“Economic empowerment is the key to all the social issues that we have in the human life.” James Bundi, our Community Programs Manager, believes that by linking the social services that Shining Hope provides with a program that trains and supports community members to succeed economically, the Kibera community can bring positive change from within. James, who is from Kibera, is currently developing one of our largest and most impactful programs: our Group Savings and Loans (GS&L) program.
GS&L is a service where groups of 10-15 community members come together twice a month to support each other in their economic pursuits. Each member contributes a small amount of money, on average about 50 shillings (~60 cents) each meeting, to the group. This group saves collectively, distributing loans to individual members as needed. Borrowing members then slowly repay the loan with a small amount of interest, which goes to the group’s collective savings. As more money is saved the group can distribute larger loans to their members, harnessing the power of group saving.
In addition to providing a structure for members to save their money and to receive loans, the GS&L program supports members in two essential ways. First, GS&L members receive business training, with a special focus on how to keep proper accounts and plan for sustainable business growth. These skills are often neglected by individuals with their own small businesses, and our GS&L team has noticed a considerable improvement in business performance after trainings.
Perhaps most importantly, however, members of GS&L join a dedicated support network where they can discuss all the challenges they are facing in life, not just the struggles they are facing in their businesses. For example, women in the Johanna Justin-Jinich Clinic’s malnourished children feeding program are often placed in the same GS&L group. Because all groups members know what challenges the others are going through, they can help to support one another emotionally as well as financially.
Additionally our various departments -- our clinic programs, our clean water tower, our youth programs, and our community programs -- focus on linking together, so that a woman who enrolls in a pre-natal care program at our clinic can also access our economic empowerment programs, while also being introduced to our other beneficial services. By linking services often provided independently, we increase the impact that we have on individuals, families and the entire community.
2013 will be a big year for the GS&L program. While the program has already existed for over a year, this year we are looking to vastly expand. By the end of the year we will have over 2000 members, with groups in every single village of Kibera.
In order to reach our goals, we have assembled a team of program coordinators and assistants who work with James to expand the program. There are six coordinators who are each assigned two villages in Kibera that they are responsible for. GS&L coordinators assist community members in creating groups, provide GS&L and business training, and monitor and assist as the group starts regular meetings.
Currently the program has over 600 members, and is expanding into all of Kibera’s villages. While expansion of the program was slow at the start of the year due to uneasiness about the Kenyan election, James and the team think the program will rapidly grow now that the elections have concluded peacefully.
Overall, the GS&L program is an exciting example of what our Community Programs department is doing to create positive change in Kibera. The program is empowering individuals so that they can grow their businesses. With the loans and business training provided, many members have seen rising profits. These profits are helping the families of these members by putting food on the table, meeting the costs of school fees, and by allowing for further business expansion.