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HopeCore’s Microenterprise Program: The People We Empower (By Jillo Gubal Shamzad, Microenterprise Program Assistant Coordinator)

A Brief History

HopeCore’s Microenterprise Program was founded in 2001 when our first group of 12 women, called the Rwanchege HopeCore Pioneers, received their loans of $400 USD each. Since then, the program has grown and we have funded many more groups.

The first HopeCore loan group, the Ranchege Pioneers, during a 2014 reunion
The first HopeCore loan group, the Rwanchege Pioneers, were reunited in 2014 – 13 years after becoming the pioneers of what HopeCore is today.

Our goal as microfinance institution is to enable and empower member of rural communities by providing microloans for microenterprise development, business education, health education, and support to our loan recepients. This program helps the people of Maara Sub-County, Tharaka Nithi County, by providing them not only with education and training for personal development,   but also with an entrepreneurial mindset that will free their spirits to build a stronger future for themselves and their families. Our microloan distribution makes up a large majority of our funding and activities, but our overall goal is to reduce poverty in this area.

The Microenterprise Program Today

A loan client proudly shows off the cows she raises with her HopeCore microloan.
A loan client proudly shows off the cows she raises with her HopeCore microloan.

As of March 2015, Village HopeCore International loans have reached 984 recipients!

Our services have reconfirmed to me that we are making a huge difference in people’s lives. The amount of wealth our microloan institution provides may seem small, but the increases in income that these microloans encourage have profound benefits for the loan recipients and community as a whole. The profits our clients received from various business ventures have helped them to better their quality of life and education, empowered women to take a leading role in income generation for their families, and reduced the reach of deadly diseases like malaria and HIV.

Chogoria Uwezo Self Help Group

Our program is a very inclusive program, hence we do not discourage even people of special circumstances from applying for loans. We recently have begun working with the Chogoria Uwezo Self Help Group, a group of physically-disabled people who dream of bettering their businesses and improving standards of living for themselves and their families. “Uwezo” means “Empower,” and it is our hope that our microloans empower, encourage, and support the people of this group.

Here is a story of one of our inspirational clients from the Chogoria Uwezo Self Help Group:

Stephen Kariuki

Stephen-UwezoSHG-blog

Stephen Kariuki, 50, is married and a proud father of 3 girls: Ann Kathambi, Mary Wanjiku, and Sharon Njeri. Ann Kathambi completed college and holds a certificate in food and beverage administration, Mary Wanjiku has graduated from secondary school, and Sharon Njeri is currently in Class 8. He lives with his family in a rental home in Chogoria.

Stephen suffers from polio. He contracted the disease in 1966 when he was three years old, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Refusing to accept his paralysis, he tried different physical therapy techniques to learn how to walk, and he can now successfully walk short distances using his walking clutch and cane. He also suffers from other health issues including high blood pressure and a recurring urinary tract infection (UTI). Despite his paralysis, he has remained positive and does not let his paralysis negatively affect his life.

Stephen is known to be one of the most successful businessmen in his area. He possesses professional skills in the area of general leather work and leadership skills as well. He is the chairperson of Chogoria Uwezo, secretary of the Men’s Association at his church, and a member of the Board of Governors at Ndosha SACCO in Chogoria. He also enjoys playing the drums in addition to his various business ventures. From his leather work, he earns a monthly income of Kshs 16000 ($184 USD). His wife sells second-hand clothes and earns a monthly income of Kshs 6000 ($69 USD). Their general monthly household expenses are approximately Kshs 15000 ($172 USD). However, after paying rent, school fees, and other health-related expenses, their monthly expenses often exceed their monthly income. He dreams of one day becoming the CEO of a shoe industry one day, but knows that he needs extra financial help, which he has found through the HopeCore microenterprise program.

Stephen’s major concern is the well-being of the other disabled members of his community. He says that there are some members that are in dire need of assistance and he hopes that HopeCore will be able to empower them economically as they did to them. He is currently in the funding cycle, and he has much optimism that he will significantly grow his business with the loan he has received from HopeCore.

It is people like Stephen who inspire my team and me to continue working to reduce poverty and empower our communities with the microloans, business education, and leadership training that the HopeCore Microenterprise Department provides.

Meet this blog post’s author…

Jillo Gubal Shamzad - Microenterpise Intern
Jillo Gubal Shamzad – Microenterpise Intern

Jillo Gubal Shamzad joined HopeCore as a full-time Microenterprise Department employee in July 2014, but was no stranger to the organization, as she had already interned with HopeCore before that. She is now the Assistant Microenterprise Coordinator and has become an integral part of the department through her hard work, determination, and initiative-taking.

Lennah educates the crowd at a county event on proper hand washing technique.

HopeCore’s Health Education Program (by Lennah Mwende, Health Educator)

In this blog, HopeCore’s health educator, Lennah Mwende, discusses the health education program at HopeCore that she has played a key role in since joining HopeCore in 2012.

Lennah holds a question-and-answer discussion during one of her health education presentations.
Lennah holds a question-and-answer discussion during one of her health education presentations.

HopeCore’s health education lectures were the foundation of our health education program. I give these lectures at our 72 partner schools when we visit them to conduct our school-based mobile clinics. Each presentation is age-appropriate and targets a specific audience to facilitate maximum understanding. The wide-ranging health curriculum topics include hygiene, nutrition, common diseases, malaria, first aid, fire/road/water safety, recreational drugs, sexual and reproductive health, adolescent development, reproduction, contraceptives, and STIs/HIV/AIDS.

As an educator, I always aim to capture the students’ attention before, during, and after my presentations. To do this, I use PowerPoint presentations to help visual learners retain information. In small schools, I conduct two presentations: upper and lower primary. When we go to big schools, I conduct four presentations so that the class size isn’t too large and students can hear and understand the lecture and later not be discouraged from asking questions. I also do practical demonstrations with both upper and lower primary levels and often hold discussions after the formal presentation is over, especially with upper primary students on popular topics such as sexual health and adolescent development.

Lennah engages primary students with an energizer called "I Have A Ball."
Lennah engages primary students with an energizer called “I Have A Ball.”

The health education presentations I provide as part of the HopeCore mobile clinics are intended to give students lessons about things that are not taught in the school curriculum. Because of this, most students always have so many questions, especially about sexual and reproductive health, as I mentioned earlier. I do my best in providing answers to these questions and referring students to trusted persons who may be able to answer their questions if I’m not able to.

I conduct frequent evaluations of student understanding whenever I visit a school so as to ascertain whether or not lessons need to be re-taught or expanded upon. I also ask students what they would like information about, which is how new presentations have been created. For example, in 2014, we learned from the students themselves that there is a recreational drug problem among youths in some communities, and from there, we developed a drug abuse presentation that I am giving to schools this year. The HopeCore health education program is ever-changing and ever-growing. We continue to improve it for the benefit of the school children, and by association, the communities we serve in general.

With the education the pupils and students receive, the HopeCore public health staff, as well as the students’ teachers, have noticed that hygiene and health has improved in genera. I personally have witnessed that they are able to express themselves better, understand their bodies and feel more comfortable in them, and feel more prepared for future life.

I am always inspired while giving education information and support to pupils because it is rewarding to know that I can do something help young people as they grow into adulthood receive the knowledge and skills to live healthy and productive lives.

I love my job at HopeCore and I believe through the organization I am a making a huge difference in lives of the pupils and communities.

Meet this blog’s author…

Lennah Mwende - Health Educator & Public Health Assistant Coordinator
Lennah Mwende – Health Educator & Public Health Assistant Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lennah Mwende holds three certifications: teaching, accounting, and computer studies. In addition to being HopeCore’s talented health educator, she is also the Public Health Department’s assistant coordinator. Moreover, on top of her important roles at HopeCore, she is a proud mother and will soon be earning her teaching degree.

Promoting Health in Chogoria (Written by Winjoy Micheni, Community Health Nurse)

This blog is written by Winjoy Micheni, HopeCore’s Community Health Nurse. She describes her duties as nurse, her experiences while working with HopeCore as well as with other medical professionals who come to volunteer and work with her in Chogoria.

My name is Winjoy. I started working at Village HopeCore International in 2010. My job as a nurse is to promote the health status of Chogoria and the surrounding communities by addressing holistic well-being of the community. This includes:

  • Screening, examining, and treating childhood diseases by providing both preventative and curative services
  • Reducing risks associated with risky sexual behavior and unplanned pregnancies by educating youth and adults about adolescence, family planning, and sexual reproduction
  • Equipping mothers with information on how to take care of their children’s health as well as their own

School Health Programme

Winjoy distributes anti-malaria bed nets to primary school students.
Winjoy distributes anti-malaria bed nets to primary school students.

Together with my team through HopeCore’s mobile clinic program, we visit our 72 partner schools to offer medical services and health education once every three months. Here are the services our mobile clinics provide:

  • Deworming all lower primary pupils. By partnering with the Kenyan government, we will soon receive funding and support to deworm all 31,000 lower primary school students in the Maara Sub-County where we work.
  • Screeening, examining, and treating children (e.g. pupils with minor ailments including respiratory tract infections, ear infections, eye infections). Many pupils usually have easy-to-treat viral infections, and they are advised accordingly.
  • Anti-malaria net distributions. Malaria is still a problem in the Chogoria community, and we at HopeCore have a goal of giving every student under Class 1 a mosquito bed net. This helps protect some of the most vulnerable of school children. We also provide malaria prevention and treatment education to these children and their parents whenever we distribute the nets.
  • Counseling youth in schools. During my one-on-one counseling sessions with pupils and students, especially in secondary schools, I found that the young people are very sexually active and some do not use any protection. For example, last school term, I came across two students who had become pregnant and were immediately opting for an abortion. After talking to them and making sexual health follow-ups, they were able to make more informed decisions for themselves and go through with their pregnancies. I have also found out that most youths are using emergency (“Plan B”) pills more than they are using condoms, and therefore are at increased risk of contracting STIs and HIV/AIDS. I take time together with our trained youth peer providers to counsel the youth on family planning services.

HopeCore’s Vision

Winjoy makes notes about her student patients during a quick break.
Winjoy makes notes about her student patients during a quick break.

HopeCore has a vision to promote the alleviation of poverty in Kenya by providing microloans. In order to do that, we ensure that our loan clients are in good health. We therefore, as a Public Health team, visit microloan groups during their monthly meetings and provide health education, screening, and examinations for various conditions (e.g. diabetes, hypertension, etc.) We also provide family planning services to them. These services are performed on school holidays and during term breaks because of our department’s many activities through schools during times that schools are in session.

The loan clients can also visit our office clinic when I am available. Our clinic will soon become officially registered under the Kenyan Ministry of Health, and because I am the only nurse and extremely involved in health service and educational outreach, we will also soon be in need of more medical staff.

Working with Wazungu

Winjoy works with pediatric nurse Rachel, a volunteer from the UK Global Links Program, at a mother-child health and education clinic.
Winjoy works with pediatric nurse Rachel, a volunteer from the UK Global Links Program, at a mother-child health and education clinic.

Finally, I’d like to comment on how I’ve gained a lot experience from volunteer doctors and nurses, and express my gratitude to them. By being able to work in the field with them, I have gained more confidence to practice as my own as a nurse. It’s not always easy to make a diagnosis, but with the help, advice, and support of the volunteers, I have learned so much and have become a better medical professional. Thank you to: Dr. Anika & Dr. Andrew, Dr. Mary Lester, Dr. Sophie, and Dr. Dominic & Nurse Rachel. Most of these volunteers have come from the UK’s Global Links Program.

I am very happy with my job at HopeCore, and I know that I am making such a big difference in my community with this organization.

Meet this blog’s author…

Winjoy Micheni, Community Health Nurse
Winjoy Micheni, Community Health Nurse

Reusable menstrual kits (by Stella Kagendo, Community Health Worker)

Introduction of reusable menstrual kits

By: Stella Kagendo, Community Health Worker- Village HopeCore

Millions of women and girls around the world do not have access to safe, healthy, and reliable options for managing their menstruation. I would like to share what I learned and gained from a training I attended organized by Days For Girls to become an Ambassador of Women’s Health on reusable menstrual kits.

Reusable menstrual pads offer girls and women a safe, effective, and sustainable solution in managing their menstruation. It is made up of two components: the shield and the liner. The kit is composed of two shields and eight liners.

My experience at the training

I was able to interact with other women from different parts of our country when I attended the training. We shared more about our customs concerning menstruation, facts and myths surrounding it, and how our girls and women face menstruation according to our tribes. As ambassadors of women’s health, we are to intervene and help the girls and women in improving their health.

Resuable pad demonstrations
While exploring the different parts of a reusable pad and showing others how it works, I am able to interact with many women and discuss sexual health topics.

I also had an opportunity to increase my knowledge on various topics, we learned about anatomy, reproduction, hygiene, STIs, and human rights, to name a few.

In the practical learning sessions, we were taught and shown how to build tippy taps for hand washing and the part which drew my attention the most was how to make the reusable menstrual kit. We were taught how to cut, sew, and make the liners and the shield. We also had a chance of doing practical presentations on how it is used using demonstration underwear we had. From my experience, I can share my knowledge with others through educating the girls and women on reproductive health, emphasizing menstrual health.

A woman practices using a reusable pad on a sample while I help her.
A woman practices using a reusable pad on a sample while I help her.

How it works

Shield

The shield is a cloth holder resembling a disposable winged menstrual pad. It has a moisture proof fabric inside that keeps menstrual fluids from seeping or passing through. The wings have snaps so the shield can be secured in the underwear without fear of falling out. The user can use the shield for the whole day.

Liner

The liners are soft and absorbent. The liner is folded into thirds and placed inside the shield in order to absorbed the menstrual flow. On heavier menstrual flow days, one can layer more than one liner in the shield to create a thicker pad for more absorbency.

When the liner is soiled the girl or woman can remove the liner from the shield and replace it with another one. This can be changed after a few hours, depending on the menstrual flow. The soiled liners can be stored in a drawstring bag, for privacy, when in public settings, and can be later washed in your house.

Care

The soiled items should be washed daily with soap. After washing the shield and the liners, they should be hung outside to dry. The liners can be ironed to help them dry faster. The shield should not be ironed because it has a plastic barrier inside which can melt. It is important to clean the kit properly. When cared for properly, this reusable kit can last up to three years.

What's in a "Days for Girls" kit (from daysforgirls.com)
What’s in a “Days for Girls” kit (from daysforgirls.com)

Conclusions

A girl is faced with many threats for lack of a simple basic resource: sanitary pads. She worries her uniform will be soiled, she worries about deteriorating in her studies due to missing classes because of her periods, she risks her health by using what she can to prevent soiling her clothes, and she suffers from lack of knowledge due to silence on female reproductive health. All of this adds up to women and girls feeling ashamed, getting infections, and missing opportunities month after month. Lack of access to basic sanitary pads to manage menstruation threatens a girl’s education and her health. HopeCore hopes to, in the future, step up to help change this situation. I hope to ensure that a girl knows who she is, that her health is vital to her future, and also, to ensure that she can go to school, and stay productive and healthy.

Stella unpacks HopeCore's school-based mobile clinic medications & supplies box. One of Stella's main roles as a CHW is to provide support and triage services to HopCore's nurse during mobile clinics.
Meet this blog’s author: Stella unpacks HopeCore’s school-based mobile clinic medications & supplies box. One of Stella’s main roles as a CHW is to provide support and triage services to HopCore’s nurse during mobile clinics.

HopeCore’s WASH Program (by Dave Mwandiki M’rewa, WASH Program Monitor)

Last month, in September, HopeCore’s WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) Program made history by putting clean drinking water and hand washing tanks in all 180 schools in the Maara Sub-County, a first in terms of how far-reaching a WASH Program has been in all of East Africa! 45,000 school children and their teachers benefit from these tanks, and the tanks have been and are being continuously monitored by a HopeCore public health worker. Here is his story…

My name is Dave Mwandiki, and I started working at Village HopeCore in 2013.

My job as WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) Program Monitor and Hygiene Educator is to make sure I ride the HopeCore motorbike to all schools where HopeCore has installed tanks for safe drinking water and hand washing and provided WaterGuard for treating drinking water. The schools are both primary and secondary schools and are in the Maara Sub-County. In September, my WASH team and I completed water tank delivery to all 180 schools in the Sub-County to bring clean drinking water and hand washing drums to 45,000 students.

Dave and fellow HopeCore public health worker Martin Murithi show off one of the 1000 litre clean drinking water tanks.
Dave and fellow HopeCore public health worker Martin Murithi show off one of the 1000 litre clean drinking water tanks.
Students enjoy clean drinking water from one of HopeCore's donated tanks.
Students enjoy clean drinking water from one of HopeCore’s donated tanks.

I visit each of the 180 schools once every 2-3 months and talk to teachers and students about the condition of their water tanks. I make sure they are treating the drinking water with WaterGuard to make it safe, and I also make sure they have soap at their hand washing drums. Sometimes I need to go far and on very bumpy roads on the HopeCore motorbike to get to all of these schools, but I know that this is very good and important work.

Dave covers many miles and rough and rugged roads in his motorbike whenever he goes to monitor tanks at schools.
Dave covers many miles and rough and rugged roads in his motorbike whenever he goes to monitor tanks at schools.

I enjoy working in this department because I feel so nice to see people in good health. I educate students and others that when you wash your hands all the time (especially after you visit the toilet and before you eat) and drink treated or boiled water, you kick off some issues that can cause bad health.

Since HopeCore has started the WASH Program, there have been many reports that come to the office to congratulate the good work. This makes me proud of the work that I do.

HopeCore has a vision to reach the entire county with the WASH Program, and I wish for more donors to come in and assist this good work that serves people and serves my God.

This blog was written by Dave Mwandiki M’rewa, WASH Program Health Worker.

Dave with the HopeCore motorbike, ready to go to monitor schools
Dave with the HopeCore motorbike, ready to go to monitor schools

Celebrating 15 years of public health and microenterprise service to communities in rural Kenya