This last month was the first month in business for 20 new girls, you will get to know all the details of their progress in the next report.
We are always trying to find new ways of showing you what your help means and the lives you are touching, because we care about this project a lot and we hope you do to. So we thought of doing a long interview with Elizabeth, and we got to know more about her and her oldest daughter, Berline. We hope you like it! Elizabeth has a microproject going on right now, with only 10 days left to receive support. So if you think she deserves it, consider a donation.
’I’m from the West. My parents died when I was small and I went on to live with my Auntie. By the age of 12 I left school. My aunt was not poor but they did not put me in school, she focused on her own children. I was just helping in the house and with businesses. I married when I was 18 and came to Tole with my husband. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I had gone to school. I think I would have liked to become a nurse, but I would have still had my own business, maybe a small pharmacy. I just like doing business, I can sell anything.
We were from a poor family, my father was a farmer of coffee. He will farm for a whole year to make two bags of coffee, at 40,000 each, and we had to manage 80,000 francs for a year.’’ [about 150 dollars.]
Do you see the improvement, from your father’s family to your own?
Yes, my children go to school and have something to eat every day. But they also need to have a better future for themselves.
‘’I sell bread with sardine, groundnut and spaghetti [typical sandwiches here] every day except Sundays.
I sell fertilizers and fungicides every market day and in my house, now that is farming season. ‘’
So how does her day look like, on a market day?
I wake up around 4,00-4,30 I begin cooking, heating the sardine sauce, cooking spaghetti, making the groundnut paste. If I don’t wake up early I can’t cook.
By 5.30 I’ve gone to town to buy bread, when I come back I set the fertilizer shop in the market, leave Berline to sell and I arrange everything and start selling bread. By 10 o’clock we are done selling. [The farming season is the same than the holiday period, so Berline can help her mother without losing school time]
And what about the children? In the morning, Berline helps the small ones to bathe and be arranged, so I just focus on the business.
At 10 I arrange the house a bit and I either start cooking or go to the farm. Our farm is mostly for feeding, it helps us survive.
By 3.00 P.M I’m back and I rest a bit, then begin cooking for the next day.
How did you come up with the ideas for your businesses?
For the bread… I had done it before, as a child, for my auntie in Bafoussam. So being a mother I know my children need to eat every day for breakfast, and the meals from the day before are too heavy for the morning. [as she does the business they will eat a bit, she pays herself for this]. I thought of this or Gateau [sweet bread] but there were many people doing it already, so I went for the bread and sardine. It’s something permanent that can give me at least 1000 [about 2 dollars] a day, whatever happens.
The fertilizers… I was in Douala visiting my cousin. He has a shop. I don’t know how to read but I know money. I saw the prizes there, and I know the prizes I pay when I want to buy for myself. We were paying 4000 for Gamazone, but I knew I could sell at 3500 and still make a profit. I begged him to give me one box with some chemicals. That’s how it started. Now I buy 7 boxes. [Each box is 30,000 francs, about 55 dollars].
More about Berline
‘’Berline helps me write, if I leave her alone every day she will show me how much she sold and exactly what product. If I need to keep my book and is too complicated I also call her.’’
‘’She is good at business, but she does not have the passion for selling I have. What she likes is school. She likes it so much if she is missing one book we will have drama in the house until I buy it. And she is good at it, she has good grades. You people gave her a prize last year during your holiday classes, to the best question. She still has that bag. She asked madam Omam [our Executive Director]: Why did you start Reach Out?’’
‘’My husband’s brother just died this weekend, he was in the hospital. Every day the family had to pay 265,000 or they won’t treat him. So he stayed for 4 days, we (the whole family) spent a million (close to 2000 $), but he still died. Now we need to bury him. It’s going to cost money. I thank God I spent all the fertilizer money on the business and now I just have the boxes, or I would have been forced to spend it.
I wanted to take a loan of 200,000 francs at the credit union, but now I’m afraid we will have to use it for the funeral, so I won’t. I will wait for the burial to pass. My main worry is school fees, this September it’s going to be a problem. If somebody could help me pay for school fees… At least for Berline, she loves school so much.’’
Advice for other girls.
‘’If you know what it means when somebody helps you…..I don’t want to start saying thank you, I could fill this book. They changed my life.’’
‘’It is good when you keep records, even if you are not educated.’’….’’ If it’s too complicated I call Berline. But you showed me it’s not about being educated it’s about knowing how much I make at the end of the day, with my own system. At first I was afraid of writing, but when you taught me there are so many ways of doing it and you can find your own personal one without all that writing, I could start.
If you don’t’ do bookkeeping you are just doing stupid business. You see 2500 in your hand and you think you made money. Don’t know you just made 500 profit. ‘’
Thanks for reading and remember you can still help her directly through this link!
Note: The interview was conducted in pidgin English so words are not literal but we tried to stick as much as possible to her wording.
Follow-up of new girls continues! This is Gilian