and from Tanya and Boyd to be effective coordinator in creating sustainable business groups to the point of Sharing the Gift. We can do it better in the future as coordinators!

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