Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship

by Reach Out NGO
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Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Change a Girl's Life Through Microentrepreneurship
Esther
Esther

Dear donors, after more than three months of blackout, internet is back in the South-West Region. The girls you supported last month have already invested to grow their businesses and we will be giving you the numbers in the next report, for now we want to share with you bits of an interview with Esther, one of the first beneficiaries of the project.

2012. – Identified and trained for 3 months, collective help.

“I still remember how to do cassava cookies as they taught me. Life was very tough back then; I was only 22 years, with 3 children. We [Her and her boyfriend] were still small, did not even know how to take care of my children, how to do business.”

“The group went well first, for about 2 years. Now it’s not really that way. We should have something doing, all of us. Some members can’t even save 500 francs.” [Meetings are often organized as informal means of saving]

Here she’s talking about the very first training of the project. During training, a group of girls asked to join and receive help as a group, Unity Sisters, one of them was Esther. They received the money collectively and they managed for a while an ambitious project (chair & decorations rental), gradually the project decayed and to this date some of the members have not really improved. The demographic we deal with might not be the best for group interventions, as good groups take time to develop, stability, ability to save and a strong commitment, things that young 18 to 25 girls, going through unwanted early motherhood and family instability hardly have. It is for this reason that the Keep a Girl Alive project is one of the few projects Reach Out does were the target are individuals, not groups.

She also talks about cassava cookies, the first set of girls were trained in many very useful life skills (transformation, kitchen gardening, etc..), but a good percentage of them hardly use these skills, so we have limited the lessons to key aspects, and we use your money in other, more impactful areas (mostly direct business grants).

2015 Received 20,000

“At that time I was busy with a very small business, selling pepper and tomato, so it helped me a lot to add capital. Then I got pregnant again so that slowed us down a bit. The money really helped me, it reduced the rate of hunger in my house. It was around that time that I started to really have love for doing something, when I started selling secondhand clothes. The business is challenging, all the prices change with the season and when you are there for a while others come to copy you. I developed love to be creative, to be independent. Is good to do business, you see how every day it helps you a bit and you grow love for it. I think no matter what you do, if you love something you will succeed.

2016 Received 50,000 and business training refresher

I took the money to my house. I said God let me not misuse this money and build something. On the 7th of April, I still remember, I took it to the market. I have so much respect for that 50,000. [It has grown now to 80,000, and gives her a solid monthly income]

“The day I received the money my older child [Stanford, now 12] came to me and said -Mom, 3 days ago I prayed to God that somebody should give you capital for your business. – He even showed me the paper, he have a box where we put prayers in the house” [Whatever your personal believes, this shows how embedded survival mentality is in the household of the extreme poor, where even an 11 year old understands and worries about not only having money, but “Capital for mom’s business”.]

I have 2 younger brothers who depend on me a lot. I can help them with small money, buy good clothes. I can invest the money. I have helped with many problems around me, especially now that my mother in law is very sick. [She happens to be Elekta’s mother, you might remember her from prior reports]

The people that send money have also worked hard, you should not disappoint them. If they send you money is to use it the right way, it’s for your good and for your children. I remember at first how I would sit in my house and cry, not knowing what to do. I love this business more than my life.

Personally, I really like her story and I think it teaches us two things:

1st Girls set their own time and that’s why is good to keep long relationships with them. For 3 years we saw Esther do very little with the help we had given her, she had a group project that gradually decayed. We did not judge, we kept meeting with her regularly and advising, we did not give her more financial help, we just watched. As she grew, she took ownership of her life and she was ready to be helped. That 20,000 grant might have been one of the most impactful we ever gave. That’s about 35 dollars. The 50,000 came to complement when she was already very stable, and it was very intelligently invested, the basic capital was never misused and she has grown from there.

2nd You might think they don’t understand, you might think they don’t know, that they just see the money. They do understand, they know somebody like you also work hard, also has their own problems, and wanted to change their lives. They are thinking about you every day.

Next step? Our work with Esther is not finished. As we usually do with long-time participants who are showing high potential for growth, dire need, or both, we have developed a microproject for her. It’s now on the fifth page of GlobalGiving and based on past experience I think that about three donations, no matter the size, will put her on the first or second page, for many more potential donors to see. So if you are considering a high-impact donation… that’s it.

Thank you.

Her first training, 2012
Her first training, 2012
Receiving her business grant in 2015
Receiving her business grant in 2015
Her second grant, 2016
Her second grant, 2016
Follow-up session 2017
Follow-up session 2017
Follow-up session 2016
Follow-up session 2016
Thank you!
Thank you!

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“I had been living in an empty room. But with this business I have been able to buy a matrass and some things, now I have my own space” - Lizette

“If my husband would not bring money. I would sleep hungry. Now food is enough for me and my family. - Cecile

“some days I was hungry. Now I help my family, my mother, my husband. We are thinking of buying a small plot now.- Ernestine

This Wednesday 5th of April we met with 13 of the girls in our training house in Tole. These are some of their testimonies after 4 months in the program.

After 4 months of careful monitoring, we had set to support again these 13 girls, while 6 remain under observation for another month. These last 6 have not shown the same level of consistency and we wanted to give them some more time to get more experience before we continue to the next level. We also have 3 defaulters, 3 girls who have changed their residence to other towns. This is really normal, we deal with a very mobile demographic. We can reintegrate them into the program later if a set of rules are met, as we have done many times.

The session lasted for half a day and we covered different topics.

First, we revised what has changed in this 4 months, then we set their goals for the future:

“My husband is building a house, I will also be helping to buy blocks so we do it faster. By the end of the year we will live there. - Cecile

“I want to support my 2 brothers in technical schools, the school fees are no joke so if I can contribute half of it I will really help. – Blanche

By the end of the year I want to have my own fashion shop” - Remy

With our goals clear, we set up to talk about the problems of the businesses, and ways to overcome them, then some of the girls showcased their different strategies:

“Borrowing [to clients] had really become a big problem for me. People will not pay me back. Now I don’t borrow anything to you without taking something of value. I have 3 gas bottles in my house of people who could not pay at the moment. They must always come for their things so they don’t play me. – Blanche

“The market has been too slow because too many people have been copying my recipe in the area, so I decided to walk with my food door to door, I went with Antoinete [another of the girls, she sells iogurt also walking around] and sold everything very fast - Christina

We spent the rest of the day working on their business plans. They had spent the past months thinking, comparing options and planning for this opportunity, so it was not difficult to put it in writing.  Many of them filled the whole plan by themselves, then the fastest ones helped those who have more difficulties with writing. We let them do and just supported when clarifications were needed.

A sexual education session took place to close the day, all male staff from REO abandoned the room and the girls were left with Sylvie, our newest volunteer, who gave a quick overview on sexual reproductive health and distributed 120 condoms among the girls.

This Friday all of them received their second grant of 50,000 francs (about 80 dollars) in front of the village council. Next month you will get to know what are their doing with your donation!

Thank you so much!

P.D: We almost made it. This project was selected among the 5 finalists to compete for 2 permanent places in the GlobalGiving Girl Fund. We were selected because 1) you gave us enough support (so many new donors! So many individual donations in this short period of time!) to show that we have a strong network of people believing in Reach Out Cameroon and this project. Thank you again for your support. 2) we had a solid project and expansion plan, the learning cycle we submitted to GlobalGiving was evaluated by a panel of experts. We had written about how we managed to turn 10% implementation of bookkeeping into more than 90%. They loved your project.

Sadly, the other 4 projects were also really good and we were not among the 2 selected, we are sorry to disappoint you, thank you again for your amazing support and we will keep working harder every day.

P.D2: As promised in the last report, all participants have been registered with a mutual health insurance program. You can see some of the pictures bellow!

Working on the business plans
Working on the business plans
Sylvie with Elizabeth
Sylvie with Elizabeth
Registering girls into mutual health program
Registering girls into mutual health program
There's no such thing as a "small" business!
There's no such thing as a "small" business!

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Focus group discussion
Focus group discussion

“Business was going well, and I could sell 18,000 in a week (roughly 36$).

I did not have a bank account or a meeting, but I had a place where I was keeping money. I was thinking of a plot of land... or a store, something big that could come in the future.

But my mother got really sick, and I could not leave her to die.

This past year I spent more than 500,000 fr (roughly 1000$) in hospitals. I had to do something. I only got back on my feet because of you (your support!) and a neighbor whom I asked for a loan. But even then, I was really down. Not so long ago some young boys by the main road were laughing at my worn shoes. I did not have a franc with me and the shoes were bad, I had patched them anyhow.

One year ago, my mother was even helping me from time to time to add more capital to the business, now I’m having all the burden on me. She’s too weak to work. The day I don’t sell well we just don’t eat.

This is Elekta. A story you might be familiar with, and don’t worry, help is on the way thanks to many generous donors.  But we wanted to share her story to put you in situation.

Last week we had a focus group discussion with girls of the program. It was mostly about exploring the possibility of a partnership with the Mutual Health Program. A system of public insurance. We wanted to see their perspectives, so they got talking about their latest visits to the hospital and how much did that impact them. If Elekta had been registered with the program she would have saved at least 200,000 fr and would have been in a way better position today. The results were clear, we should take this step. It’s not only a way of securing our results (if they can afford health care they will not destroy the capital of their businesses) it’s also a matter of public health. “Last year I had a stomach problem” I spent 1 week without being able to work, and 2 more weeks without being able to work because I had spent all of my money and had to beg to my family for more. Now I just buy the same medicine in places around the quarter, I don’t go to the hospital. I know I could be sick from something else, I know is not the right thing to do. But I can’t afford consultation and testing. That’s Blanche. 

This Friday 10th of March you are covering 37 girls’ Health Insurance for a year and we are also making a big event out of it, encouraging their families and other community members to pay the very affordable fee and register themselves into the program. We will be sharing our results soon.

We also took the opportunity of having a closed focus group to ask about the program. They of course like it, but not only because we have helped them. “Let’s say, for the next group of girls, what should we do? The same thing? Or could we do something better?“Do the same exact thing. This is good. They do have some doubts about some of their peers, and this is worrying. They have asked us to closely crosscheck everybody’s several times before giving anything else. This could be a way of telling us that somebody is playing dirty (showcasing a fake business) without pointing at anybody. This is good and shows that they are also jealous with your money. Don’t worry, we have systems in place in the community to check such things.

But this could also be something else. We have a similar feedback from some community members, they have stigmatized young girls to the point that they never trust them “those young girls are not serious, they are just wasting your money, even when confronted with hard facts proving that the vast majority of girls are doing well and are active. They acknowledge each individual case but go back to the general perception “those girls are not serious. You should give money to the men/old women”.  Sadly, the girls themselves seem to have interiorized this mindset.

This is also a form of gender inequality and discrimination, a form that we hope this project will contribute to eradicate. This is reason to keep focusing on young girls, each girl like Elekta and Blanche is a living proof that they are more than serious.

Also…We are campaigning for a sport in the GlobalGiving fund for Women and Girls! We need as many small donations as possible, get all your friends to donate their 10$ if we are among the top projects by the 14th of March we could earn a permanent spot worth more than $20,000 in funding! Imagine how many lives could we change, and we just need your 10 dollars and your energy to ask another person. It’s really hard to have an online campaign with almost no access to internet, we count on your help to spread the word.

 

Antoinette makes more than $50 a month. thank you!
Antoinette makes more than $50 a month. thank you!
Christina is proud to be supporting her mother.
Christina is proud to be supporting her mother.
Lizette
Lizette
Prisca
Prisca
Ernestine is a farmer and a cook.
Ernestine is a farmer and a cook.

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Follow-up session in our spot in Tole
Follow-up session in our spot in Tole

Dear friends. We want to apologise for the delay. For more than a month the South-West Region of Cameroon has had an internet blackout, we can only write to you because we traveled to the nearby Litoral Region.

On Friday the 17th of February we had one of our follow-up meetings with new beneficiaries of the Keep a Girl alive Project in Tole. We talked with 18 girls about their ongoing business, how their bookkeeping is going and also if they are making progress or not. Some are doing impressive profits, some had some setbacks related to healthcare costs. But all are going ahead, and they are also keeping excellent records of their business, with 100% implementation of bookkeeping and only 10% of beneficiaries with clear difficulties in the practice.

Improvements from their first months of business are palpable.

While on Average, they made 37000 francs of profit this December(about 60 dollars, note they had been given 50 as capital and these are pure profits), they have moved up to 45000 this January, growing their businesses by more than 20% in one month! (And January is a way worse month of sales overall in Cameroon)

They know they are doing something to be proud of. Serve as an example Mary, who missed this followed-up session. She called our project manager directly on the phone and requested to meet us in our central office. We thought that maybe she had an urgent problem, but she just explained she is doing very well and wants to show us her progress, knowing she had missed us last time. We reassured her we are coming next week and there’s no problem, we will be happy to check her records then. It’s thrilling to work when the people you support have this kind of energy. 

Get to know some of the Girls:

Remy sells clothes in the market. She started business with us this December, and she picked up quickly. She moved from a profit of 9500  francs (about 16 dollars) a month, to 23500 (40) by January! " I don't use all my capital, I prefer to buy smaller batches of clothes, they have better quality"

Blanche has grown in two months from a total capital of 80 dollars to 180! She has already calculated her next step “Now I wish to change to a cold store.”

Christina  sells plantain and fish. She knew all about the business, as her mother is an expert cook, but lacked capital and could only start it when she got your help. Her recipe is so good she has inspired other girls to copy her business. I can attest her fish is delicious, I've try to eat it every time I come to Tole.

Enjoh is a serial entrepreneur. Since December, she's tried 3 different business, each time making more money than before. She cooks food in the evening, this January she made more than 100$ in profit! 

Thank you very much for everything you have done for them, we are preparing a video with the girls so they can thank you directly, follow closely our facebook page!

Remy
Remy
Blanche
Blanche
Christina
Christina
Jibeline
Jibeline
Follow-up with Judith at her business spot
Follow-up with Judith at her business spot

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Girveline giving her graduation speech
Girveline giving her graduation speech

Dear donors,

You’ve closed 2016 with grand style.

  • 20 more new girls trained and supported this November.
  • A meeting with 2-year long beneficiaries in a microfinance institution, to facilitate their access to loans.
  • 3 bigger grants given, one transformed into a loan of 600$! (we paid the opening of an account in that microfinance institution)
  • Also, an exciting 200% bonus to anybody who signs for monthly donations is available! Tell your friends!

This is a lot of information, so we will only focus on the first part in this report and you will know more about the rest this January. We also want to take the opportunity to share with you what we think we can do this 2017, if you keep trusting us.

This November 2016 we began selection of 20 more girls to join the program. This did not require any door-to-door work as in the past because we have already been identifying potential girls while doing our follow-up work in the community. Also, community stakeholders (the traditional authorities, 2 women groups, a small local NGO and even some of the old girls, as you learned from Renata in last report) have provided some additional names, and others were trained and registered during the Innovation Challenge this August. (check it out!). Like Remy, a young single mother of 19 years who fixes clothes and zips for a living. She will be starting a second-hand clothes business with your help, a first step to something bigger. It’s striking to see somebody so young to have such entrepreneurial capacity, she also had a great proposal during the Innovation Challenge.

You might be already familiar with this: We train first, we give a first small grant and do 1on1 coaching during the following weeks and months, after we give a bigger grant if they have proven to be constant and follow the bookkeeping, that’s the start. The first 2 steps were done this November and early December, giving out 20 grants of 30,000 francs, a total of about 1000 dollars USD in grants in one day in the Chiefdom Hall for everybody to see. It was a big day in the community and for us.

“The chiefdom is part of this project, and we will be following-up each one of you alongside Reach Out. We will do our separate follow-up. This is Christmas period, avoid temptation, use the money for your business, we are all responsible for the image of the village” Said the representative of the chief of the village.

The core of the training was similar to this March’s training (here) except for key insights that came from self-evaluation: Smaller (20, not 40) and shorter is better, focusing on key messages and assimilating them. This time more practice and no long talks. We facilitated, tried for them to come up with the answers and hand out none. We have a culture of constant evaluation, most of what we did in March was great, and yet we decided to change much of it, because it could be better. It was great to see the girls question and answer each other and interact on how to improve on their business propositions, and we still learn a lot from them.

We love teaching bookkeeping, but we knew somebody that could teach it better. Somebody with their same voice and perspective. The girls that had succeeded at doing it! We called on Elekta, who was supported this March and again this August (and has a small fully-funded microproject for her because of her relentless drive and strength! ) to come to the training and explain how she does it. She was a bit nervous at first but later on relaxed and did a great job, we hope to keep repeating. With time, we have learned to talk less and less, our job is to make their voices be heard, not ours.

The core of the training (bookkeeping, coming up with a business and short business plans) is complemented by two lessons (one each day) on Gender Based Violence and Sexual Reproductive Health. Reach Out Cameroon has a holistic approach and we believe in the synergies between Health, Human Rights and Economic Development. We were lucky to have staff from other departments to come and do the talks for us, and the girls loved it. In a community with high rates of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, the talk was highly necessary. 120 condoms were distributed, and more will be distributed as we do our 1on1 coaching sessions during the following weeks.

This has been a great year for this project, you have directly and meaningfully supported 52 girls, more than in the last 3 years combined (and with bigger grant sizes!). When you reflect on what you have achieved this year, don’t forget all the lives you continue to change here. 2017 will be the year to expand to another community, and we aim to help at least 80 girls! We know it won't be the same, as we have an exceptional relationship with the community in Tole, we have a few challenges ahead of us, but we know the program is good, and it's time to start helping more people. We hope you can trust us with your support.

As the girls took their 30,000 francs (50 dollars grants) they all made their short speeches, this is my favorite one:

“I’m not here for this money, I’m here for the 50,000 to come 3 months from now, when you see how much I’ve worked on my business, and to make myself out of poverty forever.“ Fokanji (19 years)

It’s been a pleasure to work for them.

 

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Have a great 2017, you deserve it.

 

P.D: No better way to support them than a monthly donation, these donations, no matter the size, give us the security to plan ahead. Also, if you sign up for a monthly donation GlobalGiving gives another donation 2 times the size, as a bonus! Sign up here:

P.D2: Our website is back ! Browse through it and give us your feedback! Our first blog post talks about this project and the story of Marie, the girl that just took the 600$ loan, but you can also get to know more about what Reach Out Cameroon is all about: Health, Human Rights, Governance, Gender Equality, Sustainable Agriculture.. a rich story of 20 years of work for the underprivileged!

Remy
Remy
Sexual Health Lesson
Sexual Health Lesson
Marie with her baby and writing her business plan
Marie with her baby and writing her business plan
writing their business plans
writing their business plans
Thank you! More and better in 2017!
Thank you! More and better in 2017!

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Organization Information

Reach Out NGO

Location: Buea, South West Region - Cameroon
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @reachoutdev1
Project Leader:
Njomo Omam Esther
Executive Director
Buea, South West Region Cameroon
$106,292 raised of $127,985 goal
 
1,208 donations
$21,693 to go
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