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.
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.
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!
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 Village Enterprise! 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.”
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