Having undergone both a rigorous targeting process to qualify for Village Enterprise’s program and a series of trainings—Group Formation, Basic Savings, Business Planning, and Managing a Business—the program participants were now ready, and it was now time to see the actual businesses begin by giving them their first grant.
It was a Wednesday morning and disbursements for the day began at 10:00AM, but an enthusiastic group of business owners had arrived an hour early. If you have been to Africa, and specifically Kenya, you probably know a common phrase “African timing,” which is used to describe incidences or people who do not keep punctual time. The fact that they were seated by 9:00AM was a good sign. Perhaps our Business Mentors had trained the program participants well. One of the skills we emphasize in our training is time management.
As we drove into the Chief’s camp, we met a very enthusiastic group of women who burst into singing at the arrival of our staff members. Eunice, the Business Mentor for the area, began by thanking the staff for their prompt arrival and stated to the keenly listening business owners, “We, as Village Enterprise, deliver what we promise.”
Amidst ululations, she welcomed Nathaniel, the Field Coordinator, to speak to the business owners. In his speech he expressed, “We expect the group of three to work together in doing business, and the entire Village Enterprise team’s desire is to see your lives improve.” Nathaniel finished and welcomed me to make my address. “Village Enterprise seeks to equip people living in extreme poverty with resources to create sustainable businesses. You have already received two months of intensive training so that we can give you the seed capital today. You now have the knowledge to run successful businesses that will enable you to live successful lives.”
Wilson Peru, Honorary Country Director, made the final remarks and said, “The money you are about to receive comes from well wishers who have you at heart and want to see your lives improve. It would be therefore wrong to see you use the money to give a treat to a visiting son in-law.” The business owners burst into laughter, and the speeches ended on a light note.
We organized the envelopes that contain the grant money and the Small Business Application Forms that business owners were supposed to sign to acknowledge receipt of the money. We began to call the Business Groups one by one and had them append their signatures to the forms. Before receiving the money, they had to show their group contribution, usually a total of $12, $4 from each of the three group members. This helped give them ownership of their project. They were soon given the envelope containing the grant money of $100.
At the end of the process, the participants even brought two live chickens for the staff as a token of appreciation. The disbursement process has remained an exciting part of our program, and this one went very smoothly. I look back on the great day and think of all the donors half a world away. Thank you to those who make our work possible.
Assistant Country Director, Kenya