How far is it from Lilongwe, Malawi to Nairobi, Kenya? It doesn’t look so far on an ordinary map of Africa. But then, maps of Africa rarely convey just how large the continent is! Officially, Google Maps says it would take only 25 hours to drive the 1,168 miles between the two capitals. There’s no way you’d get off that easily…
The US fits in just one corner of Africa!
The point is, our local Small Business Fund (SBF) coordinators from different countries don’t often get to meet each other. So I was so excited when I learned that Canaan Gondwe SBF Coordinator from Malawi would be in Kenya for another conference. I immediately arranged for him and Wambui, SBF coordinator in Nairobi, to meet and discuss their work with Spirit in Action.
When I read Canaan’s report of their meeting last month my heart was so full of joy! How wonderful for these two passionate SIA leaders to be able to share with each other about their experiences and challenges with SIA. This exchange is exactly what helps SIA grow, improve, and stay responsive to the needs and reality on the ground.
From Canaan’s report of their meeting:
With joy, we shared a number of positive impacts of the SBF Program in our 2 respective countries and these included:
Reduced gender-based violence in the SBF group families
SBF Business groups attain better medication in private clinics
Peer business support
Acquisition of small scale livestock
Harriet in front of the house she built with business profits and a low-interest loan and now rents out to a school teacher. (Malawi)
GROWTH AREAS AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
We also looked at areas of growth which needed attention now or later for effective implementation of our work.
Improving mobility: Monitoring of work is a very important tool in order to produce quality work and results. As the number of SIA SBF group businesses increase in our respective countries, there is a need to discuss the possibility of providing better transportation for all coordinators to ease transport challenges that are currently faced. [This challenge is increased when the business groups are spread out within a larger rural village area.]
Security: Wambui highlighted an issue of security as she works in Koch slum areas. She told me about the violence that now and again takes place there. She narrated that she works with all sensitivity as she travels in the slum areas. She explained that she doesn’t use one route to come in and out of the area. We brainstormed on the issue and suggested that every time she comes into the slum area, she should be making pre-calls to groups so that they welcome her at designated places of security and walk to the working area with members of the SBF.
EXPANSION OF SIA’S WORK
Tanya had requested that in our meeting we also look at the expansion of the work in our countries. We discussed the issue and agreed that the following characteristics are important when considering new coordinators:
People with some skills of managing community work
People with high financial integrity
People who can agree to work on volunteer basis
People with team spirit and cooperation
We also looked at preparing these pre-coordinators by providing some formal or informal grooming before they are absorbed into the system.
It was a paramount meeting and this enabled us to enhance our insights of how best to implement the SBF Program in our respective countries. It was joy to meet Wambui and hear from each other. Thanks to Tanya who thought about taking advantage of my trip to Kenya to meet Wambui who is within the capital city.
Thank you to Canaan and Wambui for their honest feedback and continued passion in serving SIA and their communities! SIA’s growing impact relies on the expertise of our excellent local coordinators and we welcome more discussion about these opportunities to improve our programs.