July 28, 2015

5 Things Village Enterprise would tell President Obama

Karibu! We are honored to welcome you back to Nairobi, Kenya to participate in the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Conference. In bringing Silicon-Valley innovation to East-African entrepreneurship, Village Enterprise is leading a game-changing effort to help hundreds of thousands of families extract themselves from grinding poverty. We believe that entrepreneurship plays a vital role in breaking the cycle of poverty and we have five key points that we would like to share with you:

  1. The power of hope is real. Nicholas Kristof’s recent article in the New York Times mentioned not only the positive impact of graduation programs, but also the essential role that creating hope plays in generating lasting results. He states,” Give people reason to hope that they can achieve a better life, and that, too, can be self-fulfilling.” After becoming paralyzed in one leg after contracting polio as a child, and losing both of his parents, Joseph Khaukani from Mugomari village, was forced to drop-out of school to support his younger brother and sister. After participating in the Village Enterprise program, he has developed a successful agri-business that produces kale. Joseph’s children are now able to attend school, his family can seek better medical attention, and he even has his eyes set on building a better house before the end of 2015. Joseph exemplifies that a little hope can go a long way.
  2. Women and youth are entrepreneurs too. The Village Enterprise model is especially relevant to the focus of this year’s summit on women and youth. 80% of our business owners are women. In addition, as youth compose a significant portion of the population and unemployment rates rise, Village Enterprise has recognized the importance of adapting the model to provide opportunities for youth. Village Enterprise recently completed a study in conjunction with FHI360 and USAID on how to best meet the needs of rural youth and the program will continue to pilot programs to leverage the entrepreneurial pursuits of youth.
  3. It’s cost effective to give one-time aid. For just $500 for a 3-person business, Village Enterprise provides entrepreneurs with the resources to create sustainable businesses- seed capital, training, mentoring and access to savings and growth capital- permanently breaking the cycle of poverty for business owners and their families. Emily Etemesi Ashira, an entrepreneur in the Kiseri Region, spoke to the significance of the Village Enterprise training program. She attests that even without the grant funding, the business savings trainings made a significant impact on her life and helped her to scale her retail kiosk. She has now purchased a sheep and cow, can provide for the needs of her children, and has earned respect throughout her village for her entrepreneurial ventures.
  4. There is a proven method to break the cycle of poverty. A recent study released by Innovations for Poverty Action support that the graduation model lifts people out of poverty and empowers their entrepreneurial pursuits. Graduation programs essentially “graduate” households out of extreme poverty by providing both consumption support as well as long term guidance, such as business and financial skills training. Individuals that participated in graduation programs exhibited improved health, stabilized income, and an increase in savings.
  5. Entrepreneurs come from all walks of life. Despite living on less than $1.25 a day, Village Enterprise entrepreneurs exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit that is indigenous to the African continent. Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva and author of the recently released book Clay Water Brick, stresses that Village Enterprise entrepreneurs she encountered during her time in East Africa embody her favorite definition of entrepreneurship from Harvard Business School professor Howard Stevenson: “Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.” In other words, she asserts that entrepreneurship is the ability to pursue opportunity without money, permission, or pedigree, or most other means that might make pursuit easier.

 

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    July 24, 2015

    Introducing our Most Significant Change Series: Ebwalu Joseph

    We are pleased to unveil a new series called “Most Significant Change” that highlights the personal aspect of Monitoring and Evaluation at Village Enterprise. Through both recorded and written interviews, stories are collected from individuals to add depth and perspective to the survey data. The Business Owners are selected at random and represent the diverse group of participants in our program. Ultimately, we hope that this series will foster shared learning, celebrate individual successes and show the personal side of the impact that Village Enterprise is making in participant’s lives.

    Every week, our “Most Significant Change” series will feature the voice and perspective of a different business owner.

    We hope you’ll tune in to get the latest ‘Most Significant Change’ story and that you’ll enjoy this new weekly series. Our first story comes from Uganda and was gathered by Sarah Ackerley and Anna deSocio.

    Asante Sana!


    Joseph leans against a bicycle under the shade of a tree as we sit before him in wooden chairs next to the village mud-hut church. We are surrounded by a cluster of curious children.

    Joseph has been chosen for an interview because of the change he has experienced going through Village Enterprise business training and being part of a business savings group. A proud father of eight, Joseph has a lot of responsibilities, and making a living was almost impossible before the program. He and his family engaged in subsistence farming, producing just enough cassava, millet, and ground nuts to feed his family. Occasionally, he had a cup or two left over to sell in the town center, but he was never able to take out loans to make his living resemble any kind of sustainable business. Joseph recalls with a smile that he and his wife would quarrel, because she would often ask for money to buy cooking pans or a good mattress, even though there was never any money.

    Things took a turn after learning about savings and other financial tools in his Village Enterprise training. After receiving the initial grant, Joseph started a business of rearing goats with his fellow group members. Before long, three goats became twelve, and with his profits, Joseph is able to feed his family three to four meals per day, send all of his children to school, and to afford minor beauty products and other luxuries. His oldest daughter is now in boarding school, and she will soon take high school entrance exams. We had the pleasure of visiting their home to see their goats just as his daughter came home from school wearing her uniform.

    The changes in Joseph’s life have had a ripple effect in his community. A neighborhood leader of sorts, Joseph tells us, “Everyone has seen so many changes that now they ask me for advice.” When I ask him for an example, he tells me that one of his neighbors used to drink and sell alcohol, causing problems and home and in the community. One day, Joseph paid him a visit and told him about what he learned from Village Enterprise. He invited this neighbor to partner with him, and they eventually started a successful business commuting to the town center to buy green grams and sour gum on market day and then take it back to the village to sell. Joseph’s neighbor has not only stopped selling alcohol, but he’s stopped drinking as well. Joseph tells us there is now more peace in the community. On top of that, Joseph has purchased five acres of land and plans to build in the town center and in the village.

    There are still fears and worries. Joseph is nervous about upcoming elections. He worries that one day there may not be enough produce to sell due to the drought. Although he was able to afford to take care for his mother, she passed away from sickness anyway. Still, Joseph seems hopeful. “God has brought the Village Enterprise program here. I used to sit around waiting for government relief…I never dreamed of starting something. Now I have the knowledge to start any kind of business.”

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    JosephEbwalu-goats  JosephEbwalu-family

      June 26, 2015

      Six Weeks of Gratitude: My Time as an Intern

      Looking back on my six short weeks as a Village Enterprise intern, I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with a team of inspiring, driven individuals all motivated by a deep passion for Africa and an overwhelming desire to change the hopes of better futures into realities. The energy and passion for Village Enterprise’s mission is tangible and contagious in each and every employee. It has been a truly unique and inspiring experience to work with a team of individuals so moved by their goal to eliminate poverty and have an impact on the future of others.

      I was so drawn to working at Village Enterprise because not only is it an investment in my own future, gaining work experience and learning from industry professionals, but more importantly it is an investment in the future of others. Village Enterprise’s work in East Africa has positively impacted the lives of thousands of East Africans, in turn giving them the ability to create a brighter future for their families, their communities, and themselves. While my work in the San Carlos office was far from the villages in Soroti, Hoima and Kitale, it revolved around the stories and voices of individuals in the field who were changing their own lives. I cannot express how inspiring, rewarding, and humbling it has been to contribute however minimally to their stories and their futures, and I am so grateful to have been able to witness their progress firsthand. From the weekly field updates to the daily surprises such as the recognition in Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times article, “The Power of Hope is Real,” there was not a dull moment during my time as an intern.

      Although my six short weeks as a Village Enterprise intern are up, my relationship with Village has just begun. I will carry the work ethic, passion, and vision of the Village Enterprise team with me forever. I sincerely want to thank the Village Enterprise team for giving me the opportunity to learn from and work with you over the past few weeks, and especially Caroline for your guidance, patience, and contagious laughter.

      Asante sana for an incredible experience!

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      Scout Swenson – Institutional Development Intern

        June 5, 2015

        Operation Save Saiwa: How We Overcome Obstacles in Targeting and Recruiting

        Saiwa Park is the smallest national park in Kenya covering just 2.9km² and was created specifically to protect the habitat of the rare Sitatunga aquatic antelope. In contributing to the conservation efforts around the park, we are working with youths in a village neighboring the park called Sitatunga by providing them with business and financial literacy trainings.

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        This is a pilot project specifically targeting youths to help them start non-land based businesses. When rolling out the recruitment of the youths for the project, we did not anticipate how hard it will be getting them to enroll for the program. We recruited about seventy youths and invited them for trainings in a local church but on the meeting day, only 33 turned up. The Business Mentor working in the village embarked on a second round of sensitization within the village but again the following week when we scheduled a meeting only 26 youths turned up! We thought this would get better the following week (Week 3) but again the turnout was even much lower, only 19 people!

        This became a serious concern and after brainstorming we realized sensitizing the youths to enroll for the program needed a different approach and thus, “Operation Save Saiwa” was born. Ten Business Mentors, two Field Coordinators and two office staff embarked on a mission to traverse every corner of the village sensitizing the community and in particular the youths about the program and its benefits. This was a whole day activity that brought the village to a standstill as the Village Enterprise staff walked around the village talking to the people and clarifying any concerns they had.

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        Finally the community was invited to a meeting the following day and this time round the turnout was amazing with 63 people turning up! We have had two meetings to date and the turnout has continued as expected. Operation Save Saiwa demonstrated the zeal and passion of Village Enterprise staff towards helping people living in extreme poverty improve their lives!

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        While walking around the village the opinion leaders were so impressed with Village Enterprise. Some said to us, “We have never seen an organization like VE! We cannot believe there is an organization out there that goes door to door looking for people to train and give them seed capital to start businesses with such persistence! Another said, “This is a life changing moment and day for Sitatunga village. We will live to remember this day when light was brought to Sitatunga village.”

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        All in all, as the field team, we continue to learn and stack up skills on how to deal with different communities and target different populations. We are definitely better off than we were before the start of the pilot! Our commitment to a world free of poverty will never waiver.

        Authors: Kwatoya Mike and Calistus Imbayi

          June 2, 2015

          From Hope to Dignity: Notes from a Village Enterprise Vision Trip

          “Bleeding Hearts Rejoice!” said Nicolas Kristof in his recent NYT piece about the work of NGOs in the third world and inner cities…  There is hope for the poorest of the poor. I saw it myself on a recent visit to Uganda as a part of a vision trip hosted by Village Enterprise (VE), an NGO that works in East Africa.  I was there to photograph some of their projects. 

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          A Bit of History

          Uganda is at the intersection of some of Africa’s most well-known but conveniently forgotten travesties in my lifetime. Idi Amin ravaged the country in the 1970’s with his dictatorial rule. Amin’s rule was characterized by human rights abuses, political repression, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings, nepotism, corruption, and gross economic mismanagement. The number of people killed as a result of his regime is estimated to range from 100,000 to 500,000.  After Amin came the AIDS epidemic that is thought to have infected 15% of the Ugandan population at its peak in the early 1990’s.  Most recently, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, ordered the abduction of children to become sex slaves and child soldiers.  An estimated 66,000 children became soldiers and 2 million people were displaced internally from 1986 to 2009.  To give a bit of perspective, Uganda’s population is similar to and has grown at a similar pace as California’s over the same time period.

          This tragic history wiped out not only a large portion of the population, but also it’s collective memory related to nutrition, hygiene and business.  Imagine huge pockets of people who are starting from scratch, living in mud huts, with no sanitation (nor any understanding of its importance), no knowledge of farming or keeping animals, and no means to move to the distant towns that promise to provide some basic services.  Even if they could move to the nearest town with education, water and sanitation, there is no work and no social services to feed them.  And if they did, that would mean that 90% of the rural population would descend upon the small towns and cities. 

          What I saw

          Entering the first village that was in its early stage of engagement with Village Enterprise, we were greeted with cheers and welcome smiles by the community.  I could see the beginnings of hope in the eyes of the people.  They had planted their first crop of sesame.  The elderly spokesman who spoke through a tracheal device in his throat told us about the recent difficulty he was having with a white mold that was developing on the leaves.  Their VE business mentor suggested a chemical solution that is available in the nearby town (50 km away, 2 hours by motorbike).  The old man had no means of getting there and not enough money to buy the chemical solution.  Although he needed a much smaller amount for his field, the quantity that was available for purchase was 10x what he needed.  The business mentor reminded him that a loan from their community’s business savings group (a part of the program) would help him to get the chemical to save his crop, and would enable the other neighboring farmers to get it as well if they pooled their resources.

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          That first village and then the subsequent villages in various stages of training with the program illustrated how the “graduation” program works, why it works and what makes it sustainable long after Village Enterprise moves on to another needy remote community.

          What I learned-

          Village Enterprise selects its target village by speaking with the neighboring communities and individuals within those poorest villages to target the very poorest people.  If they have a cow, they are too rich.  VE works with each group of three people to determine which business is right for them and their community, without relying on external buyers or supporters for success.  Not every business in a village can raise chickens and have all be successful. VE provides a small two-part grant to launch the businesses on their way.  It’s used to purchase, seeds, a cow, chickens, a sewing machine, etc.  Each person in the group of three plays a different role in the business.  Each group is a part of a village business savings group that acts as a self-run savings and loan.  Businesses grow through loans from within the community, keeping all members responsible to each other.  The grants are only about 25% of the VE cost per business.  Most of the budget is invested in the mentors who spend one year training the business groups in community relations, business, finance & book keeping, hygiene, sanitation, nutrition, family planning, and writing a constitution for the savings group. It is all a part of a graduated approach that leads to understanding and the will to succeed as a family, a business and as a community. 

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          VE Business mentors learning their craft

          Evidence of Success
          In April 2015, I was privileged to witness human beings move from subsistence farming/gathering with a mere glimmer of hope at the sight of VE entering their village to full blown growing businesses whose proprietors beamed with dignity.

          A woman in a remote part of northwest Uganda was asked by a member of our travelling group how her life has changed in the two years since village enterprise came to her village.   She said that her stomach ulcers have disappeared thanks to better nutrition.  Now she has more physical strength to tend to her children, to work and have a clearer head to learn more.image4

          Children in the first village had none to threadbare clothes at best.  I saw a constant stream of yellow mucus running from the noses of many of the children in that first village.  Their faces were dirty and their bellies distended from malnutrition.  As we travelled through the many villages, I began to notice that the children were better clothed, healthier and cleaner in direct correlation to their engagement period with VE.

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          Where early stage villages may have had a small goat or a pig, later stage villages had cows, chickens and healthy (e.g. pumpkin and amaranth) & varied crops growing in their fields.  I even saw an old motorbike that was shared by the entire community to take its members to a clinic, pick up needed farming materials, or deliver crops to a local marketplace.

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          Early stage villages were simply a smattering of small crumbling mud huts.  The people sat on the dusty ground for their two-hour training sessions.  Later examples had clean beautiful huts with new straw roofs, separate toilet facilities, showers and a tippy-tap (a simple hand washing station made from sticks, a plastic bottle and a bar of soap on a string).  The people wore shoes and sat on clean mats during the training.

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          When asked what is the most valuable part of their experience with Village Enterprise, each and every villager who replied said that the most valuable aspect was the training they got from their local African VE mentors.  The mentors speak their language (of which there are many in that part of the country), understand their culture, and live in their regions.  The mentors travel far, yet visit weekly to train, mentor, and check in on their villages.

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          Village Enterprise Business Mentor

          When wondered if the knowledge they learned and experience they gained from Village Enterprise was shared with their neighbors; we heard that often villages who aren’t a part or don’t fully qualify for the program (perhaps because they own a cow), often sit in on the mentor visits to benefit from the training.  Others say that they are now training other community members with what they’ve learned during the course of the program.

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          Curious young village boys

          We met Helen, a single mother who began with nothing.  Thanks to VE she now is in her 17th year of a successful sewing business and has opened a clothing store in town.  To share with others what was invested in her, Helen now pays the school tuition and mentors seven girls: a friend, two daughters and several nieces to keep them off the street and not pregnant.  They are learning her craft while making a little money of their own and helping her to grow her business.

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          Helen and her shop

          How is this not a sustainable, organically growing success story that inspires ‘Bleeding Hearts to Rejoice’?  It is for this bleeding heart!

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          Success!

            May 28, 2015

            A Place Called Hope

            Bibian Musunjaji, two years shy of celebrating her jubilee years of living and 1 year in the program, has kind words to say about Village Enterprise. Her’s is a story collected as part of the “Most Significant Change” evaluation approach recently deployed by the Monitoring and Evaluation team. This is what she had to say about how the Village Enterprise program has changed her life:

            “Before joining the Village Enterprise program, I used to do casual jobs for my neighbors barely making enough to feed my family and cover the daily expenses and the hospital bills of my children when they fell sick.”

            Her children did not perform well in school due to lack of regular meals and were being sent back home every now and then for exercise books and pens. Her children are now well dressed and attend school forging ahead with building their future. She also said now that her children feed better their performance in school has significantly improved.

            She goes on: “Village Enterprise taught me about record keeping from differentiating from income and expenditure to tracking the expenses thus determining the health of my business i.e. making a loss or profit and make the necessary decisions. Every day I compare the actual funds in possession with what the record books has and make sure the funds match.”

            Mrs. Bibian Musunjaji has opened her own bank account with a local bank and saves regularly.

            “Any profits I generate from my business of retailing sheep are re-invested into the business, a part kept for the undetermined future and some used on the daily expenses. Moreover I contribute to an emergency fund in our BSG (Business Savings Group) to plan for any unforeseen incidents. As the chairlady of the BSG I have gained invaluable experience on how to mobilize people to a common cause, run meetings and solve disputes that arise.”

            Bibiana Musunjaji

            At the moment Bibian is constructing a permanent house from the savings and profits generated from her business.

            We are truly inspired by Bibian’s story and will be sharing more of the “Most Significant Change” stories from the field to show glimpses of change through the lens of business owners.

            “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness”

            – Desmond Tutu

              May 27, 2015

              The New York Times References Village Enterprise

              Nick Kristof, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, has published an amazing column in the New York Times, “The Power of Hope is Real”, specifically mentioning Village Enterprise.

              The column addresses the just released six-country study in the journal Science, which gives much needed visibility to the effectiveness of the ‘graduation methodology’ – a critical approach that is effectively reducing the rate of extreme poverty. Village Enterprise was named as one of the programs that is successfully lifting people out of extreme poverty with a graduation approach! We are so pleased to be recognized as one of the organizations that is effectively lifting people out of extreme poverty and bringing a sense of hope to their lives.

                May 5, 2015

                Village Enterprise at the Global Philanthropy Summit in D.C.

                [Washington, D.C.] April 26th, 2015

                Board Chair, Debbie Hall, attended the Global Philanthropy Summit in Washington, D.C. It is rewarding to hear how the work and impact of Village Enterprise is meeting the needs and creating the changes called for by conference speakers like World Bank President Jim Kim and leaders in corporate philanthropy like Shamina Singh of MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth.

                 

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                World Bank President, Jim Kim, challenged the audience to reach the remaining 1 billion people living in extreme poverty; while great progress has been made, this next billion will be harder to reach because they are in fragile states or remote, difficult-to-reach areas. He criticized the bank’s past focus on GDP growth and stated that they are are moving toward “conditional cash transfer programs” that create motivation to work. Village Enterprise is a prime example of this type of program.

                 

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                Jim Yong Kim Speaks at the Global Philanthropy Summit

                Nick Khazal

                 

                Working groups with leaders from MasterCard, Visa, and Women’s World Banking emphasized the need to increase “financial inclusion” and “social inclusion” — development buzzwords to extend the reach of financial services and social networks that can build hope and encouragement for the poor. While 600 million more people are using banks in 2015 (vs. 2011), the number of those who are women has not budged.

                 

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                Village Enterprise meets the need for financial and social inclusion.  We create savings circles for people to save money and borrow from the accumulated savings pool. Most importantly, our business mentors, training groups, and savings circles provide those we serve with an opportunity to give voice to their needs and accomplishments, to find support for personal and family challenges, and to confidently become decision makers in their families and communities.

                 

                A sense of urgency to meet the desperate needs of the poorest, and to stay focused on the efforts that deliver results, was expressed by Olara Otunnu with this Uganda proverb: “The hunter in pursuit of an elephant doesn’t stop to throw stones at birds”.

                 

                For more information on the Global Philanthropy Forum please visit: http://philanthropyforum.org/conference/

                  March 24, 2015

                  A Day in the Life of: Program Associate Melvin Shisanya

                     It is dawn again and I can hear a distant crow signaling a new day. I wake up, take a quick shower, prepare breakfast, and head out. The sun is rising in the distant horizon sending its bright rays to the day.

                  The aroma emanating from the ground is intoxicating. Children are rushing to school clutching their plastic bags as mothers run helter skelter to make sure their children and husbands are ready to tackle their daily chores.

                  I take the 10 minute walk to the office a walk I have taken for almost a year since relocating to Kitale in Trans Nzoia County where we currently operate. Slowly my mind drifts away from the walk to a reverie.

                  The Village Enterprise logo appears in the distance a woman gazing into the horizon with a child clutching on her dress. There is a tree in the background which typifies the African savannah grassland. It is a sign of hope, a dream of a better future captioned by our vision, world free of extreme poverty and chronic hunger. This is what we stand for and fight for because we believe.

                  Working with Village Enterprise for me has been mind-boggling if not an out of earth experience. I walk into the office; it all looks very informal with no official signs and plagues hanging on the door or desks, ubuntu. It is simply hard to tell who is who in the office. We work as a team but there are laid down structures with functional team leads and a country director in each office.

                  I sit at my desk, which is kind of Sheldon’s seat in the Big Bang theory a comical television series. The spot is ideal as it allows me to talk to everyone without any distractions and is a window, which allows a cool breeze all day with ambient temperatures and sunlight.

                  I settle down and power on my computer and check my mail and respond to the urgent ones and add to my to-do list those that have added tasks. I open my projects and pilots, templates and presentations and reports. I also sign in into Skype, which allows us to talk with our peers and heads on anything and even have calls across countries.

                  There is coffee brewing and a waft of doughnuts smell as the rest of colleagues settle at their desks check their mails and start their daily activities.

                  We argue about local politics, chat about field experiences, nag about the economic conditions and talk to each other with the occasional laughter to break the silence as the day progresses. They are the stunning colleagues, workmates, friends, partners and business associates; they are the people who give me a reason to go to work another day.

                  Soon it is lunch time and we take a break to eat sometimes our packed lunch or the chapati and beans stew from the local restaurant.

                  The afternoon heat is intense and almost lulls you into a siesta but the constant jokes and soft music playing in the background keeps you awake and focused hurrying to finish the due deliverables, attend Skype meetings, analyze data from the field to help you generate a report and fix the computers or phones to ensure that there is seamless running of events in both the field and office.

                  It’s 5 o’clock the end of another long day at the office and as I take the walk back home, I meditate on my day activities, decisions and innovations and hope that I have made a difference in someone’s life the difference I want to see in the world.

                  As I retire to bed I think about the woman and the child gazing into the hopeful future and hope to see the logo again.

                  Coming all the way from Kitale, Kenya, Melvin gives a glimpse into day to day life as he knows it.

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                  Melvin standing in front of the Village Enterprise Office in Hoima, Uganda

                  BOSs after SB disbursement in  Kaplebyong

                  Entrepreneurs after a SB disbursement!

                  Melvin Shisanya grew up in Kakamega County, Kenya and graduated with a degree in Technology: Telecommunications & Information Engineering from Technical University of Mombasa. Before joining Village Enterprise, Melvin worked as a technician with Solutions Generale in Kigali, Rwanda and was an intern with Chandaria Industries Limited in Nairobi, Kenya. Melvin spends his free time developing websites and programs, reading novels, listening to music and watching movies.

                    January 27, 2015

                    A Hare-Raising Success Story

                    Screen shot 2015-01-27 at 1.43.39 PMLife in rural Trans Nzoia county–the “green basket” of Kenya and home to our new Kitale office—is peaceful; it boasts an ideal climate and excellent soil. Despite these advantages, many of its residents live in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 a day.

                    Agnes Kwamboka and her family used to be included in this number. Agnes and her husband worked as day-laborers during the planting and harvesting seasons in an effort to make ends meet. At home, they barely grew enough maize on their half acre of land to feed their family.

                    As if life wasn’t already hard, Agnes’s sister passed away suddenly and left her two young sons in Agnes’ care. “You have to take care of family, and that is what I did.” Now raising four young boys, she struggled to keep the children fed and also keep up hope. Agnes first heard about Village Enterprise after visiting a relative in nearby Kakamega who had started a successful business after participating on our program, and prayed for a similar opportunity.

                    In 2014, Agnes enrolled in our program and started receiving training and mentoring from Business Mentor Imelda Midzukani. Agnes loves having someone to encourage her. “I respond really well to Imelda’s training and enjoy learning all these new business concepts. She is always positive. She laughs a lot and is a great mentor and teacher.”

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                    Agnes and her two partners decided to start a rabbit business. Why rabbits? “Limited competition, good demand and short reproduction cycles.” The three entrepreneurs sourced local materials and built a rabbit hut at Agnes’s home. They started their business with a male and female rabbit, which quickly produced six offspring that will be ready for sale in December.

                    “December is the best time to sell the rabbits. . . it’s the ‘festive season’ when people will pay a premium.”

                    In addition to her rabbit business, Agnes has used the Village Enterprise SMART (Smarter Market Analysis Risk Tool) process to identify new crops to farm on her home plot. She has reduced her maize plantings (a low-risk/very-low-profit crop) and is now harvesting kale. “I’m excited about our future. With the new skills and knowledge I’ve acquired through training, I’m able to reinvest and expand my business.”

                    Before Village Enterprise, Agnes faced a life of hardship without the tools and knowledge to improve her life. With her new-found income, Agnes is able to better feed her family, pay school fees, and afford medical care.

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