When you first get a glimpse of Huruma there is so much to take in – your heart breaks at the poverty and kids who stand on streets hungry and just the hard life that is there. In the middle of this you discover a drive for work – and a spirit of entrepreneurship. On our first day, our Matatu driver said to us, as he described the work ethic of people in Nairobi, “If you don’t work you die. You die on the streets or you die in your home.”
Working isn’t about getting a great paycheck, having a nice office space, vacation time, and a lot of amenities. For the businesses we visited today it is about providing for the basic needs of their families and the people in the community. Many of the business owners are doing things they enjoy – they are tailors who love to make clothes, cooks who specialize in a dish that provides a basic need, and suppliers. For Mary, a grandmother of 4 – her fruit market business allows her to eat and also have enough money to send three kids to school. View photos
Furaha’s main focus is providing education – that changes lives and provides for basic needs. But because of the shear number of kids and people in the slums not every kid can attend the Furaha community school. So while Furaha may not be able to accept a family’s child to school, they can still make a difference for a family by helping provide a business microloan. These loans allow people to generate enough income to feed their family and send them to another fee-based community school. (The kids who attend Furaha do not have a fee to attend but are carefully selected based on various factors and needs.)
The people we visited today are growing their businesses and providing food and shelter for their families because of microloans. A microloan is a loan of a small amount that has a short repayment period, and a favorable interest rate. As a small business proves their ability to consistently pay off their loan they can reapply for larger amounts.
As an example, let me tell you about Ann, she has a home goods business – selling basic household items, dishes, mattresses, etc. In starting out her business a great opportunity came her way. A local school came to her seeking to buy a large number of mattresses. Ann did not have enough mattresses in stock and she needed capital to purchase the stock needed to fulfill the order. This business owner, seeing the opportunity, applied for a microloan through Furaha, and was awarded $100 loan (10,000 shillings) to be paid off within six weeks. She immediately bought the mattresses, fulfilled the order and paid off her loan within one week. She made enough money from this transaction to bring on a new employee and position herself for an even larger order of plastic chairs from the school.
With Ann’s second loan, she received even more capital to buy stock and make needed improvements to her store. The first $100 loan helped launch her business and changed her life, and the life of her new employee. With the second loan, Ann positioned her business as a dependable source for goods and services within the community. More and more opportunities are pouring in and it is clear this is helping Ann and also providing for the needs of people in Huruma.
In all we visited eight businesses today and each business told a story of how these microloans have changed their lives. One story stood out beyond the rest. This is the story of Rose a local seamstress/tailor. As she stood in her shop, surrounded by fabric of all kinds, she had a creative look in her eye. It is clear she is working in a field that gives her life. She has been part of Furaha for 11 years and was one of the first loan recipients. She serves as a guardian for kids at the Furaha school and also has been able to send her own kids to school. (Guardians help care for kids who may be orphaned or are not being cared for by their own parents). Her relationship with Furaha started with a $100 loan so she could buy material to make dresses. This created an opportunity for Rose to make enough money to send her oldest child of five to primary school. After several loans and much support from Furaha over the years, today Rose has two children attending University, one in secondary school, and two in primary school. That first loan changed Rose’s life and the lives of her children.
While $100 may seem like very little to us, it is life giving and life changing to have an opportunity to borrow this kind of capital to expand, start or develop a business. In the end, these loans are fueling hope within the community and strengthening the relationship Furaha has with people in need. The have a growing reputation as an organization that cares for and provides for people. As we talked to the business owners, many of them shared their dreams for what is next – either expanding their business, providing jobs for more people, and most of the time making it possible for all of their children to attend school and eat everyday.
Today we ask that you pray for the business owners that are being supported and cared by the Furaha community.
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Traveling a Browns
This page highlights many of our adventures of traveling our nation and world.