I recently met four grandmothers who returned from India with skills in fabrication, installation, repair and maintenance of solar lighting systems after a six month hands-on training facilitated by World Concern.
Seeing them made my trip one of the most memorable.
A grant from UNDP has given these solar mamas, as they are fondly called, a second chance to light homes in Narok.
Through World Concern’s partnership with UNDP, 65 year old Kirotiana Kibubuk is assisting to light up to 300 homes with bright LED lights which have USB power outlet for radio and phone charging.
The project which begun in February 2015 sees Kirotiana receiving a commission for each house she powers. Her 30 year old Paul is excited, especially when he sees her in her element. “The way I see her working, she knows a lot! She tells me names of complex things, even though she never stepped into a nursery classroom,” he says laughing.
Kirotiana is humbled to assist in lighting up her community. “This is something that God has brought . . .”
We had a tête-à-tête with the mother of eight. Below:
1. How did you feel the first time you went to make an installation? I was a bit scared and worried that I might have forgotten some things.
2. How many houses have you installed so far? Seven houses.
3. How do you feel about your skills now? I am very confident. I even know how to re-inforce a solar panel on top of a mud house so it doesn’t cave in together with the roof, when rain falls.
4. What are the must-haves in your tool kit when getting ready for an installation? A pair of pliers, hammer, screws, pins and a wire.
5. While handling a role predominantly reserved for men do you feel discriminated against or looked down upon because you’re a woman? Many who see me working say that I’m a hard worker, but I can secretly see that they wish it would have been them doing this.
6. In your view, how will solar assist Enoonkoijiok community? First, houses will be brighter. When a house is dark, there is a potential of having snakes hiding. With solar lights, one is able to see inside clearly.
Also having a security light will help keep wild animals at bay. The main problem we’ve had in the past is that hyenas have been eating our sheep. They fear light and can’t come here now.
7. How did an experience in a new country change your world view? I observed that people in India are way ahead. I would wish to implement some of those things I saw there, but they require money. I pray that by God’s grace I can do some of those things one day.
8. Is there anything that especially struck you during the visit? Women are in every field. . . be it construction, fabrication, or even tailoring. Again, they are not wealthy, but they use many machines to do their work.
Due to remoteness of some areas in Narok, residents lack access to electricity power grid. World Concern is filling market gaps by providing bright four-lantern system sets at subsidized price and at a one-time cost, with 2 year warranty support.
The uniqueness of the project is in empowering not only the solar beneficiary but also helping to equip Solar Mamas like Kirotiana. “The money goes back to the same local economy. It’s more of a community project than business,” says Narok Program Officer John Leyian.
Reducing the use of diesel and kerosene for lighting has also positively impacted on health besides making it easier for school-going children to study.
The meteoric growth of a church in Narok made me reflect about my own; the more members discussed, the more I drew parallels between them and the early church. Today I want nothing more for my church. . .
Reaching out Acts 2:39: The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off
“The facilitator challenged us to start visiting people who stopped coming to church. We rarely thought about them but we started. . . For instance, we visited a couple who had been involved in an accident and whose mother had became ill shortly after. They were so happy to see us. After that, they rejoined the church” – Irene Limo.
“We started constructing a new large church, but we have realized that if we invite (and care about) people as we have been taught, we might need a larger church” – Pst Jonathan Limo
Having joy and compassion 46: they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts
“We have learnt to take keener notice of our neighbors too, and visit them from time to time. Whenever we do, we purchase something we know they might need for their house” – Irene Limo
45: …selling to give to anyone who has need
“There is a church/ group member who was sickly. Although she recovered, she really desires to own a cow that she can milk some¬day, and maybe even have some extra to sell. We are all contributing monies to purchase one for one her.”
38: Repenting . .
“Patricia (World Concern facilitator) helped us to repent, and be true Christians. After showing us the characteristics of a succeeding and the failing church, I decided that I am not going to be the one to pull the church downwards. . . We’re fighting for this vision” – Chepchirchir Sang.
At the start of the course, participants are asked to reflect on what they want to see in the church in 5 years; what is preventing them from getting there; and what do you need to do in order to get there. Then together with the facilitator, the group analyzes characteristics of a growing church and those of a dying church and members place themselves in one of the grids.
47: . . .the Lord added to their number daily
“There is a woman who is not a believer, but whenever her husband who works far away visits home, he comes to church. After visiting her, she started coming to church every Sunday together with her children” – Irene Limo.
Through the CCMP, members have also realized that small things matter, for instance decorating the church, being punctual, and making the church lively when it’s worship time. This marks new beginnings for them.
The CCMP empowers communities to meet their own issues through better understanding of their contexts. It focuses on the process rather than the product. World Concern has added the CCMP as a component to savings groups training curriculum in Narok. “If you want to initiate meaningful development, start in the church and it will stand,” facilitator Patricia believes, before outlining the whole curriculum off-head during this interview!
An infant’s smile, giggle or mispronunciation of a name they are fond of.
An artist in their full expression
People so tightly knit by their aspirations that they give themselves unreservedly in the quest.
I met such people, a week ago when I visited Narok – tightly knit and working towards a goal together.
Individuals, one-after-another, could tell what their group goals are, and what they are parting with daily, to achieve. Especially seeing how concerned members are, to each other made my heart tender through and through.
From the Latin “conspirare” – which means “to breathe together,” I would say they are conspiring to succeed.
Through World Concern’s ASCA’s (chamas), groups are facilitated to make financial and social goals and then individuals work towards them, all the while monitoring each other’s progress.
One such group (Dupoto Self Help Group), set a financial goal to save Kshs. 300,000 by November, 2014. This saw each member increase their weekly savings from Kshs. 100 to Ksh 315. This September, the group will hold a party to celebrate attaining the Ksh 225,000 milestone.
Social goal: ‘Each member will replace their house mud-roof with iron sheets by November 2014.’ To do this, member are making individual savings from their businesses. “At the end of year, we shall visit each other’s houses to see if this has been attained,” said group secretary Regina Koinag.
They have become families, ‘breathing together’ as it were, as members get involved in each other’s lives in a way they had never done before.
Below, a few people I met. . .
I was ill in December 2013. Since it was on a Monday, I was waiting for my husband to sell a sheep on market day (Wednesday) in order to raise my transport money to the hospital. However, the Dupoto group quickly mobilized funds on that very day and I was rushed to hospital. I returned on Tuesday. That action really motivated me, and reignited my commitment to the group – Alice Meegisho
We voluntarily decided to raise separate monies to purchase 20 ewes, one for each member, every week. Yesterday, we completed the round, and 8 members have reported that their sheep have given birth already. We will now decide on whether to purchase calves for each member as the sheep project is now complete – Regina Koinag.
I have learnt that poverty diminishes the mind, but where there is hope, the mind expands. World Concern training on saving and businesses management has expanded our minds – Jonathan Limo.
Accumulated Savings and Credit Associations (ASCAs) by World Concern initially consist of around 12 self-selecting members (though will often grow spontaneously to 20-25 members)
Our training includes setting up group governance structures, business management and new investment opportunities.
ASCAs allow savings to accumulate into an increasingly large pool from which members may draw loans. Eventually, the group may even offer loans to people outside of the group.
Interest earned on loans devolves to the group as wealth is created and redistributed within the community.
According to Trainer Evans Nyaga, members have been able to settle medical expenses, school fees and even start businesses.
8 months ago, Anne Turgut joined an Accumulated Savings and Credit Associations (ASCAs) group that had settled on a weekly contribution of Ksh 200 ($2), but she didn’t have enough to even make a first contribution.
Quick thinking saved her as she quickly offloaded bananas, enroute to the market, to group members therefore raising required monies, plus some extra. Since then she hasn’t looked back.
Through ASCAs, World Concern has provided practical financial springboard to residents in Narok, Kenya. In the program, capital generated by members remains under their ownership and control, with World Concern providing training and facilitation in business growth.
“When I joined the ASCA (Hekima Self Help Group), I thought I was too old, but now my mind has become renewed. I have acquired new strength,” she said, “my problem was not that I was not getting money, but that I didn’t know how to manage it.”
The 58 year old said that she learnt how to save money upon joining Hekima, which was something completely foreign to her.
“I bought 7 chicken with my first loan of Ksh 2400 ($ 28),” she said. Now that the chicken have multiplied by tens, she waits for their eggs to accumulate before selling and storing the money in her mobile phone (MPESA) account. When it is time to pay the group contribution, Anne withdraws from this kitty.
She said being also able to settle her loan from the chicken venture is something she really thanks God for. “I never knew I could plan my money this way,” she said, adding that the knowledge acquired through World Concern has become ‘a key that has unlocked my other sources of income.’
The mother of 8 now manages yields from family dairy cows and banana farm in the same fashion. For her, farming is no longer a hobby. It has become a business.
From her second loan of Ksh 3,200 ($38), Anne purchased cabbage seeds which were ready to be transplanted from a nursery a day after this interview.