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Village HopeCoreVillage HopeCore International, a nonprofit working to end poverty in the rural regions of Kenya, was founded in 1982 by Dr. Kajira “KK” Mugambi.

A native of Kenya and former resident of a village located at the foothills of Mt. Kenya, Mugambi started this organization 19 years after leaving Kenya in pursuit of an education in the United States. Mugambi used the skills and knowledge he acquired while in school to give back to his home country.

The organization divides its efforts into two main programs: their Microenterprise Program and their Public Health Program.

The Microenterprise Program relies on microloans to help local business owners and entrepreneurs get their businesses up and running. It consists of six steps:

  • The first step involves forming a group. This allows participants to support one another throughout the program.
  • The second step is what they call the “Merry-Go-Round.” This step requires the participants to donate a small amount of money once a month. One member receives these donations and it rotates each month until every member has received funds. These funds give the members the opportunity to start or sustain a business.
  • The third step involves distributing a “soft” loan. Once the members successfully complete step two, they are granted a loan of approximately $350. The group may then divide the money amongst themselves at their discretion. This step is used to teach them how to repay loans and for the organization to evaluate their ability to work as a group.
  • After the soft loans are distributed and paid back, the group moves onto the fourth step. Here, each member is given a hard loan that is expected to be paid back within two years. This loan gives the members more of an opportunity to grow and expand their businesses.
  • After this step, they proceed to the fifth step, which involves paying back the loans and creating a group loan security fund just in case any of them default on their loan.
  • The final step has the group engage in monthly meetings to support one another in their endeavors.

The Public Health Program helps counter many health issues in Kenya, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. It is divided into five different areas of focus:

  • The first one involves microenterprises, much like their other program, but instead, the funds are distributed to counter health issues.
  • Their second area of focus is a series of mobile health clinics and schools that are placed throughout rural Kenya. In total, they have 72 schools, with more than 20,000 students in 393 villages. These clinics provide clinical services, classroom health education, malaria bed nets and deworming medication.
  • Thirdly, Village HopeCore International provides villages with clean water systems and hand hygiene equipment for schools. This includes health clubs, tanks and hardware and monitoring and maintenance. They have these programs in more than 180 schools, reaching nearly 45,000 students in 516 villages.
  • The fourth aspect involves helping expectant mothers and children under the age of five, providing them with family planning services, deworming medication, Vitamin A and health education. Every year, they help around 9,000 families in 200 villages.
  • Finally, they assist with planning parenthood through clinical services, youth centers and health education.

Village HopeCore International recently received worldwide recognition for their services and the positive impact they are having on communities in rural regions of Kenya. In the future, the organization hopes to expand their reach throughout Western Africa.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Street Insider, Village HopeCore, 2SenseWorth
Photo: Village HopeCore International

crime
Crime is problematic because it counteracts the purpose of microenterprise when introduced to a poverty ridden area. Crime is considered to be a major hindrance to a country’s development according to the United Nations. Therefore, crime needs to be addressed in order to have a lasting effect on increasing any country’s well being.

One problem that impoverished individuals face is the inability to secure resources and develop extended networks to increase their potential for opportunities. One in four children are in a family that is on welfare. It affects not only macro but microeconomic levels, thus nurturing instability.

Neighborhoods have characteristics that affect their inhabitants; crime and health problems alike have been linked to these characteristics. Studies have shown that increased collaboration and shared beliefs in these areas allow for more results to counter the negative effects of poverty.

Neighborhoods with concentrated poverty isolate their residents from the resources and networks they need to reach their potential and deprive the larger community of the neighborhood’s human capital. Unemployment is a contributing factor, as is education. A correlation has been found between less education and an increase in crime. There is also a correlation between poverty, violence and drug use as poverty increases the effects of violence and increases illegal drug use.

Crime and poverty occur in geographically concentrated areas. There is a high correlation between where crime occurs and poverty stricken areas. Various crimes occur in these areas, but violent crimes occur at a much higher rate compared to more prosperous communities.

Community policing is a method that has been successful in the past, alleviating crime issues. A stabilized community provides results that demonstrate that crime can decrease in poverty stricken areas.

The areas where poverty and crime are concentrated need safe microenterprise opportunities that have the potential to be fruitful, without worry for macro and microeconomic consequences due to crime.

– Erika Wright

Sources: Hud User, Poverties.org
Photo: Flickr

microenterprise
Microenterprise is based on the principle that poor people in developing countries have less access to economic growth. They are unable to fully participate in their country’s growing economy. This problem affects substantially more women than men. Women have a harder time obtaining credit, and often lack a safe place to keep their savings, making it more difficult for them to lift themselves from poverty.

These poor people in the developing world do not have the same access to entrepreneurial opportunities as those in the developed world. Microenterprise works to even out that playing field. USAID, along with many other non-profits and NGOs work with developing communities to provide them with access to financial services to help them grow small businesses or farms.

The programs often seek to improve the quality and affordability of financial services for people in developing countries, extend access to excluded populations such as women, the disabled, and those living in remote and rural areas, and to assist these people selling their products by linking them with buyers and suppliers of goods and services, hence, growing their market.

Micro-enterprising and micro-financing programs give growing populations access to technology and services that they did not have before. This has the ability to lead to improved products that bigger businesses are looking to purchase.

USAID programs, for example, are capable of improving the lives of the poor to help them recover from natural disasters, protect their families from unforeseen crises such as illnesses and droughts, provide steady home food and family purchases, and help to lift them out of poverty.

USAID tries to broaden their micro-financing offering to cover health, education, and energy programs. They have found that combining this approach with other services improves household income. USAID also tries to expand financial services through mobile phone banking technology to those receiving microenterprise funding. This helps reduce the cost of banking transactions and can increase savings as well.

In summary, microenterprise helps poor populations and growing economies spread economic growth throughout the entirety of the population as well as providing them with the means to lift themselves and their families out of poverty for good.

– Caitlin Zusy 
Source: USAID

What is Microenterprise
What is microenterprise? Microenterprise is the mom and pop shop on the corner. It is the lemon-aid stand on the side-walk. It is the vegetable stand in the local market. Microenterprises are entrepreneurs working towards a livelihood with a small number of products and often limited access to financial security and support.

USAID uses financing of microenterprises as an anti-poverty program. Economic growth on its own is not enough. Poor people in developing countries often do not share in the wealth creation. The distribution of income from economic growth through empowering poor people to participate is a crucial and fundamental challenge undertaken by USAID.

An additional challenge, particularly for women in developing countries, is finding a safe place to keep their savings. Without a reservoir of savings, obtaining credit and making investments in their business is next to impossible. The savings they do accumulate are often drained when natural disasters and social/cultural events occur. Their lack of access to insurance means they spend their available money on purchasing life saving medicine for an ailing relative or purchasing new seeds when drought kills a crop.

The USAID provides financial services to many of those lacking access through their national and private institutions. These services include savings and credit. These two basic financial tools allow entrepreneurs to invest in technology, connect to professional networks and most importantly, get their products to market.

The USAID microfinance programs have three goals:
1. “Improve the quality and affordability of financial services.
2. “Extend access to excluded populations such as women, the disabled, and those living in remote areas
3. “Assist smallholder farmers and small business entrepreneurs in selling their products by linking them with buyers and suppliers of good and services.”

The approach USAID and partners use is called the Value Chain Approach. The VCA views each business as a unique cog in the intricate clockwork of the global marketplace. To assess the potential of projects VCA focuses on influencing “structures, systems and relationships that define the value chain.” Manipulating these factors increases competitiveness by improving/upgrading processes and products. The scope of industry analysis and inputs to intervention design yield a unique perspective that has led to great success.

• “A market system perspective
• “A focus on end markets
• “Understanding the role of value chain governance
• “Recognition of the importance of relationships
• “Facilitating changes in firm behavior
• “Transforming relationships
• “Targeting leverage points
• “Empowering the private sector”

By working to fulfill these goals, USAID and entrepreneurs make higher quality products and increase the visible to consumers. In the experience of USAID, when micro financing options are offered alongside education, health and energy services, household earnings are increased allowing people to “graduate themselves out of poverty.”

Katherine Zobre
Sources: USAID , Microlinks
Photo: USAID

pink_flower_Crochet_blanket_uganda_women_economy_opt

If you’ve ever received a handmade sweater on Christmas from Grandma, you know how much octogenarians love to crochet.

Well, believe it or not, crocheting can be more than just entertainment for the elderly (or the crafty Pinterest fiend). Thanks to Krochet Kids International, now grandma’s favorite past time is improving the lives of women in northern Uganda and Peru by offering them hope and opportunities for self-empowerment.

That’s right, crocheting.

Krochet Kids International began as three high school friends, Kohl, Travis and Stewart, in Spokane, Washington, who enjoyed crocheting. In Kohl’s words “though it was not a normal hobby for high school guys, we reveled in the novelty of it”. A local paper nicknamed them the Krochet Kids and the name stuck.

In college Stewart spent a summer in Uganda where he encountered whole communities of people who’d been living in government camps for 20 years after the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) ravaged much of the northern half of the country.  Opportunities to make a living or improve their lives were nonexistent and most were trapped in dependence on the government camps and aid. After Stewarts returned, the three realized the difference they could make by teaching women in Uganda their beloved hobby. With this skill and the products they would create, they could lift themselves out of poverty and provide for their families.

To date, over 150 women in Uganda and Peru are Krochet Kids and are receiving ongoing support, education, and mentorship. Apiyo Kevin is one such woman. When asked what her favorite thing about crocheting is she replied, “crocheting has greatly helped me to forget my husband’s death. Besides, it has provided me with an employment opportunity that has drastically improved my income.”

Each of Krochet Kids’ colorful beanies and scarves has a small tag bearing the name, scrawled in blue ink, of the Ugandan woman who made it.

Fore these women, crocheting isn’t simply a hobby. It provides them with the self-confidence that comes with learning a new skill, an opportunity to heal, and most importantly, an income.

Because three high school friends decided they wanted to make a difference in the world around them, women in Uganda and Peru and consequently those who depend on them, are beginning to lead better, more fulfilled lives.

– Erin Ponsonby

Source: Krochet Kids
Photo: Granny Funk