A Travellerspoint blog

Table Banking and Empowerment

As I write this I am sitting in the gardens of my hotel, a gentle rain is falling and I am writing under a table umbrella. It is very peaceful and I am enjoying my first day off since I arrived. Over the past three days Al and I have had the privilege of meeting with a number of women who are doing things they only imagined just a couple of years ago. My spirit has been strengthened by contact with these ladies and once again I am reminded that if the barriers that prevent people from reaching their goals are removed (mostly by education and support) the human spirit is unstoppable. How often do we look at others and judge them instead of taking time to learn about their challenges and trying to help them overcome them.

For far too long people with good intentions have come from first world countries with money and ideas and tried to impose their wills on how to improve the lives of people in developing countries. Over four trillion dollars have been spent since World War II and the overall results have been less than impressive. The idea of the table banking that we have now observed is Kenyans helping Kenyans to help themselves. All the language, cultural and tribal issues here disappear when local people are running the programs rather than the usual model of whites directing blacks. I believe that the role of ABW here is to spread word of the working model and provide some financing for the long term loans.

Follow with me on the progression of one woman who was living virtually hand to mouth one day at a time for many years. She joined the group and received training to start her business. With her first loan she bought a tray of 30 eggs for $300 shillings, boiled them and sold them individually for $600 shillings seeing a profit of $300 shillings. She repeated this for twenty days of the month realizing a profit of $6,000 shillings for the month. Before she joined the group she had never thought of buying something to sell. She repaid her loan at the end of the month plus interest and deposited $4,000 shillings into the bank. She can borrow up to two times the amount of cash she has on deposit, so she borrows $8,000 shillings, buys more eggs, builds a chicken coop and buys two hens and a rooster and enough feed for the month. She sells eggs on every day of this month and recovers enough to repay her entire loan . . . but now she has some assets. She repeats her same process again, sells eggs and invests in more feed and three more hens. Soon she is selling eggs that her own hens are producing, she is also hatching some of the eggs to now have her own chicks. In another month she is selling eggs and chicks and is now ready to branch into selling cereals and rice. Each time she needs more capital she receives another loan and receives some more business training, all the while proving she can repay her loans. Her health is improving as she and her family are eating better and she sleeps better at night as her nightly money worries are going away. She now has a track record of many months of borrowing and repaying her loans on time and now has the option of applying for a larger long term loan of up to $30,000 shillings to be repaid over the next 24 months. She uses this money to expand her business and begin wholesaling eggs to stores and other sellers.

This story is being repeated over and over in this and other business models by the 3,400 members of this table bank. All of this change came about as a result of access to small amounts of capital and training.

Kenyans helping Kenyans to help themselves.

Posted by cnmcgeehan 19:29 Comments (0)

When I woke up this morning I could have never predicted how

Joseph and Beatrice Limo are extremely active in their own community and have been friends of ABW for many years. Joseph was elected to parliament in the last election, I suspect in large part a result of their community involvement. Beatrice has been working on developing table banking for the past few years. The main reason I came to Kenya was to meet with Beatrice, to learn about table banking and how it could be used to compliment the existing projects of ABW. It is our belief that by using this method of finance we can In fact help to expand the ability of ABW to empower even more people here in Kenya and in other developing countries. Al Poole, a respected businessman with top end organizational skills, will partner with me in this work.

Beatrice and her driver picked us up early this morning to drive to her office to begin the training. We spent several hours learning the general process. 80 percent of the participants in the programme are women. I have been to Africa three times in the past ten years and I have seen that it is the women who are the driving force in maintaining their families, organizing everything that that involves and doing most of the hard work. These same women are now driving their communities forward.

I will share only a small part of the process here with you now as many who read this will not likely have interest in the entire process. However, if anyone would like to learn about table banking in whole and how it may apply to their organizations, I would be happy to share.

First, in 2005 the World Bank estimated that 46 per cent of Kenyans earned less then $1.25 per day. These people cannot generate enough income to meet their and their families daily caloric intake needs. The problem is that these hard working people do not have access to capital to develop income generating opportunities and plans. You may relate this to my reasons for working with the students at Agano School.

In short a table bank group is formed by a minimum of ten and up to 25 persons, mostly women, from one community. To start, each member of the bank contributes $500 shillings - the break down, $150 shillings for a one time registration fee, $150 shillings for a passbook, $20 shillings for insurance (in case of death, any loan is paid off in full), and $180 shillings as a first deposit. Each month, each member must deposit at least $100 shillings and can then borrow up to two times the amount they have on deposit. The term of the loan is 30 days and the loan must be repaid plus an interest change of 10 per cent. One per cent goes for administration, two percent is paid back to the borrower quarterly and seven per cent is placed in a dividend pool and is paid out periodically to members. These short term loans can be used for any number of income producing businesses and is accompanied by business training.

After satisfying ourselves that we understood the basics of the program we were invited to attend a group meeting and we headed into the hills, to a rural area and the farm house where the meeting was being held. There were 14 women and one group leader, appointed by the central agency. These leaders tend to be young and educated in accounting and business practices. I am quite sure that the last time two white men came to their homes to learn about their successes was . . . likely never. They were shy at first when telling us about their businesses but when they saw that we were there to not only learn but to encourage them the shyness went away and we had an incredible time learning how they started their businesses. Some with only a few hundred shillings and some were now needed upwards of $20,000 each month as their businesses have grown and continue to do so month over month. We heard stories of how many had started small but expanded into adding dairy cows, sheep, goats, chickens and fruit to their farms. The best part is the pride these women have and some told us about sleeping better at night without the constant worry about money. Some spoke of beeing able to send their children to university, an unlikely prospect before the banking. Before we left, two hours later, we had been all over two farms, had lunch and made friends with all of them . . . we also had invitations to visit again anytime.

Al and I were blown away by what we saw and then we travelled to another group meeting with the same results of success and friendship. This second group had advanced so far that about half the members had joined forces to start a business raising large amounts of chickens and this is something that none of them could have imagined even one year ago. We saw more homes and made more friends. It was extraordinary to realize that no other white man would walk down these rural paths and be invited in for tea or to share in the success of these small farms. More on the next entry . . . the work days are long and the Internet service in this part of the country is spotty at best.
women with passion fruit trees

women with passion fruit trees


200 passion fruit trees . . . it  takes nine months to bear fruit and then they pick fruit every week for four years . . . very financially viable enterprise

200 passion fruit trees . . . it takes nine months to bear fruit and then they pick fruit every week for four years . . . very financially viable enterprise


women in the field

women in the field


traditional kitchen . . . poor ventilation means eye and respiratory problems . . . Beatrice Limo on left

traditional kitchen . . . poor ventilation means eye and respiratory problems . . . Beatrice Limo on left


kitchen stove with chimney . . . prevents eye problems and respiratory diseases

kitchen stove with chimney . . . prevents eye problems and respiratory diseases


no natural gas stoves here . . . a women will cook all three meals here so a significant portion of her day is in a smokey, none-ventilated environment

no natural gas stoves here . . . a women will cook all three meals here so a significant portion of her day is in a smokey, none-ventilated environment


chickens kept in the room next to the kitchen

chickens kept in the room next to the kitchen


each loan is guaranteed by another member of the group

each loan is guaranteed by another member of the group


the women in front of a basket to keep chicks; all the ladies in this one table banking group . . . there are more than 180 groups

the women in front of a basket to keep chicks; all the ladies in this one table banking group . . . there are more than 180 groups


women empowered by table banking - don't be fooled, these ladies are all business  . . . they have thriving enterprises that enable them to feed their families, put their kids through school and provide a future to move their families forward . . . very, very inspiring

women empowered by table banking - don't be fooled, these ladies are all business . . . they have thriving enterprises that enable them to feed their families, put their kids through school and provide a future to move their families forward . . . very, very inspiring

Posted by cnmcgeehan 19:29 Comments (1)

Hippos, The Baby Orphanage and a return to EAMO

We started our day with the one hour drive to Lake Naivisha. The lakes in the area are famous for the pink Flamingos that work the shallows of the lakes in huge flocks. This year, however, the lakes are full of water and there is no where for the birds to feed so they have gone elsewhere. We were treated to a nice boat ride of about two hours and saw hippos and many different birds, just no pink Flamingos.
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We went to the St Anne's Baby Orphanage next. The orphanage has been operating for several years and currently has 28 children. They have adopted out another 10. Irene, who runs the orphanage with her husband, told us some stories about how babies come to them. There are many examples of unwed mothers giving birth in a hospital and either being too young to keep the baby or not wanting the baby at all. She also told us of babies being born and thrown down into a latrine . . . she says that when one of these babies are found and brought to her they are often in terrible condition and if they get sick and vomit it smells the same as the latrine. The good news is that after a time with proper care these babies start to thrive and I had the pleasure of playing with a few of them today . . . they are now toddlers.
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I took the afternoon off so that I could return to EAMO. Both of the boys that I know from my last visit are having their 13th birthdays within the next four days so I wanted to have a gift for each of them. Birthdays should be a special time for anyone . . . not so much in a big orphanage, so the boys were very happy to get their gifts. When I have visited EAMO in the past it was always with a large group with everyone at the orphanage wound up with excitement. Today it was much more laid back and kids came over to talk or just hang out and I got to know a number of them better with this visit. At one point I was showing some of the children's some pictures of Nellie and her friends after a race. The kids all thought she was very pretty and one little girl . . . about 9, asked if we had any kids. When I told her 'no' she asked me if we would like one . . . kids can always steal your heart.
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I also had a special visit with Daniel Spinks who is one of the original kids at EAMO. Daniel has been responsible for running the farm at EAMO for some time where they grow almost all the food needed for the children. He is now studying engine repair. He is a special guy, I enjoyed hanging with him today as well as visiting the nursery and playing with the babies.

Posted by cnmcgeehan 19:29 Comments (0)

Standing on the Equator, The kids at Eamo and Janet Auma

We started our travels at 730 this morning and headed to Nakuru which is five hours away. Ten minutes into our trip we turned off the highway and you pretty much know the rest . . . blah, blah, blah and then two hours later we found the pavement again. We stopped at the Equator and were treated to a display showing the effects of gravity on running water. 20 metres north of the equator the water drains clockwise, 20 metres south of the equator the water drains counter clockwise and on the equator the water drains straight down and will not turn either way.
Standing on the equator GPS actually said 0.0 degrees

Standing on the equator GPS actually said 0.0 degrees


Of course this display was the front for free bathrooms and the inevitable gift shop you had to go thru. Some of us had been talking about negotiating skills and getting the price you want on an item. I'm not even that interested in buying anything but on my way home at the end of the trip I am spending a few days in Holland with my favourite niece of all time and her oldest daughter is turning 5 so I thought I would bring her something. There is a nice giraffe carving I decided on and the sales guy wanted $5,500 shillings, I said $2,000, so he says $4,500 and I said $2,000, his boss came along and said we should meet in the middle at $3,000 and I asked him if he wanted to make a sale it was going to be $2,000. He said OK. I went back to our van to brag. One of the other guys collects masks and he found one he liked and bought it. When he was unwrapping it to show us he pointed out that they gave him a little wooden turtle for free when he was leaving the store . . . he thought it might be that they felt sorry for him because of his poor bargaining skills. We all laughed at that for the next hour.

We got to Nakuru at 12:30 and went straight to EAMO. . . the East African Mission Orphanage. EAMO is home to 230 orphans and is always the most popular stop on the trip. They range in age from babies to later teens and most want your attention immediately so there is lots of hand holding, games and just plain fun.
getting re-acquainted with my two best buddies from two years ago, Fred(L) and Jack (R)

getting re-acquainted with my two best buddies from two years ago, Fred(L) and Jack (R)


When I visited two years ago two boys aged 10 latched on to me and we had lunch together and they showed me their classrooms and their dorm and we just had a lot of fun. I found them again today and it was a great reunion . . . lots of hugs and fun.
I remembered that Jack had a constantly running nose on my last visit and I noticed the same today and he said it always ran. Our medical team was there today as well and it was easy to get one of the doctors to give him a look and they think it is an infection and got him some medicine to clear it up.
When I take a pretty girl to lunch I like to take them all to lunch

When I take a pretty girl to lunch I like to take them all to lunch


At lunch some of the grade 4,5 and 6 girls asked me to eat with them so I said OK and asked the boys if they would join us but they said they would rather eat with the boys. So I had lunch with a table full of girls and we giggled and laughed all the way thru.
It was a special day today as one of the medical team provided spaghetti for the kids, something they only get a couple of times a year so they were all very happy. I should point out these kids are well cared for, EAMO grows most of their own food and the kids get three nutritious meals a day. . . it's just things like cookies and other treats that are for special occasions only and they sure are happy to get them. On our last visit Ray Loxdale and I bought about 60 packages of cookies between us . . . it was a well worth while purchase.
New play centre at EAMO

New play centre at EAMO


ABW has been a very good partner for EAMO as they have built classrooms, dorms and a dining hall as well as other projects. The scale of running an orphanage of this size is huge and they always need any help offered. Ralph Spinks, who started and runs this orphanage with his wife May, was telling us that sometimes the court here just appoints kids to EAMO and they only find out about it when the child arrives . . .sometimes they just find a child dropped off at the front gate. Life is hard here and without orphanages like this it would be harder.
Janet Auma joined us for supper tonight

Janet Auma joined us for supper tonight


I first met Janet Auma two years ago She had been badly burned in a fire at the age of five and her head actually fused to her shoulder which resulted in unnatural growth and deformation. She also lost one of her hands in the fire. Through the kindness of Arni and Elvine Skoretz she had operations to lift her head to a more natural position and the Skoretz family and others have helped her along the way. She told Eric that she wanted to be a seamstress which is a pretty challenging choice for someone missing a hand but she went to school and learned sewing and interior design and started a career. She recently spent time in Ndanai sewing school uniforms for the kids. . . many of the kids there are physically or mentally challenged and she provided a positive role model for the handicapped kids. She is now back working in Nakuru and joined our group for supper tonight. The person I met two years ago was shy and not very confident as you might expect of someone with her challenges. Tonight I met a young woman who has matured wonderfully, she has more confidence and delivered a talk to both ABW teams here and she did it with poise. I told her afterward I was so proud of how she has grown. . . it brings tears to my eyes just writing this . . . and yes you can change the world one person at a time.

We have all heard phrases like when you die you can't take it with you, I heard a new one today . . . "you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer".

Good night.

Posted by cnmcgeehan 13:04 Comments (5)

African Massage and the Road To ...well Heck

Many of the roads here are of the gravel, dirt, mud variety when you get off the main highways and when you are driving on them we call it African Massage which is really just a kinder, gentler way of saying you are getting your insides rearranged. The roads are rough and after two such trips today I feel even rougher. We started our day heading to the community of Male, it is about an hour from where we were staying and the area is really beautiful with sweeping vistas of the hills in the distance, we saw some Zebras, Gazelles and Rhinos in the distance. The other van was ahead of us and they stopped to take some pictures, in our van we have mostly people who have been here before and we just told Benson to keep driving as we know we will get better pics later this week. I do believe the term is jaded lol. When got to our destination the high school principal told us that she does the one hour commute each way each day on the back of a motorbike...our moaning about the road stopped pretty much immediately. Our project here includes classrooms that were previously built and possible future expansion and a water well that was dug two years ago that provides fresh, clean water to the schools and well as the community. the high school principal has run some irrigation lines into a garden area and they grow much of the food they feed the kids at lunch time. Thinking out of the box is pretty much a necessity here. You just cannot understate the importance of the water. When we ran into the medical team later on a cardiologist told us that clean water simply reduces the amount of medical need here.

We went back to the hotel for lunch as we were headed in the opposite direction for the next project. Eric talked to the man who runs the school, medical clinic and centre that we were visiting in the afternoon. He said there had been heavy rains in the area and that if we made it to a certain point he would send his four wheel drive trucks to take us the rest of the way. We bravely decided to go ahead thinking that wet softer ground would be a breeze after the hard gravel road, well the four by four only got stuck once however it did take us 45 minutes to go seven km. Did I mention mud? Most of the footwear needed washing at the end of the day and that includes the socks. The Segora project was started by a man with a vision to provide schooling, medical care and a church for those living in a very remote area. He passed away a few years later and his daughter and her husband have carried on under very trying circumstances. It is difficult to fund the project relying only on donors so ABW has been trying to help him develop the classrooms. Beside eduction they also provide medical care for over 8400 patients each year, they also look after 8 orphans. The grim reality is that if he can't hang on people will die and the quality of life they have will suffer. We are trying to find solutions that would allow him to generate some income to offset his expenses. Humanitarian work can be very trying when you consider the full scope of what this man and others are trying to do when helping less advantaged people

Posted by cnmcgeehan 11:04 Comments (1)

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