Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Support Group Business Start-Ups

Since last October, we have been selling jewelry and bags in the United States made by members of HIV positive support groups in Kibera. These groups meet weekly for various purposes - one group conducts a savings project where they each contribute a little bit of money to a group account each week and another has started a business and a small shop to sell jewelry, bags and other goods.

A large portion of the profits that was made selling these items went directly to the members of the group and was used for things like paying rent, hospital bills, food and children's school fees. Another portion has been used to buy medicine, provide transport to the hospital or cover bills for members when they become sick. The final portion we have decided to start a business start-up project to help the members of the group sustain themselves.

In September, we started meeting with one of the groups, which is composed of 20 members. In keeping with Uweza's idea of empowering, we would like the groups to sustain the project themselves, rather than have us tell them how to operate, so they decided all of the ground rules. They divided into groups of four (five groups total) and wrote up business proposals - their businesses include selling eggs, soap, rice and other items. They drew up paperwork and required each group member to fill out a form and provide a photocopy of their ID. When I asked them what they would do if a group member didn't pay back their start-up money, they all responded that they would "auction off all of their belongings." So it seems they are pretty serious!

We decided to give each group of four people 10,000 shillings (or $130) to start their businesses. The group decided that in order to motivate themselves to succeed, they would like to pay back the full amount to a group account with the addition of 5% interest every month. Once they fully pay back these business start-up loans (to themselves), they can use the money plus interest to improve/further sustain their businesses.

The 10,000 shillings per group was distributed on October 4 and it has now been four weeks. They have reported that everyone is paying back their loan and no one has defaulted. We are very hopeful that this project will succeed and will help these 20 people living with HIV to support themselves and their families.

We met with another group of five ladies today that would like to start a business selling charcoal. They will be opening a group account and we hope to provide them with the start-up funds in the next week.

The jewelry and bag sales are continuing in the United States and we are very grateful for everyone that has bought something and supported these men and women. They are so grateful to have the opportunity to make their lives better for themselves and their children.

If you are interested in purchasing an item made by the groups or in helping us by holding a sale, let us know!

Pictures of the men and women and their businesses are coming soon, we hope, so stay tuned!

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