Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Can you say JamiiBoro?

Post by Betsy
Today we spent the day with JamiiBoro, one of Whole Foods Whole Planet partnerships in micro-lending. They are located in Nairobi and serve their members all over Kenya through branch offices. Jamiiboro means “Better Families” and this is how it works:
Since 1999, JamiiBoro has helped 240,000 members bring themselves out of poverty with loans as small as 900 shillings, or just over $10 dollars. The organization started with the initiative of 50 Nairobi street beggars who were promised a way out of poverty if they would save just 10% of the money they hoped to borrow. We spent the day with Joyce, who lived in the slums of Soweto her entire life and was able to start a produce and clothes washing business. She saved 3500sh in one year and then borrowed 7000sh to open a small restaurant. Then she started a 2nd restaurant and rented it, bought a van to deliver food and built a house, which sadly, burned to the ground. With the hope and support that Jamiiboro provided she rebuilt and is about to open another restaurant. She is now the owner of Seven Businesses and employees 62 people. In the process she learned English in addition to her native Swahili. I told her in the US, we would call her a “Rock Star.”

So you can see how this one loan resulted in financial independence for a woman and her five children and jobs for many other people. Now multiply this by their 240,000members and you have a true miracle. We will be posting more of the stories and pictures of the day over the next couple of weeks. We ended up spending a 12-hour, exciting, emotional and exhausting day with Joyce, Susan – the National Outreach Manager, and other Jamiiboro members in Nairobi and a small village two hours from the city. Spending time in any country in Africa will quickly cure what my husband Brian calls “I want disease,” when you see how much we have and others do not. Simply finding water can take walking for the better part of the day for many families.

On another note, we are still trying to understand how people are able to breathe in this city so cloaked in diesel pollution that your eyes sting worse than with Los Angeles smog in the ‘80’s. Also had another opportunity to appreciate our good fortune when using a pit commode in the restaurant at which we ate lunch. Let’s just say, the concept of “good aim,” is important or things can get a little splashy.
Tomorrow we are having breakfast with Mama Ingrid, founder of Jamiiboro and then off on the vacation part of our vacation. Of course, at Seventh Generation we never sleep so Susan and I are wrapping up a project for John before we head off to see the elephants.

Kwa heri (Adios in Swahili)

Post by Susan

I did not think I could have had a more powerful or inspirational experience than I had at the REACH Reconciliation Seminar but JamiiBora was equally moving. Bets gave you an overview and I will talk about the children of JamiiBora…
Because their parents are successful (varying degrees based on the amount of time they have been a member of the “family”), the children grow up with a positive role model and want to emulate and support their parents efforts. This is the epitome of “teaching the person the fish” analogy and it is working for over 240,000 families in Kenya. All three of us were struck by the difference in the welfare system in the US vs. the successful micro financing models in developing countries. I have personally experienced how the Grameen Bank and Whole Planet Foundation have changed the lives of people in Costa Rica and now seeing what their grant has done to open six branches outside Nairobi makes me a believer in the system.

We may not have Internet Access on the Safari but plan to write our posts and send whenever possible; if nothing else, we will send many from Heathrow during our layover.

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