Last week, visitors from the UK arrived to check out our work in Kenya. They are my neighbours back in Scotland and have been supporting Vision Africa for a number of years so it is great to have the opportunity to show them first hand the impact of our work.
Within hours of landing in Nairobi we had started them on their tour of projects. One of the first places they visited was Seed of Hope where they met some Fashion Design students and new graduates who are now resident in the Dhamira Hub.
To show them the kind of future that these graduates can look forward to, I took our guests to visit Peninah who graduated in 2009.
My memories of Peninah are of a very quiet shy girl. In fact, I’ve had to dig back in our records to find out why she joined Seed of Hope in 2008 because she didn’t talk much to us back in those days. Peninah comes from an area near a market where her mother worked. Her father was a casual labourer and between them her parents didn’t earn very much. Having already funded Peninah’s sister to go to secondary school, there was no money left to allow Peninah to continue with her education when she finished primary school.
At 14 years of age, Peninah enrolled at Nairobi Seed of Hope and was a very serious student for her two years of studies. After graduating in November 2009, she found employment and worked for two years. At that point, her mother encouraged her to start her own business which she did with a friend. They opened up a small shop but as anyone who has their own business knows, it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to make it succeed. Peninah’s friend got tired of trying to overcome the difficulties and suggested they close the business but Peninah decided to keep struggling on her own.
Fast forward to last week and I hardly recognised the confident young lady who came out to greet our visitors and welcome them to her business. Peninah shared with them the difficulties she had faced and how she had overcome the challenges. She now has many customers and is looking to expand the shop that she is in. Rather than close the business when she got pregnant, she found someone to share the shop for a few months to allow her to go on maternity leave. She then went back to work and now wants to open a bigger shop so that she can continue to share the space with the person who covered for her. Her teacher who taught her these business skills would be proud of her!
Through Seed of Hope, Peninah was given and interest free loan from Kiva, This allowed her to buy fabrics to build up her business. She repaid that and got another loan to grown the business again. She is now hoping for a third load which will enable her to buy another machine and employ someone to work in the business with her.
As Peninah showed us some of the clothes that she was working on it was easy to see that she enjoys what she is doing. She also appreciates where she has come from as she says that having trained at Seed of Hope she is no longer dependent on her mother. In fact she supports herself and her child and is also able to help her mother. The pride in her face as she told us this is what makes all our efforts worthwhile.
Thanks to your support through GlobalGiving more Seed of Hope graduates have the opportunity to be successful business owners like Peninah. Your contributions have allowed graduates to set up their own businesses and start their journey to self-reliance.
Seed of Hope's Class of 2013 has now graduated. There were colourful ceremonies at our four centres and it was wonderful to see how much the event meant not just to the graduates but to their families' as well. Parents, guardians and siblings were keen to celebrate the occasion and be photographed with the graduates as they received their certificates,
Now it is time for the graduates to move on to the next stage of their lives and face the realities of the world. Gitau is a teacher in Enterprise studies at the Nairobi centre and helps to oversee the set up of Roots businesses at all four centres. He gave us this report:
"The Seed of Hope policy for students after the two years course is to either join a Roots business or get employed in their field of expertise. After the 2013 graduation, 9 small businesses will be set up for girls who have completed the programme of training.
Three months before graduation each group was required to come up with a business plan that will equip them for starting their business. The plan uses the principle of the ladder. That is starting with the first workable goal going up. Within the plan Seed of hope gives the groups machines, three months rent and one year trading license as a start up capital.
In each graduation there were Government leaders, Vision Africa staff, donors, community leaders, Seed of hope board members, parents and teachers who gave the graduates words of encouragements. Here are some of the quotes.
The girls that we work with face a variety of challenges and Teacher Gitau and his colleagues are always on hand to support and advise them as they make the transition from student to employee or business owner. Seed of Hope is sensitive to the girls' circumstances and allows for flexibility, As an example of this, we have an update to our last post on the business that was being set up by Phoebe, Salome and Roselyn.
Salome's circumstances changed and she had to leave Nairobi to live with her sister in their rural home. This changed the dynamics of their business plan. Then Phoebe and Roselyn were offered places in Seed of Hope's new Incubation Hub which will be set up early next year. The Hub will give additional support to promising graduates as they set up their businesses. Located on site at Seed of Hope, the Hub will offer mentoring, specialised training and work experience for residents. While Roselyn felt that Hub membership is the best option for her, Phoebe decided she wanted to start out on her own immediately. So plans are afoot to ensure that the girls get the support they require to ensure that they all succeed.
Thank you for the support that YOU have given our girls through GlobalGiving. Your contributions have made it possible for us to ensure that every student graduating in 2013 and wishing to join the Roots programme has the opportunity to do so.
Graduation season is fast approaching for our four Seed of Hope centres. Although they are officially due to close at the end of this week for holidays, many of the second year students will be preparing for their Grade 2 Directorate of Industrial Training exams. After that, there is the final project to complete and then after graduation it will be time to set up their small businesses.
We thought it would be interesting to follow some of the students on this journey as they prepare to leave Seed of Hope and head out to start their own business.
Roselyn (18), Phoebe (18) and Salome (19) are second year students at our Nairobi centre. They are planning to open their business, “Perfect Dressmaking and Craft Shop”, in Kenyatta Market near Kibera. The girls were asked what difference they think the business will make to their lives. Salome was very quick to reply “It will help us be independent!” Phoebe and Roselyn are both looking forward to being able to help themselves and their families. They have younger siblings and would like to help ensure they get a good education.
The girls feel that they have learned a lot at Seed of Hope which will help them with their business. As well as the practical dressmaking and craft skills, they say their business skills will also help. “We’ve learned about market research, how to market our business, how to keep records and how to have a good relationship with customers. Our teachers are really encouraging us and so are our parents.”
Over the next few weeks, the second year students will be working on the designs for their final project. This involves designing and creating an outfit for their graduation ceremony. This year, the Nairobi students have been able to do a lot of research working with our volunteer, Esther, who is visiting from the UK. An exciting partnership with the ASOS Foundation means that the students have had access to iPads with internet access so Esther has been teaching them how to look up various fashion websites and then use the inspiration to create their own unique designs. They have also been looking at fashion magazines and Salome says the inspiration for her dress came from an actress on a Mexican soap opera she has been watching!
We asked Roselyn, Phoebe and Salome if they had any message for the people who will be supporting them and providing some of the capital to start up their small businesses. They said “Thank you for your support and we promise to be good girls and work hard in our business. May God bless you.” They are very excited about opening their business and say that in the future “it will grow if we put a lot of effort in.”
We look forward to following these girls through their graduation and on to the next phase of their journey towards independence.
Thank you to everyone who has supported this project via GlobalGiving. Thanks to you Phoebe, Roselyn, Salome and many more graduates from Seed of Hope face a brighter future.
For the latest news from Seed of Hope and our other projects, join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @VisionAfrica.
Over the last few weeks, I have spent time with two of Seed of Hope's graduates who are running their own businesses. Their experiences show how young ladies' lives can be changed through an investment in a small business.
We had a team of teachers visiting from the UK to volunteer at some of our projects. As part of their introduction to our work, we took them to visit Winnie at her business in Kibera. Winnie was living with her sister when she was at Seed of Hope. Her sister had a small child and they were all in a one-roomed house, struggling for survival. Winnie would walk for two hours to get to school each day and at that time there was no feeding programme and her sister couldn't afford to send her with lunch so she survived her walk to school, full day of studies and walk home with nothing to eat. Winnie was determined to make her life better.
After graduating, Winnie was supported to set up in business with two other graduates but the other girls decided to go their own way - one getting employed and the other setting up shop on her own in another part of Nairobi. Winnie continued to run the business and has now been supporting herself for two years. When we visited her, she told us that she now rents her own house, runs the business and manages to send money to her mother to support her and another younger sibling who live upcountry. There was definitely pride in Winnie's voice as she told this story. The first group of visitors were more than happy to buy some of her products. By the time we went with a second group the following day, Winnie had already used some of the proceeds to buy fabric and make more bags to sell to our visitors. Clearly those lessons in marketing and business paid off!
Another of our graduates, Rosebella, has kept up her studies since leaving Seed of Hope. One of the first girls to graduate, Rosebella struggled to get her business off the ground but once she got started there was no stopping her. She decided that she wanted to do a Diploma in Fashion Design but no college would accept her as she hadn't completed her secondary education. Undetered, Rosebella used her business to fund herself through her secondary school exams. When I met her a few weeks ago, she was on her way to college to start her course in Fashion Design having passed her secondary school exams and enrolled to do the course of her dreams. Depsite all the studies, Rosebella has maintained her business and even grown it through loans from KIVA.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this project on Global Giving to give more young ladies the opportunity to be independent and successful like Winnie and Rosebella. With your support, lives are being changed.
In November, Seed of Hope reached the milestone of 1,000 girls graduating from the programme. We have already seen many of these girls go on to set up their own small businesses which have transformed their lives.
The staff at our four Seed of Hope centres are now in the process of working with the new graduates and their families to get their businesses up and running. The aim is to lay good foundations for each business so that it can grow over time. The graduates have been choosing who they will go into partnership with and working on their business plans. They then have to find a shop which can be rented before we can organise a trading licence and sewing machine. Their families also have to decide who will contribute the tables, stools, scissors, mirror, iron and other essential items.
Since the start of the year, our centres in Kisii and Kitui have each seen five businesses established. Kariti Seed of Hope has one business up and running. Work is underway to grow these numbers in the coming weeks as the graduates find business premises and their families settle on their contributions.
Thanks to everyone who has supported our Roots programme through Global Giving. You have helped ensure that our girls can have Dignity, Hope and Opportunity as they move in to the next exciting chapter of their lives.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.
Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
Still want to help?
Support another project run by Vision Africa that needs your help, such as: