If you missed Miles 1-9, you can find them here.
Mile #10: Getting A Feel For the Context
Guest Mile from Brenna
Habari Yako! (Brenna here again.) After a number of car trips and matatu rides, I seem to be getting a feel for our part of Nairobi, Eastlands, where we are in Tassia-Embakasi, how to get to Matopeni or Kayole. It’s been interesting to see some things I’ve studied in my classes appear on the street: the ubiquity of the mobile banking platform M-Pesa, which I am thrilled to have activated on my phone; inconsistency in utility services; microcredit agencies; telecom giant Safaricom; and perpetual construction, or building room by room, floor by floor as capital is available, as interest rates can be prohibitively high.
I have read how infrastructure is an impediment to development in many parts of Africa, which I only superficially understood until we traversed the roads of Nairobi and quasi-roads of places like Mathare or Mukuru Kwanjenga, Irrespective of traffic issues, which put my former residence of Houston, Texas to shame, the roads themselves are bumpy to say the least. Two descriptions of bouncing around in a car (or matatu) have struck me: you are always ‘dancing’ while in the car, and riding in a car is a workout keeping yourself upright, no need to go to a gym.
We’ve also experienced water shortages that required getting water from Redeemed Gospel Church’s well. (A personal thank you to Northside Christian Church in Spring, Texas for funding the pump and well. It has provided a lot of water for us this past week as the water was out at the Chavaseki’s home. [Note: If anyone is interested in funding a generator and/or purification system for the well to turn it into an income generating activity, please contact Tim or Melissa at The 1010 Project!]
Yet our inconvenience is low compared to the lines of people waiting at the well to transport jerry cans of water by foot back to their homes.
There seems to be a kind of Kenyan patience that accommodates these daily issues. As I wrote in my previous post, I am continually impressed with the strength and purpose of all the Partners in the face of both daily inconveniences and extreme hardship. Things I’ve studied in school provide a context for The 1010 Project’s work, but the relationships, network, and hope of the 1010 Network here in Kenya are the bigger learning experience.
Mile #11: 1010 Network Power!
Listening to and observing what has happened as a result of The 1010 Kenya Network over the years makes me smile. Meeting on a monthly basis, this network of community leaders shares resources, ideas, and information about their income-generating activities, as well as about how they run their schools or other community-based organizations (CBOs) to make them stronger and to better serve their constituents and communities.
We’ve witnessed many concrete examples of this even as we’ve been here over the past couple of weeks. We will write about some of these from a business perspective in upcoming blog posts. Today I want to share a more personal example.
Remember I mentioned Sheilah in Mile 3 when we first arrived and went to Beatrice’s house?
Sheilah is deaf. For the past 10 years, she has been ostracized at home. As a deaf child living in the Western rural area of Busia, she had no access to education, to say nothing of social interaction. Somehow Tabitha (Arye Children’s Home) found out about her. Because Tabitha knew Beatrice and Humble Hearts School for the Deaf through the 1010 Network, she was able to bring Sheilah to this beautiful place. She will now be in a loving, nurturing environment where she will receive a solid education, learn sign language, interact with hundreds of other kids (both hearing and non-hearing), and have a new hope for her future.
The 1010 Network provided a significant link that will change the course of Sheilah’s life forever. Beatrice’s and Nelly’s generous and loving hearts and the way they and the rest of their family run Humble Hearts School (see future blog post) will impact Sheilah’s life even more. Now THAT’s a powerful and abundant life giving network!
Mile #12: From Japan to Kenya – almost 20 years later
Speaking of connections…When I first met Daniel in 1993, he was 5 years old and living with his (expat) parents in Tokyo, Japan. I was living in Saitama (to the north of Tokyo) teaching English. Somehow I found out that Daniel’s parents were leading an excellent worship service in English. I remember how much I used to love worshiping with them. I never minded the hour+ train ride to get there in order to be fed spiritually while I was living in Japan.
Daniel has completed his university studies and is a bright, ambitious social entrepreneur launching his business career right here in Kenya. The interesting thing about his business concept is that he offers “clean solution” products such as water purifiers, clean cooking stoves, and solar powered lights that meet the needs of and serve the emerging market of the global poor. Daniel and his company, Affirm Global, have a goal to train and equip 500 “Last Mile Entrepreneurs” over the next 2 years. There is the potential for this to be an excellent business opportunity for some of our partners or for qualified people in their networks.
Brenna and I had a fun and fascinating meeting with Daniel and are now making plans for him to give an informational presentation to our The 1010 Project’s Network partners in August.
Mile #13 – Halfway Mark – Shifting to Retroactive/Reflective Blogging
Alright. Confession time. Blogging has been tremendously difficult for me. I’ve pretty much bombed out on doing it daily, as I had intended to do.
I’ve mapped it out. I’ve made tons of notes. I’ve brainstormed. I’ve started many entries.
However, I’ve had trouble with technology. I’ve struggled with how to capture everything I’m learning and experiencing. We’ve had long days in the field and after eating dinner at about 9 pm and then talking with Pastor Brown, Josephine, and Brenna, and then trying to call Shane and the girls, I’m wiped out. I’ve succumbed to exhaustion as an excuse for not completing blogs as I would fall asleep sitting up on the Chavaseki’s couch with their 3 new baby kittens curled up on my lime green slippers or sitting up in bed with a mosquito net cascading over me.
I think this is exactly what Chuck Blakeman would call “a bad plan carried out violently.” My time here in Kenya (I left the States nearly 3 weeks ago now) has been packed with lessons learned, “Ah ha” moments, and tons of “BFOs” (Blind Flashes of the Obvious). BFOs are yet another concept from Chuck’s 3to5 group.
Much of what I want to share is captured on video and in pictures, but I’ve been frustrated because I don’t have access to an efficient and cost effective way to get these uploaded so I can share them with you.
My solution and resolution: I will still submit 26 blog posts (with some continued assistance from our intern, Brenna). I am committed to capturing my 26.2 day working marathon with at least 26 blog entries. I will just have to accomplish this goal with the concession that blogging every day and getting the info uploaded to the internet has been much harder than I had expected it to be. Therefore, this is now an official “retroactive/reflective blog” rather than a “raw, in-the-moment, real-time” blog.
I am excited about every step I’ve taken during this 26 day “working marathon”! Our days have been packed with fascinating field visits to our partners. We have been asking hard questions and thinking creatively about solutions; challenging our assumptions; engaging in motivating and challenging conversations; dreaming and strategic planning; weeping over the injustice of poverty one minute, and the next minute being inspired by the many we have met who exude inexplicable generosity, hope, faith, resilience, tenacity, wisdom, leadership, love and an abundant mindset.
It is pure joy to run this race and to run it strong. All thanks goes to my “Coach” and to the wonderful “running partners” He has provided. We have a solid 1010 Project team here on the ground – and I continue to gain much strength from them. I also feel tremendous support from each of you. Thanks for your patience and for following along! I am grateful to each of you for “running” this with me and the rest of The 1010 Project team!
In addition to the blogging lagging behind, we are also behind on our goal to raise $26,000! I am not giving up on this goal either! In fact, I am all the more inspired to share with you how my time here is helping me focus, strategize, and gain a new confidence in what is happening here as a result of The 1010 Project’s initiatives and approach. I am eager to share with you the value, power, and impact of being a part of what we are doing and how we are doing it, and I invite you to invest in The 1010 Project to grow this with us. Members of The 1010 Network are following and taking part in this – not only in Kenya, not only in the US, but also in Nepal, Germany, Uganda, Japan, and around the globe!
Mile #14: Meet “Mama 1010”
Mama Immanuel. Mama Peter. Pastor. Mama 1010. Josie.
These are all names for Josephine Chavaseki, Country Director of The 1010 Project, Kenya. In Kenya they often call moms by the names of their kids – so, for example, Josie sometimes calls me “Mama Kaya” or “Mama Leyna.” Josie is the biological mom of her two sons: Immanuel (14) and Peter (8 1/2), and she is the wife of Pastor Brown (yes, that is his first name). Together they founded and lead Redeemed Gospel Church and Fair Oak School.
I have spent almost 6 weeks living and working very closely with Josephine (nearly 3 weeks in Denver and Houston back in Feb/March and over 3 weeks in Kenya). We have “officially” been colleagues for just over a year. She has been on staff with The 1010 Project since the fall of 2010. We talk on the phone about once/week or every other week.
I wish each of you could get to know Josephine personally. Let me try to capture the beautiful woman God has created her to be and all that she does in her role as the Country Director of The 1010 Project, Kenya.
“Mama 1010” exemplifies warmth, wisdom, hospitality, humility, encouragement, passion and compassion. She’s a Networker. Negotiator. Meeting leader. Facilitator. Public Speaker. She “shepherds” the current 1010 Project Network in Kenya. All of this falls under the overarching umbrella of being a powerful prayer warrior who walks with Jesus and gains her strength and motivation for service from (and for) God and Him alone.
Josie loves people. Plain and simple. She genuinely cares about them. She loves to see them transformed. Even more, she loves to see them become change agents in their communities. She looks at a classroom of kids – no matter what their socio-economic level – and sees a classroom of current and future world changers. She looks at a circle of community-based organization (CBO) leaders and she sees community changers. She looks at a group of small business owners and she sees social entrepreneurs.
“Let’s equip them!” she says, “Encourage them! Educate them! Let’s unlock their potential so they can be powerful change agents in their homes, churches, schools, communities, cities, countries, continents and around the world!” It is exactly because she cares about people and loves to see them identify and realize their unique giftedness and potential, that she has been so dedicated to studying and working hard over the years to really listen to and understand them. Josie has studied the psychology, sociology, and systems that are integral to long lasting change through holistic approaches to community development. She understands the importance of analyzing the landscape of the situation and can put things in context. She is also more than willing to stop and explain things to me from a cultural context to help me understand.
I am extremely grateful for her patience with me and for all that she has taught me. And for all the prayers she has prayed over me, The 1010 Project, each of our community leaders and all the people who are served through the 1010 Network.
No doubt, Josie is Patient. Gentle. Kind. But Josephine can also be tough and strong when she needs to be. It was fun to watch how bold (yet diplomatic) she was with the matatu drivers and so many others who would try to charge her higher prices because she was with two “mzungus” (foreigners). It’s true! Josephine had to bargain harder with all the vendors as soon as they would see Brenna and me with her – sugar cane, cabbage, potatoes—you name it, the prices immediately escalated with two white foreigners in the car or walking with her.
Indeed, Josie has a beautiful quiet strength about her. She speaks with ease and eloquence and with great encouragement. Whether she is speaking to a classroom of students or to a circle of entrepreneurial women or “one to one” with a successful professional, Josie knows exactly what to say to them – and exactly how to say it.
Josephine also loves to think strategically. She has been leading the way for us to become relentlessly focused on unlocking the entrepreneurial potential of each of the 1010 Network of community leaders and social entrepreneurs. So, if you ever have a chance to spend time with Josephine, don’t miss it. You will be inspired, encouraged, motivated, and abundantly blessed. Most of all, you will be enriched with Jesus’ love through her spunky spirit, beautiful voice (singing and speaking), soulful rhythm, and incredibly infectious, joyful laugh!
Your generous financial support of The 1010 Project helps us fund Josephine’s salary.
Mile #15: Towards Stronger, Sustainable Schools and CBOs
1. CBO = Community-Based Organization: an all-inclusive term referring to organizations that are recognized by the government such as schools, children’s homes, microfinance institutions, organizations that empower people with HIV/AIDS and/or women escaping the commercial sex industry, etc.
2. GEA = Global Entrepreneur Academy: business and servant leadership training
3. IGA = Income-Generating Activity: additional revenue streams for CBOs
4. STEP = Stronger Together Empowerment Program: The 1010 Project’s revolving loan fund
Every day while I was in Kenya, Josephine, Brenna, and I met with at least one of the leaders of our ten partner schools or other CBOs. We heard again and again how training through the GEA (Global Entrepreneur Academy) or the more recent Advanced Microfinance Training offered this past spring is helping them run their schools and organizations more efficiently and effectively. Every single one of the twenty-two GEA graduates is thinking more intentionally and creatively about how to generate additional revenue streams for their schools or organizations. Many of the groups that are requesting small loans to grow or launch their own small businesses are parents and teachers affiliated with our partner schools.
The newly launched STEP fund provides the seed capital for a small group to receive loans that need to be paid back within 6 to 12 months with a flat interest rate of 10%. In order to receive a loan through the STEP fund, the small group (5 people) must first save 25% of what they plan to borrow.
We currently have 4 CBOs participating in the first round of STEP funding. Each CBO has 2-3 groups of 5 people each for a total of 55 people who will be receiving some seed capital to launch or expand their businesses.
Students benefit from the IGAs at (or near) the schools as they are exposed to this entrepreneurial spirit all around them. These leaders are becoming excellent role models for the students. Students often have the opportunity to learn additional practical skills from many of the income-generating activities like tailoring, running a peanut butter business, raising chickens, bee keeping, fish farming, etc. Many more parents are (or will hopefully be) able to pay their school fees with dignity. And The 1010 Project decreases the risk of default from people receiving their small loan and disappearing. It’s a win-win all the way around.
With every visit I was deeply moved and inspired to see such dedicated parents and teachers working hard to generate additional income for themselves and therefore for the school (or other CBO) as a whole. Both of these will result in making their schools stronger as they change mindsets and equip school leaders, teachers, parents, and even students with the business education, practical skills, and capital to have stronger schools and a higher quality of life themselves!
Mile #16: Entrepreneurial Spirit! An interview with Benjamin the Tailor
Benjamin is the head tailor at Fair Oak School’s vocational training center. He identified a niche market for track suits at area schools and he and his team of tailors are ready to sew! Once they purchase some new sewing machines and materials (with the help of The 1010 Project’s revolving loan fund), they’ll be off and running with their exponentially expanded business. The profits from these track suits will make Fair Oak School stronger – literally. The students and teachers need a more permanent structure for their school, so income-generating activities like the sewing program are very important.
Brenna, Josephine, and I visited with every partner who is ready to launch or expand their current business. We discussed marketability, product development, profitability, risk assessment, determining essential vs. non-essential equipment, etc., to help them think through business viability.
Mile #17: A visit and shopping stop at Jericho Market with Tumaini Pamoja
Phaustine’s smile is as bright as Benjamin’s! Phaustine is the founder and director of Tumaini Pamoja, which means “hope together”. Tumaini Pamoja is an empowerment and education group for those affected by or infected with HIV/AIDS. She has three groups of five women who will receive small loans to grow their businesses. The loans will ensure that they have the necessary nutrition to accompany the medicine that keeps them alive and well. It also empowers them to earn their own income to provide for their own needs, rather than be dependent on inconsistent sources of assistance.
Margaret is one of our new protégés for The 1010 Project in Kenya. It was a true joy to visit Margaret, Rebecca, and Phaustine at the Jericho Market. Their energy, determination, and service-oriented approach will indubitably take their business to the next level! Margaret spoke eloquently and enthusiastically about how the GEA trainings have impacted her perspective and approach to business. We will visit Margaret and the others again in a few months to assess business growth and the effects this is having on their quality of life.
Margaret was extremely complimentary of Josephine for organizing such applicable and motivational trainings and for the guidance Josie had provided her over the past few months. She also raved about Michael Nyangi and all that she learned from him during the Advanced Microfinance Training in April.
Of course we shopped! We all wanted to buy one of everything. We placed some customized orders that were delivered with more huge smiles and hugs after our 1010 Network Partner Reflection Meeting the Friday before I left.
Mile #18: Vessel of Hope – Part I: Grace’s great “ground nuts”
After four adventurous (to say the least) matatu connections, we arrived at Vessel of Hope School (on the border between the Soweto and Kayole neighborhoods) and were ushered into their “office/library” by candlelight. The electricity was out. Not an uncommon challenge faced by students and teachers during a typical school day. But in the big picture, certainly not their biggest challenge. Add to the list: their water source was recently cut off, there is not enough money coming in from school fees to purchase the rice and beans to feed their 100+ students, and teacher salaries are limited to an insufficient $37.50 per month (yes, just over $1/day!) Not to mention that they don’t have enough school supplies or proper learning conditions.
Despite these daunting obstacles, Grace, the Director of Vessel of Hope, and her tremendously dedicated staff have a renewed determination to find ways to generate income for their school and to supplement their meager salaries. They always have a representative at the 1010 Project Network meetings – often the head teacher, Sarah. Between Sarah and Grace they have completed the Global Entrepreneur Academy and Advanced Microfinance Trainings. They are eager to put their training into action! Grace and Sarah have brainstormed ideas for income- generating activities at both the individual and school level in order to launch or grow their own small businesses. These enterprises supplement their salaries and generate additional revenue for the school.
Many of them want to expand their businesses. They are already selling things like second hand clothes (matumba), vegetables, or kitchen products. Grace herself roasts delicious peanuts that she sells in little sealed bags for 10 “bob” (10 Kenyan Schillings = about 12 cents). We all sampled Grace’s protein packed “ground nuts” and unanimously concluded that they taste far better than any of the peanuts we bought at the store.
We’ve learned from Michael Nyangi (LOMORO) and others that one of the biggest challenges with microloans is ensuring you can trust the people to whom you are loaning money. Too often people will take the money and take off.
Therefore, loaning to teachers and/or parents connected with a school is a good idea. When small groups of teachers and parents of our partner schools work together, they can encourage each other and push each other forward to achieve their business goals, increase income, and guarantee long term sustainability for the school.
Mile #19: Vessel of Hope (Part II) – A Sticky-Sweet Decision Making Process
Guest mile by Brenna
When we visited Vessel of Hope School, we learned more about their proposal for a loan to increase the cake-baking capacity of the school through the purchase of an electric oven and more cake pans and ingredients.
Celine, a teacher at the school, bakes in between her teaching duties. Celine learned to bake from a friend who had gone to baking school and really enjoys it. Yet her current method of baking is time-consuming, labor-intensive, expensive/inefficient, and unhealthy.
The method: A large pot is partially filled with sand and heated over a charcoal fire. Once it reaches sufficient temperature, the cupcake (or queen cakes as they are called here) pan with batter is placed in the pot and covered. Celine must keep checking the fire to ensure (relatively) correct temperature. Vessels of Hope has five baking pans and only one pan of cupcakes can be baked at a time, which takes about 40 minutes to cook.
With an electric oven, Celine can bake multiple pans at one time, guarantee consistent temperature, and use the more efficient, cleaner and safer electric method rather than tending a charcoal fire.
Grace, the director of Vessel of Hope, and Celine are confident that there is a ready market for the cupcakes. They’ve tested the market by making small batches of the cake (via the sand pot method) and have had great success in sales. If they are able to scale up the operation, they can sell to both the local market as well as nearby supermarkets.
The added income will help pay teachers’ salaries (about $37.50 USD per teacher/month) in addition to supplementing the feeding program for the children. Teacher salaries are inconsistently paid as revenue is derived from student fees. Those fees are also inconsistently paid due to parents’ minimal opportunities for income-generating activity in these areas. Additionally, many students are orphans and pay no fees.
While the Kenyan government offers free primary education, government schools are located too far away from many of the slum areas, effectively negating ‘free’ education for large portions of the population.
Melissa raised the question of providing a nutritious food product to the community rather than cupcakes, given the unpredictable food availability for many children. This led Grace and the Vessel of Hope team to a discussion of developing a proposal for a loan for a peanut butter machine (peanut grinder). Grace and the teachers believed there is also a ready market for peanut butter.
Currently, many people from the area travel to other neighborhoods to purchase peanut butter. If Vessel of Hope purchased a peanut butter machine, they could sell a nutritious product, community members wouldn’t have to travel as far to purchase peanut butter, and the machine would generate money for the school. It was also discussed that if a parent was unable to pay their child’s school fees, s/he could work at the peanut butter machine (selling peanut butter) for a day or the equivalent of what was needed to pay the fees.
Vessel of Hope is a great example of the IGA proposals being submitted to receive funding from The 1010 Project’s revolving loan fund. We were impressed not only with Vessel of Hope’s current proposal for cupcakes, but also their rapid and fruitful brainstorming session on other income-generating projects, and how the projects could improve and build on one another. Peanut butter cupcakes, anyone?