Updated: Apr 7
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This is one of Romano Iluku’s favorite quotes and it comes up often as he talks about his work with families in the informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya. Romano has a fundamentally positive outlook and in the midst of the fear about the pandemic, he reminded me that he has seen his community in Kenya respond with resilience to the HIV/AIDS.
Romano is a Spirit in Action Small Business Fund Coordinator and his organization is a SIA grant partner. Here, he writes about his vision for sustainable and transformative change in his community.
My name is Romano Iluku from Nairobi Kenya. I’m passionate about education and transformation. I believe that we are all called for a purpose in our existence.
My passion towards transformation and my desire to learn, love, and serve humanity has led me into starting an organization by the name of Empowering Communities as Actors for Transforming Societies (e-CATS).
E-CATS aims to reduce poverty, hunger, and inequality among vulnerable populations in Kenya’s informal settlements and rural homes. This is through fostering basic entrepreneurial skills and offering micro loans/grants to boost existing small business or start and grow new ones.
I have been working with communities in the informal settlements in Nairobi on the area of peace-building and social reconciliation. While undertaking this projects, there have been some gaps especially on the area of economic empowerment. Since SIA is working with households on the area of economic empowerment and poverty reduction, I saw an opportunity to integrate this into the peace-building and community work I am involved in.
Watch a video of e-CATS mutual aid response to the pandemic.
In the immediate crisis, e-CATS helped supply people with food. In the long-term they are supporting small business rebuilding.
In my pilot project with SIA and e-CATS, young mothers were selected and trained on basic business skills, after which they were given grants for their small business. So far, the pilot project has benefited over twenty families hailing from the two major informal settlements (Kibera and Korogocho) in Nairobi.
Pre-pandemic business training for women in Kibera Informal Settlement.
By growing and improving their trades, these families are able to pay for their house rent, medical bills for themselves, and their children will stay in school without being interrupted for fees.
Families graduating from the program will pay forward to help the next family with startup contribution. This will make the project more easily sustainable.
E-CATS is well placed to direct the initiative because we are a grassroots organization which operates on the ground. We have a direct link to the recipients of the microgrants. Our team includes diverse, young, proactive, and passionate individuals who are involved in the management of e-CATS. We all work on voluntary basis at the moment.
This team draws its experience from basic accounting and finance skills, community development, entrepreneurship and economics. We are committed to transparency not only to the recipients of the microgrants but also to our development partners and donors. We understand the context on the ground and the issues faced by the community in Kenya’s informal settlements and rural areas.
Wambui Nguyo and Romano Iluku, e-CATS co-founders and SIA Small Business Fund Coordinators in Nairobi.