Friday, April 6, 2012

Hard Work Pays

by Thomas Bwire

Meet Colonia Awino Okello, one of the active members of Kibera Agenda 4 Business Savings group. I had the privilege to pay her a visit at her stall in Olympic estate in Kibera on Thursday afternoon this week.

Upon my arrival at her stall, Colonia welcomed me with a hearty smile. She is outspoken and tells me that she was expecting me for the interview. I get to see the kind of items she sells at her stall, and from the look of things, it’s well stocked with different items ranging from school bags and scarfs to women's handbags, among other items.

In a short while, a male customer appears and I had to excuse myself so she can serve the customer’s need while I stole the few moments to take some photos.  The male customer had wanted to purchase one of the hats and in this case, several samples were given out for comparison. “The price ranges between Ksh.80 to Ksh. 100 and just choose the one you want and we can’t fail to agree on what is affordable for you,” noted Colonia.

Colonia attending to a customer
Colonia, aged 39 years, shared her success story after she joined Kibera Agenda two and a half years ago. Her passion to start business on her own started 18 years ago at age 21. She had savings that amounted for a period of 3 months where she was working as a cleaner in one of the organizations. After she left the cleaning job, her passion drove her to start a green grocery business where she sold vegetables at Toi market located in Kibera and this lasted 5 years. Later on she moved to selling teddy bears, caps, bags and school uniforms.

Some of the items Colonia sells
“How did you come to know about Kibera Agenda?” I posed the question to her. “I knew it through a friend.  I went and received my first loan amounting to Ksh.2.000, and you see I was only expected to repay it back by contributing Ksh.200 every Wednesday, and that worked for me”, says Colonia.

From there on, after repaying the first loan, I got another one of Ksh. 5.000  which I repaid with payments of Ksh.500 and the last loan I took was Ksh.10.000."  Business is not that bad, and in a normal day Colonia makes Ksh.1.500, but on bad days the much she can make amounts to Ksh.500. One challenging factor is that some of her friends always want to buy some of her stuff on debt, of which she finds it hard to give credit since some don’t want to repay back.

Colonia at her stall
On our closing remarks, Colonia informed that she is a single mother and has lived in Kibera for the last 20 years. She has 6 children of her own, the first borne child is 23 years. She also takes care of five orphaned children.

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