Catherine laughs heartily as she struggles to keep her three sheep from devouring the tempting pile of maize that is drying outside her compound.
Catherine Mkangula is a 49-year-old mother of four. She lives in the rural village of Chukura, Kenya.
Before joining Village Enterprise in November 2013, Catherine did not own any sheep. “Life was so bad,” Catherine says as she slaps her hands against her chair. “The house was so dirty and I could only afford two meals for my family.” To make ends meet, she often went to her neighbors’ homes to beg for quick cash jobs.
After completing the Village Enterprise training program and receiving the start-up grant, Catherine and her two business partners started a dual business of rearing sheep and selling chips (French fries).
Nearly two years later, Catherine continues to work closely with her business partners. Their livestock business has grown from just one sheep to three. They have even expanded their retail business to include selling silver fish at the local market.
On her own, Catherine now also runs a poultry business, raising chickens until she can sell them at the market at a higher price. In the middle of a sentence, she abruptly walks out of the house and returns with a proud smile, holding a few of the eggs that her chickens laid and that she will be selling at the market later that day.
When asked how Village Enterprise has impacted her life she points to Felix, her Business Mentor, and exclaims, “You know! You remember what this room looked like before, and how smart [nice] it looks now.” Felix nods his head and explains how the very wooden chairs they are sitting in are a new addition to her living room.
With the profits from her business, Catherine can not only afford to feed her family three meals a day, but she also points out that they are eating a more balanced diet. Previously, her family used to consume ugali and local greens for every meal. Now, she is able to diversify their meals and can even afford meat. She shared, “Chapati used to be a Christmas treat and now we can eat it weekly!”
Catherine also testifies to how she has personally changed after starting her business. She refrained from having Felix translate and instead says in English, “I am free.” She then continues in Kalenjin (a local language), and Felix explains, “she says that she doesn’t fear anymore.”
The most significant change of all? Catherine emphasizes how the relationships within her community have changed for the better. Over 30 members of her community that used to rely upon casual labor now own their own businesses. “Now when I go to my neighbors’ homes, they know I am visiting for friendship and not to beg.”
Catherine’s words shed light on the fact that the Village Enterprise program holds the potential to change not only the lives of individuals, but also the dynamics of entire communities.