Sokoni1 Grant Round
As mentioned in my previous post, I chose to work in Sokoni1 with partnership with LOHADA (www.lohada.org) which allowed me to better control the candidate selection process. LOHADA charity is run by Jacob’s mom, Happiness Wambura, and provides kindergarten (camp Moses) and primary (camp Joshua) education as well as daily food rations to around ~151 children, 94 of which are also resident at the schools (for 2012 year). Although LOHADA provides a great relief for the families living in Sokoni 1, it’s still a far cry from being sufficient. The lucky child, who got the opportunity to attend primary school, will rarely if ever get a chance to go to high school as the government’s school fees are horrendously expensive for Sokoni1 resident at $200+ dollars per year. Usually these children follow in the footsteps of their parents and grow to own low paying jobs or run bare bone businesses unable to satisfy their needs. And let’s not forget the many other children that couldn’t even attend the primary school.
Both Sarah and I were convinced that we could supplement the help currently provided by LOHADA by providing Livelihood opportunities to the children’s mothers thus making a bigger impact on the life of these children. Yakobo, Juliette (Head-Mistress of LOHADA’s Primary school, Camp Joshua) and Mama Wambura are my greatest assets and invaluable helpers: They know intimately all the children parents. Did you know that out of the 151 children at LOHADA, only 2 have a father who actively participate in the life of his children? AnywayZ, I was presented with a list of the most likely candidates for a Livelihood grant: most because of their active involvement in the life of their child, a few out of extreme need.
I couldn’t really put any weight to the neediness level of the candidate: How could I seeing the poverty stricken neighborhood? Instead we emphasized to the mama’s the importance of developing a complete and honest business plan which will be the key for their successful selection. We also insisted that one of the major reasons we will grant a loan is the fact that the successful candidate will dedicate some of the business profits for the purpose of sending her child to high school (although we are fully aware that this is nothing more than a promise and in the end, life requirements will inevitably take precedence).
Again, as a recognition and thanks to my friends who donated to help these mamas, my younger Tanzanian sister Naomi drew a donor name to be associated with each grant recipient. Please note, the amount granted to each candidate has absolutely no connection with your donation’s amount as all money were put in a pool and I just drew from it as appropriate. Please find below is a resume of each grant recipient.
Quick jump to each candidate:
- Aquilina Fulgens – – – – – – – – – (Yves & Zena)
- Biliha Massanja – – – – – – – – – – (Kim & Annie)
- Evalin Peter – – – – – – – – – – – – (Muafaq & Roula)
- Evarista Bernadi – – – – – – – – – (Vlado)
- Felista Fares – – – – – – – – – – – (Alex, Sheryl, Isabelle & Nicky)
- Frida Jones – – – – – – – – – – – – (Ramzy & Ines)
- Josephina Martini – – – – – – – – (Louay & Rana)
- Mama Eva (or Bibi) – – – – – – – (Adriana)
- Teresia Karoli – – – – – – – – – – (Arun)
Aquilina Fulgens – Mama Joseph
Thank you Yves & Zena
Aquilina proved to be our toughest challenge to-date; Jordan and I had to patiently work with Mama Joseph and guide her through our process until finally she barely made the cut. Many factors complicated our task which was further exacerbated by the fact Aquilina does not know how to read & write. And her math skills were “basic” at best; you would be astonished how many candidates change their business earning numbers during our many discussions or how some of the costs are not even factored in their profit calculations. On that front too Akilina’s case proved to be the most convoluted; her current business finances left me dumbfounded and are still unsolvable to date. Even after 4 meetings trying to analyze her income, the math still shows her business barely breaking even. Yet we know it’s not true! Mama Joseph herself told us she makes ~2,000Tsh per day. Even after asking the same questions in a multitude of different ways, based on her numbers, this daily 2,000TSh profit is nowhere to be found. Believe me, it’s that hard trying to analyze many of our candidate’s business.
So why are we still recommending Aquilina for a grant? Well, as most people in Sokoni1, she is stuck in this endless poverty cycle unable to break free. In Mama Joseph case, she’s further weighted down by her illiteracy and a drunken husband who’s never around (she’s re-married). But she’s giving it all she’s got, either at work, with her children or to help us in our evaluation. She’s an honest and hard working woman. She currently sells fried food: fries, cassava, banana,… in the alley leading to her home. Every morning, she drags her living room table outside and gets on with her cooking until nightfall. If it rains, her day is over and so too is her small income; her situation is even bleaker now that the rainy season is around the corner. She can’t afford a 6,000TSh small charcoal grill, so she daily rents one @ 200TSh! She has 2 kids from her first husband: Joseph (M, 14, graduating from Standard 7 at Camp Joshua) and Riziki (M, 13, not attending school; I am asking Mama Wambura for more details on that front). Question is, will Joseph be able to attend highschool? Unfortunately, not in his mother’s current business situation.
Providing Aquilina with a grant will give a boost to her business: we can offer her a grill, plates, utensils,… a 3 month rent for a spot under a covered sidewalk and of course, increase her fried food stock so she can sell more. We estimate our grant would allow Mama Joseph to almost double her daily sale and hopefully send Joseph to highschool. Jordan will have his work cut out in getting Aquilina to fill her business income and stock sheets, but maybe we can invite Joseph to our business training class and get him to fill in the gap?
Biliha Massanja – Mama Hasani
Thank you Kim & Annie
Biliha managed to surprise me on a couple of fronts. On the positive side, she is the only mama out of all the applicants I met during my 3 month here to have immediately understood what a business plan is and provided us with a full breakdown of her business expansion proposal. Impressive to say the least. She’s very aware of her biz requirements, of her customer needs and their purchasing preferences and it’s obvious she has put serious thought into her business growth idea. Her stall is also ideally situated: she sells fried fish, fries, cassava, green bananas and vegetables on the side of the main Ungalimited road. To top it off she owns this piece of land thus saving her rent expense as well as giving her peace of mind in her expansion plans.
On the down side, her home and her stall are very messy and dirty. Even her children were filthy (sorry, but it is true) and the couple of ducks and chicken she owns are in a sorry state (she indicated to us 8 of her chickens died the past 2 month). I was repeatedly commenting to Jordan: “How can anyone buy from here?”. Well, many passerbies flocked to her stall and even Jordan “invited” himself to a couple of fried fish. Hey, whatever makes them happy! She manages to earn around 4,500Tsh/day a miserable amount considering Mama Hasani family is comprised of 11 members: 8 children (6 are hers and 2 are adopted from relatives), her sick mother in-law and a do-no-good drunken husband. The later is another concern in Biliha’s candidacy. But everyone in her family is relying on her and she’s in urgent need to grow her daily income.
Honestly, her business expansion plan sold me immediately and if it comes to fruition, Biliha estimates she’ll earn ~22,000 Tsh per day… that’s nearly 4x her current net income! I have to admit she’s too optimistic and our analysis (still biased since it’s based on her input) shows her daily income to cap at 15,000TSh/day; I doubt her neighborhood is in such need of produce and not to mention the ever present competition. Even so, the one certain fact is her situation will greatly improve with our help and we gladly recommend supporting Biliha with a grant of around 150,000TSh.
Evalin Peter – Mama Patrice
Thank you Muafaq & Roula
Evalin is a very bright, quick to understand and extremely helpful widow and mother of four: Agnes (F, 19, completed only Form 1, currently unemployed), Violet (F, 17, Std 7; sponsored to attend hotel management school – not much details on what school or program it is), Patrice (M, 11, Std 4 but his grades are at the low end of the class), Miriam (F, 4). Mama Patrice also takes care of her unemployed sister (who almost always passionately talks about local politics!) who has 2 children (Shedrock, 7, in nursery school & Alfred, 9, Std 2) and all 3 rely on Mama Patrice daily financial support. Currently, Evalin works as a cook in Tengeru making 3,000Tsh daily for her family of 8. They all live in a 2 room adobe house, along an alley which turned into a mud pond in this rainy season (as most of Sokoni 1 streets).
Evalin understands the need to earn a higher income now that her children a growing up: school, food, clothes,… all daily life necessities are becoming more expensive. Evalin does not have any savings and is looking for financial help to start a business. In her quest, she already managed to convince the home owner to offer her for free the space in front of her home where she would like to setup a stand. What is interesting with Mama Patrice biz proposal is she intends to diversify her venture and divide the grant amount into 2 sub-businesses: 1) sell charcoal and 2) sell fried fish. Selling charcoal was a simple idea: She already requires charcoal to fry her fish and other food, so why not go to the market, buy a big bag of charcoal and sell part of it at the same time she cooks?
As for the fish, well the other 2 surrounding fried food sellers only offer the smaller kind. Evalin on the other hand, would concentrate on selling the bigger fish which she mentioned is in demand but cost prohibits the others from buying them. Hmmm… not quite sure it’s a sufficient or valid reason why the others do not sell the big fish and we need to further inquire.
We encouraged Evalin to think about extra side orders she could sell to her customers alongside the fish, allowing her to earn more on a per customer base. Example: why not also fry cassavas, bananas and potatoes? Asking her to choose 1 out of the 3 items, she picked banana, but I am inclined to buy her a small quantity of each of the 3 products. It’s a small addition to our grant but someone like Evalin will definitely utilize and greatly benefit from such opportunity. One big advantage she has is not only she a chef, she also has all the equipments necessary to cook. To start, we will offer Evalin money to build a covered stand. Once this is completed, Jordan will accompany Mama Patrice to the market and buy the above mentioned stock. Total will come up to a grant of 100,000Tsh.
Evarista Bernadi – Mama Jonista
Thank you Vlado
Evarista is a twice divorced mother of 4: twin girls Joyce & Jonista (12, graduated from Std 7 and now in pre-Form 1 @ Camp Joshua), Violet (F, 10, Never went to school !!!) & Karen (F, 1.5 year). Neither of the 2 ex–husbands ever comes back home so she does not have any trouble on that front. However it also implies neither of them offers any financial help for raising the children. While working in Tanzania I thought I saw really poor living conditions but Evarista’s situation was extreme. Her home walls consisted of horizontally nailing long pieces of wood at each house side, with each wooden plank vertically spaced ~5cm centimetres from the other. Cardboard is then nailed from top to bottom to seal the gaps. The roof is a tarp held by nails and stones and the kitchen is a lone charcoal grill in a tiny square wooded room with a few plastic plates. Her business situation is also in a dreadful state: she buys candy, gum and other sweets from the Kenyan border town, a long journey costing her 20,000Tsh return and sells the boxes in wholesale to her neighbourhood kiosks. That doesn’t sound very logical as transportation is a significant cost in her business and she failed to explain why she even needs to go there vs. collaborating with the stores at the border or with the bus driver. Also, Mama Jonista could not immediately tell me her weekly profit rather we did the math together and it came down to less than 7,000Tsh per week.
Jordan and I visited Evarista a couple of times to try and determine if there are other business possibilities she could explore but unfortunately none of the ideas put forward proved worthwhile. Our only option is to support Evarista in her current business endeavour by providing her a grant to buy more and/or different types of sweets from Namanga. Our aim is to increase her profit-per-trip by “averaging down” her high transportation costs. Also, diversifying her offering means selling more merchandise to her regular clients, a group of 8 kiosk owners and/or bringing them items they requested. I also insisted on Evarista to establish (and follow through) a plan to regularly save money allowing her to further increase her purchasing power and answering her clients need. The alternative is staying stuck in this long lasting impoverished situation affecting her and her children. I was especially astonished by the fact Violet does not attend school and perplexed how come she’s not registered at Camp Joshua. I’ll be bringing up this issue Mama Wambura ASAP.
Back to Evarista’s business plan, there are a multitude of different items she can buy from the border, each with different return. We sorted through the list and for the moment she prefers buying “bigijii”, a sort of chewing gum. We noted that she should always listen to her clients need as well as requests and research products providing higher return. Once she’s does her homework, she should not hesitate in switching the type of items she buys to adapt the new market demand. As for the grant, we are leaning toward buying her 1 extra box of the regular candy she get + a cartoon of bigijii adding up to 105,000Tsh.
Felista Fares – Mama Mary
Thank you Alex, Sheryl, Isabelle & Nicky
To improve the situation Mama Mary’s is convinced that by buying a bale of bed sheets (bale is the name given to a big bag of 2nd hand clothes or other cloth items), she could gain an advantage and of course double her profit on a per sheet base even if she admits competition is fierce. Personally, anytime a candidate proposes buying a bale I balk at such idea: you buy a sealed bag of clothes and you are not allowed to check the content. The uncertainty of the products quality weighs on the whole business plan. She estimates halve of the 150 bed sheets in a bale are of bad quality: torn, stained, over-used,… and probably will get sold for 1,000Tsh each. But what if the number of bad sheets is higher? The uncertainty margin throws the whole biz plan and profit estimates into shamble. But Felista insists that in a worst case scenario, she will just sell to break even and try again.
Even if I am not warm to the bale idea, after discussing with Sarah and Jordan we still recommend taking the risk and supporting Felista. Another issue is the grant amount: a bale cost 300,000Tsh, double our recommended grant figure. Both Felista and us tried for a month to find her a partner in Ungalimited/Sokoni1 region with no luck; no one seems to trust the other in a business. Luckily, Katy also has 1 woman in FutureSense Kioga grant round who wants to sell bed sheets and we proposed them to divide a bale. I explained to Felista the procedure of distributing the bale between them and Jordan is more than happy to supervise the purchase and distribution process, which we agreed will be completed at FutureSense office. It is somewhat complicated and requires our involvement for probably 4 to 6 month but it’s definitely worth the effort; Felista is ecstatic at the idea so let’s hope things will run smoothly. The total amount requested is 155,000Tsh, the price of ½ the bale (the other half is from Katy’s round) plus transportation from Tengeru.
Frida Jone – Mama Samsun
Thank you Ramzy & Inas
I am constantly surprised at the level of poverty affecting Sokoni1 residents. Mama Samsun house was yet another rundown adobe house, but hers had a sandbag dike at the front door to block the water from flooding the house after a small pond formed in their doorstep following only 1 week of rain. I dread to imagine what will happen during the heavy rain season in March-April-May when statistically, it will rain 10x more.
Frida lives with her husband Bashir and their 5 children: Aruna (M, 21, Form 4), Aisha (F, 19, works at a textile company), David (M, 12, Std 5), Samsun (M, 11, Std 4 @ Camp Joshua) and Rebeca (F, 10, Std 2 & lives full board @ Camp Joshua). Bashir works hauling “stuff” on a big wooden cart in the streets of Arusha and on a good day earns 2,000TSh while Frida alternates between selling greens during the harvest season making around 2,000TSh per day or being a do it all house lady during the dry season which earn her a mere 1,000TSh per day. Their job instability and low income leaves her family in a very precarious situation. She told us she is in dire need of a helping hand to exit this cruel cycle of poverty. If she gets a grant, she would like to buy different varieties of Kitenge & Kangas. She will buy them from wholesale in the main market then walk the streets of Arusha to sell her products. She admits the sheer number of kangas and kitenge sellers poses a risk but from her previous sale experience, she estimates she can sell around 10 pieces per week providing her with a higher income than what she earns today. I am not at all being insensitive, but the reality is: it’s hard to be in a worst financial situation then where they are now. Picture this: during the painful low/rainy season and adding both Frida’s and her husband incomes, her family of 7 lives on around U$D 1.20 per day… which is U$D 0.17/person/day!!! Supporting Frida in her new endeavour is estimated to more than “double” her weekly income. Still a small sum but hopefully it’s the start to something bigger.
Frida repeated to us how much she’s determined to succeed: she’ll work harder, walk longer and adapt her product offering to the market’s need. Throughout our meetings, I got confidence she’s researched the market and knows what the customers need. Following our training, she did a wonderful job developing her business plan & sales estimates and together we easily were able to adjust her offering to remove 1 type of Kanga from her products list and invest that money in buying a bigger quantity of the other sorts, which will allow her to display a more diverse selection of color and patterns.
Questioning how her business will fare now that the rainy season is coming, she had already thought about it: Mama Samsun will switch to selling plastic slippers during these 4 month when Kangas/Kitenge are in low demand. But for now and to start her new venture Frida is asking for 141,000Tsh to buy her a selection of Kanga and Kitenge.
Josephina Martini – Mama Raziki
Thank you Louay & Rana
Josephina is a remarried mother of 6 living in the poor slums of Sokoni1: Aminata (F, 14, Std 5), Theodor (M, 13, Std 5) & Raziki (M, 9, Std 2 @ Camp Joshua) are from the 1st husband and Mary (F, 4), Esta (F, 2 ½) & Anthony (M, 3 mth) from the 2nd. Her living situation is deplorable and the first question to come to mind was: “Why did you have another 3 children?”. I didn’t dare ask her but would have loved to hear the answer. We only saw the 3 kids from her 2nd marriage as the older one were “living around with neighbors”. The kids are lovely, especially Esta who has become quite fond of me (this after the first time she saw me, she was afraid of my hairy arm :)). But you should just see them: they were dirty, wearing ripped cloth, playing in the mud & open drain/sewers. As for Anthony (3 mth), he’s constantly crying; he’s hungry and Josephina breast-feeding does not give him enough milk. Their situation is only going to get tougher: Mary will need to go to school next year and Josephina confesses that both her and her husband Bashir lack money to send all the kids to school. She’s hoping camp Joshua can help by taking another one of her children, hopefully also as a full board resident.
Bashir sells gadgets walking the streets of Arusha. Josephine doesn’t know how much he really makes, but she mentions he daily buys food for the family. As for Mama Raziki, she sells “special” cloth in the streets. But what are these “special” shirt? (or “spesho shati” as it’s pronounced & written here :)). Well, it refers to NEW and locally or East African produced clothe vs. the usual 2nd hand clothe brought to the country by “charitable” organization which is then bundled and sold (and comprise the bulk of clothe trade in Tanzania). Note that 2nd hand clothe is responsible of shutting down nearly all of Tanzania’s clothe manufacturing. Back to Josephina: how can she work walking the streets with 3 toddlers in the home? Well her neighbours and her sister take turn a couple of hours in the morning and another couple of hours in the afternoon watching over the kids while she goes making a living. She informed us a great help to her business and life is if she can offer a wider choice of “special” cloth for sale: “I need to attract people and if they come to see the merchandise, some of them will buy. If I have 60 or more items to display, I will definitely attract more people and sell more. A friend of mine has more than 600,000Tsh worth of clothe; she sells a lot more then I do”. I don’t like someone venturing into something because his friend mentioned how good it is but I don’t see how else Josephina can improve her living situation. The other advantage is she will be building on a familiar business, having been working at it for the past 3 years.
I have concerns Josephina might pull a quick one on us like Mama Alex, so I repeatedly explained the benefits of her sticking to the business plan. The grant we are issuing her might be a temptation and she could cash it and spend it now. This will render our grant a 1 time help. What will happen the following months? If on the other hand she sticks to her business plan, she will make significantly more money in the very near future and consistently keep making more. In the end the victims will be her children as the cost to raise them will only increase; she needs to start planning now for that inevitability. On our side we will constantly monitor the clothe amount she regularly buys and make sure we do not fall in bad situation again. We recommend buying Josephina around 15 to 20 extra item of “special” cloth to increase the 40 or so she currently have in stock. This will equate to around 90,000Tsh.
Eva J. Moshi – Mama Eva or Bibi
Thank you Adriana
Everyone loves grandmothers and Mama Eva is one of those sweet, loving and funny grandmas. Ask Jordan 🙂 every time we drop by to visit her, Mama Eva treats him to bananas, oranges and other fruits from her stand. We affectionately started calling Mama Eva: “Bibi” which means grandmother in Kiswahili. And she speaks some English too! I worked with more than 50 mamas and Mama Eva is the only one who speaks English allowing me to chat and joke with her. And at 80 years old, she’s still running strong: she wakes up at dawn to go the market to buy her greens, vegetable and fruits before coming back to Sokoni 1 and sell them, tending her stand until dusk. But the main question is: how did Mama Eva find out about us?
Well she didn’t; her daughter, Mama Halima did. Mama Halima’s children: Eva (F, 6, Std 1) and Joseph (M, 9, Std 4) attend Camp Joshua. According to neighbors and even some of the teachers, both Joseph and his mom (Mama Halima) suffer from mental issues and people label them “crazy”: I saw Joseph and from what I can tell he suffers from anxiety problem and severe attention disorder. He sometimes (although rare) snaps in class and starts shouting. What Joseph needs is a professional evaluation and care before everyone rushes to seclude him even more. As for Mama Halima (Mama Eva’s daughter), her “craziness” is nothing of that sort: OK, I am no doctor, and yes, Mama Halima is very slow to understand and confuses even the simplest numbers or have trouble distinguishing between the different bank notes but it’s ridiculous to call it “crazy”. Sure, conversing with Mama Halima tends to be painful but with a little of patience we managed to find out a few important pieces of information: I believe she suffers from epilepsy. She’s afraid of losing consciousness and/or control and she sometime forgets where she is. She doesn’t venture far from home and when she was a kid, she couldn’t really attend school, let alone learn anything; being illiterate only aggravate her situation to the point where she’s stigmatized by society. Mama Halima’s condition might be worst than what I could guess but she was able to guide us through her thoughts. Listen to this: She would like us to help her mother, Mama Eva, which of course means her children and her will also benefit. Yeah, pretty crazy don’t you think? (sarcasm intended!).
OK, back to “Bibi”: Mama Eva not only takes care of Mama Halima and her 2 grandchildren, she also fully support her other daughter Dina (F, 38, sponsored to go to hostelling school) as well as financially help her married son and his children. That’s a lot for anyone let alone for Bibi. Mama Eva, her 2 daughters and 2 grand children live in the smallest of home. I could barely walk inside this 5m x 3m room made of mud and sticks, crammed with mattresses, chairs, water gallons, bags of cloth, kitchen tools,… and every day they have to pack and unpack this stuff depending on the task.
After discussing with Bibi, we determined the best way to help her and her daughter is to expand their chicken coop which lies on the far side of her small house. Her daughter, Mama Halima, is capable of taking care of the chicken while Bibi keeps tending the veggies and fruit stand. We strongly recommend helping Mama Eva: we could award her 12 chickens and a rooster plus a supply of food for 1 month as well as all the necessary medicine and vaccines. The grants total will approach the 160,000Tsh mark.
Teresia Karoli – Mama Honest
Thank you Arun
Teresia is a divorced mother of 2 (Honest, M, 11, Std 7 and attends Camp Joshua) & Baraka (M, 9, Std 2)) living in a 1 room house right on the main busy & noisy Sokoni 1 main street. Her ex-husband doesn’t help and maybe comes once a month to visit the kids and Teresia has to be self sufficient when dealing with her family. Mama Honest sells fried pig with ugali for a living and rents a shack a few blocks behind Shoprite. Unfortunately, her business is not running very well. On good days she makes 3,000Tsh but it’s not consistent; it’s difficult to buy pig meat and the prices keep going up and negatively affect her small business. On the other hand, her shack is in a pretty good location, big with a covered roof & walls all around and many benches for patrons to sit.
I would have thought she would ask FutureSense to help improve her restaurant or expand her menu but none of that. She likes the pig business but she seems to have given up on it. Or is she? Depending on which question I ask, for example if I ask about her future plans, owning a restaurant comes back to the picture. She even let slip she would like to hire a helper to tend her fried pig business! However, when discussing how we could help her, Mama Honest only wanted to discuss selling 2nd hand shirts. She showed us a pile of shirt and said she already do go out selling shirts whenever she can’t buy pig.
Currently she buys the shirts from wholesaler around the main market and sells them in the streets of Sokoni1. But this doesn’t generate a significant profit which is why she would like us to help her buy a bale (yep, another bale candidate) granting her lower purchase price. As with any bale product quality tend to be low and she estimates out of the 150 shirts in the bale, ~100 will be of bad quality require her to sell them fast and cheap. After analyzing Mama Honest’s plan, a bale will take her around 1 month to sell with an estimated profit of 120,000Tsh. That is better than her current fried pig biz with added difference of income stability.
Mama Honest is one of the 3 candidates which we hesitated to choose (Aquilina & Evarista are the others). Even if she says so, I doubt she will close her pig business and solely concentrate on selling clothe. Still, whatever her intentions are, we will be around to offer support and adapt to the situation. We thus recommending buying her a bale costing 130,000Tsh plus 5,000Tsh for transport to Sokoni 1.