How do their lives change?

How do their lives change?

Reposting this roundup of the ways peoples’ lives change after receiving a SIA Small Business Fund grant.

In [June 2015] I highlighted the 5 most common businesses that Small Business Fund (SBF) grant recipients typically start. The groups receive $150 and are mentored over the course of a year. This week I received a batch of final One-Year Reports from our two SBF local coordinators in Uganda. These are short reports that check in to see how each business is doing one year after receiving the grant. The report also asks how the lives of the groups members have improved and what they have used their profits to buy. The responses generally fall into one of five categories.

These are the five basic needs that families are empowered to meet after starting an SBF business:

SCHOOL FEES

Paying for school fees is by far the most common goal and use of SBF profits in Uganda. There is supposed to be free universal education in Uganda, but the public schools quickly fill their limited spaces and the families must pay for private schools. School fees for the average private school near Kasozi Village, Uganda are about $12 per term for each student (with 3 terms per year). This adds up quickly with many children and with the additional costs of uniforms and school supplies!

Yuba Robert and his extended family show us their pottery, including a clay savings box. They have been able to pay for school fees, build a house, and pay for another person to plow their fields. Godfrey Matovu, local SBF coordinator is seated on the right.

Yuba Robert (right, standing) and his extended family show us their pottery, including a clay savings box. They have been able to pay for school fees, build a house, and pay for another person to plow their fields. Godfrey Matovu, local SBF coordinator, is seated on the right. (Uganda)

MEDICINE

Ziba and his wife Annie started a furniture business this year. The profit will help cover their medical bills and to feed their 6 children. (Malawi)

Ziba and his wife Annie started a furniture business this year. The profit will help cover their medical bills and to feed their 6 children. (Malawi)

IMPROVED HOUSING

Before…

House with a thatched roof and dirt floor in Uganda.

House with a thatched roof and dirt floor in Uganda.

During…

A new house in progress. We visited this potter in Uganda and they are slowly building the house that will also be a storefront. Bricks for the project are piled in the front yard.

A new house in progress. We visited this potter in Uganda. They are slowly building the house that will also have a storefront for their pottery. Bricks for the project are piled in the front yard.

After!

Completed brick house with a tin roof in Malawi! Kondwani started a business in photography and also selling vegetables. The family now has a solar panel and wiring for lights in his house. They are waiting for the electrification project to reach their neighborhood.

Completed brick house with a tin roof in Malawi! Kondwani’s family has both a photography and a retail vegetable business. The family now has a solar panel and wiring for lights in their house. They are waiting for the electrification project to reach their neighborhood.

More stories about improved housing:

BETTER DIET

The diet in Uganda is mostly ugali (maize meal, like a dense polenta), rice, and some vegetables such as kale, collards, and tomatoes. Improved diets means having enough food to eat and also adding animal protein, like this chicken dish.

The diet in Uganda is mostly ugali (maize meal, like a dense polenta), rice, and some vegetables such as kale, collards, and tomatoes. Improved diets means having enough food to eat and also adding animal protein, like this chicken dish.

FURNITURE

A new table for the the Phiri family! Other families are able to buy beds and other simple, yet profound, dignities.

A new table for the the Phiri family! Other business groups have been able to buy beds and couches – simple, yet profound, dignities.

The booming renewable energy market in Uganda

The booming renewable energy market in Uganda

A briquette fuel making initiative, organized by the Ugandan grassroots organization LUWODEA, is creating hundreds of jobs in their community. They used a SIA grant to buy a briquette production machine, which takes plant waste and compresses it to form a highly efficient fuel source. LUWODEA also formed a women’s cooperative to work together and share profits! (Read more about the cooperative here.)

A trainer with LUWODEA meets with the women from the briquette cooperative.

So far the production is a great success! Mrs. Sharon, one of the group leaders, shared, “We are happy to report that the beneficiaries and other groups are now making their own briquettes to be sold at local markets and to hotels, restaurants, schools, and bakeries around Kamuli Township. In last few days of Christmas preparation, we were able to produce 1,300 briquettes. This is equivalent to 238 pounds of fuel.”

The briquettes can be made out of a variety of locally available waste materials like coffee husks, banana peals and charcoal-dust. Reusing these materials as fuel saves trees from being cut down. Additionally, the briquettes have a high heat content and burn for longer times, with less smoke, compared to wood fuel.

Growing Interest and Expanding Businesses

Looking around the village, LUWODEA is impressed with how many people have already started using and selling briquette fuel. “Currently, the local demand is not able to be met by the LUWODEA women, so we have been promoting and encouraging many other people in the surrounding communities to engage in briquette production as a potential business to help fight extreme poverty in homes.”

Mrs. Sharon reports that a Mr. Nelson, “had abandoned his firewood selling business after three weeks of successive losses. He had many obstacles in conducting his firewood business since most of his clients are resorting to buying briquettes from women working with LUWODEA.” Firewood can’t compare with the more affordable and more efficient briquettes!

The LUWODEA briquette radio show also inspired Moses to start his own business. This year, Moses hopes to be able to employ 10 youth to help with production. Moses writes, “Thank you Spirit in Action for not providing us with fish, but teaching us how to catch fish. I now feel self-empowered and am using realizing fully my potential to fight poverty in my home.”

A second chance for Sylvia

A second chance for Sylvia

It’s not easy being divorced in Malawi. Three years ago, Sylvia S.’s husband left her and ran off to South Africa, leaving her (now age 33) alone with her two daughters (ages 7 and 12). Sylvia had no visible source of income. Previously, Sylvia had relied on her husband for income. She spent her time caring for the children and their home. Suddenly, she was without her husband and without a job, and without money for even soap or food.

She didn’t have a lot, but Sylvia did have some experience as a hair dresser. It is the goal of the Small Business Fund to reach people like Sylvia. Our local coordinators recruit families who are well below the poverty line and who also have some skills that they will be able to leverage with the $150 grant. (Read more about how we choose business groups.)

New Beginnings

Sylvia used the first grant installment of $100 to rent a shop in the Manyamula market. She also bought things like hair weaves, shampoo, and other hair products that would appeal to her new customers. The Debbie and Nomsa Hair Salon (named after her daughters) was open for business!

Sylvia with a customer. She has a style chart and many options for extensions to braid into her customer’s hair.

Just three months later, the shop was so busy that Sylvia needed to hire an assistant to help with the hair braiding and styling services. She used some of her profit to buy a new hair dryer so that she could expand the services at her shop.

Sylvia is now earning her own income and is able to provide for her family. She has enough money for food and to send her two daughters to school.

In a letter from Canaan Gondwe, our local coordinator who recruited, trained, and is mentoring Sylvia, he reports that, “Sylvia is grateful to SIA for the transformation in her life, and most times you find her smiling.”

Business updates from Nairobi, Kenya

Business updates from Nairobi, Kenya

Over the past three years Spirit in Action has supported 33 small businesses in the informal settlement of Korogocho in Nairobi, Kenya. The local coordinators Wambui and Josephine continue to train and mentor the groups, helping them improve their current businesses and expand their enterprises with the SIA $150 grants.

I received these updates on some of the latest business groups there:

Expanding businesses 

Amos and Dorcas took their existing grocery business and used the SIA grant to buy at a wholesale level, reducing their costs. Amos reports “I’ve been able to increase my stock and get many more customers. I have also been able to pay school fees and buy food and clothing for my family.” They have two boys, aged 8 and 4. Together the family sells arrow root (also known as taro), tomatoes, onions, and kale.

“Life has changed for the better”

Monicah is the kind of dedicated, smart woman who seems like she will go far in her business! She cooks and sells cashews, mabuyu and coconut. Mabuyu is a Swahili delicacy from Baobab seeds. She also has eggs and simsim (sesame seeds) at her shop.

Wambui reports, “Monicah no longer hawks around but got a place around the area of her house and built a structure. She bought all she said she would buy and has managed to reinvest 20% of the profit into the business. Life has changed for the better. She can now afford school fees, buy textbooks, feed her children well, and attend any medical need.”

Saving and Investing

Patuli buys cakes and mandazi (donuts – yum!) from bakers and resells them. She has been ill in recent months, and even so she feels her life has changed for the better. Patuli was able to join a chama (micro-savings investment group) for the first time and has saved a bit. She is grateful that now her children (aged 11 and 13) can eat three meals a day, like never before.

As you may be beginning to see, most of these small businesses are helping to pay for basic needs. They help parents pay for school fees and rent. They help families stay healthy by enabling them to eat enough food and pay for medicine when necessary.

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#GivingTuesday: “Whatever is honorable”

#GivingTuesday: “Whatever is honorable”

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8

Today is #givingtuesday in the U.S. After a bustle of purchases and shops, it is a day to do as the early Christians were called to do and reflect on the good, praiseworthy, pleasing, and commendable things going on around us. It’s also a call to support those true works of justice in the world. (Click on the picture to zoom in.)

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Thank you for being part of this good work!

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