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Opening Village Doors in Malawi

When we arrived at Kamuzu International Airport, we were greeted with friendly smiles and welcoming voices. Though the airport was simple there was a abundance of warm hearted people that guided us into Malawi. It is the same treatment that we received as we drove to the country side, heading to the district of Mangochi. As we climbed in elevation through the mountains the air turned fresh and cold, as if welcoming us to the warm coastal weather of Lake Malawi.

Our visit to Malawi was an invitation from Warm Hearts Foundation which has been working in Malawi for over a decade. They wanted to partner with Opening Village Doors Foundation to provide micro-lending to empower women in the district of Mangochi. Warm Hearts Foundation liked the OVDF micro-lending model in Kenya- to directly engage individuals ready to start  income generating projects. Once these individuals have shown an interest, we work with them to develop a business plan, provide training, and give starting capital and mentorship.  The ultimate goal being to walk alongside those who we support so they can succeed in business and in life.

During our visit we had the opportunity to meet some of the 12 business women that the two organizations have been able to partner with. The businesses are located in the Mangochi Market. This market is open seven days a week and encompasses a multitude of goods, such as, fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, beans and other things. Anything you could want can be found in this market, it is a busy place full of activity and trading. In the market we found Gloria, who operates a stand of fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices. She captures the essence of this partnership as she remarks that “ …before this, I did not have a way of paying for my child’s education, healthcare or meeting basic needs, now, I am able to pay tuition for them in the private school and I am able to support my family”…she then added, “thank you so much for your support”. Gloria’s story is not unique for these 12 business women, her statement encompasses how all of them feel about the new opportunity.

As we end our visit in Malawi we are reminded of the African proverb that states “…one hand cannot take cows to the river by itself…” meaning, that in order to fight poverty through business start-ups we need the support of donors, staff and volunteers, who value our mission and vision so those we work with can thrive.

 

By Frederick Bw’Ombongi and Alexis Shannon

New technologies, new opportunities…

Every entrepreneur wants to be associated with a successful businesses; Mpesa is just one of them. Since its Launch in 2007 by Safaricom and Vodacom, MPESA has been considered a global success. Researchers show that more than two Thirds of adults in Kenya use MPESA for their transactions, this research further states that MPESA  does about 8 million transactions daily. Mpesa can be used for Shopping, Utility bills, Taxi ride, Deposits and many other uses. Currently Mpesa has about 85,000 agents countrywide and Janet Gesare is one of them.

Janet completed her education, where she studied early childhood development. For a few years she followed her career path and was teaching in one of the private primary schools within Ngong where she earned 6000Kshs ($60) monthly.  This, she says was never enough to sustain her and the family as the standard of living is very high. Janet bought the MPESA business from her uncle. Though she did not have enough starting capital as her uncle withdrew all his money from that business line. She struggled since she had not enough float ( money required to maintain at hand to pay customers) but had made so many clients.

Early last year, Janet was introduced to Opening Village Doors Foundation by one of our very loyal client, Jacklyn; she then visited our office to find out more about our business model. She applied for a loan of 50,000Kshs in order to boost her business. She also received training on managing her business and successful ways to engage customers. When we visited Janet in February 2017 she could not hide her happiness.  She invested the funds in expanding her MPESA business and added drinking water which she sells at 100% profit and being that her shop is centrally located in a petrol station and also near a garage, she sells up to four boxes of water dally.

Currently her MPESA is also doing very well. In fact she wants to clear the loan as soon as possible and apply for more to expand her business even further.

Where laughs are shared: Shiku’s Salon

In a nice single room, a lady stood busily braiding a young customer’s hair as they engaged in a serious conversation spiced with laughter. You could tell the conversation was friendly and the relationship built between them was cordial and respectful. On the shelves of the room were well-organized beauty products, a picture of the president of Kenya, and the business license from the county government. The eyes turn to us as we enter the room and it’s all smiles as she motions us in, saying karibu…. welcome to the Jackline Wanjiru story.

Jackline Wanjiru Mwangi is the first-born daughter in a family of three children. She began attending high school, but was unable to finish her studies due to financial difficulty; her family could not afford the tuition. To make ends meet, she began working as a day laborer, doing any jobs that she could find – mostly manual labor – to help support her parents and siblings. One of these jobs she got was to clean a salon. Over time, she acquired the skills of salon work and enrolled herself in classes to learn to style hair. Eventually, she was employed as a hair stylist in a salon, and she worked like this for some time before she saved some money to be able to afford to buy a blow drier.

She approached Opening Village Doors Foundation and sought help, asking us for a loan of 30,000 shillings – approximately $400. With the money OVDF was able to provide, Jackline purchased a stock of salon supplies and a second blow drier, and began her career, opening Shiku’s Salon. Jackline’s business has steadily grown since then, and she has never missed a single payment – she will fully pay off the initial loan this coming August, two months from now. She now has two full time employees working for her!

Throughout the whole process, Jackline has supported her siblings, a brother and a sister, through their studies in high school, helping her family to pay their tuition so they will not be forced to follow the same path she had to walk, and they might be better prepared for their own futures. Jackline hopes to continue to expand her business and plans to keep working in the salon doing what she loves, thanks to her diligence, determination, ambition, and a little start-up help from Opening Village Doors Foundation.

Thank you for making Jackline’s dream come true! Join us to make more stories possible.

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