Saturday, August 23, 2008
MIRIAM AND HER WOMEN'S GROUP
Miriam Ng'maryo is one of the most amazing persons I have ever meet. Her energy level and enthusiasm far exceeds mine, which says something! She and her husband Eric ,who is an attorney in Moshi, moved to their home, Bustani House, about 10 yrs ago. Miriam is a retired teacher who, after her children were grown, became active in improving the lives of the people in her community. One of her first projects was to have 10 women form a cooperative in which each would focus on a single micro enterprise. They would share knowledge and help each other. Yesterday morning after breakfast we walked to one of the member's home for their biweekly meeting. We all sat around an outside table. There was Pudensiana [milking cows], Ednesta[pigs], Ruwaichi[sheep],Saraphia[beekeeping and honey production],Elitruda[cows and milk production] and Miriam[VICOBA]. Not present were Clara [chickens],Dominque[restaurant and market kiosk] , Erica [miking goats] and the last person whose name I did not get who was making wine and weaving. The meeting began with a song, a prayer and special group cheer. I wish I could attach the video of this now but when I return home we will post in the AA web site. The chairperson called the meeting to order and late arrivals were fined. Each person in turn reported to the group about what was happening their project. If there were issues, the group would problem solve. VICOBA is program in which each member in the group " invests" a very small amount of money which is then borrowed by the members for their micro businesses or used to send individuals to workshops and seminars to obtain knowledge that she will later share with the group. They charge themselves interest and at the end of the year they distribute some of the money as profits to the members and reinvest the remainder for future loans. At the end of the business part of the meeting they sang another song and had tea and home made doughnuts made by the host person and each member gave a gift of food to the host.
Miriam told me that because of their poverty and being rural women they had very low self esteem. By having the opportunity to achieve their successes as a group you could see their pride and self assurance. In America, the only news reports we see and hear about Africa concern war, famine, corruption and AIDS. A large portion of foreign aid money has been misused and in many situations have hindered area that they wanted to address. This is a positive story of self help that has improved the lives of these 10 women and their families.It is a model for others. For more information about the VICOBA, do a Google search.
One of the projects that Katie James will be doing next month is helping this group by using her accounting skills and business knowledge. This is the type of local directed program that Adventure Aid supports by providing people with skills to improve their lives. It's a hand up not a hand out.
Next blog will be about Ndarakwai and Peter Jones. For pictures of Ndarakwai, look at the AA web site tourism options.