February 8, 2012
This is a guest post from Sarah Muthoni, Empowerment Coordinator with CFA. These are her thoughts after months of implementing a new small group strategy with clients…
It’s amazing how small groups can be effective in achieving the objectives of a larger group. To achieve our organizational goals CARE for AIDS has made it part of our empowerment plan to divide up every group of clients into small groups. The clients choose which group to be in depending on their interests. This is because the clients have different interests depending on their experiences and backgrounds, for example some clients live in semi-urban areas and are interested with Agribusinesses since they can rent small plots of land. In the same locality other clients have to rent single –roomed houses in congested slums to live with their children, such people would rather sell bead necklaces, detergents to their neighbors or take them to the nearest open –air markets. Each group selects their leader and holds regular meetings. As the saying goes the wearer of the shoe knows better where it hurts, so these group leaders understand from experience the needs and wishes of their members and knows the best way to go about meeting these needs.
Small groups are very helpful in economic empowerment since once registered with a microfinance institutions the members can save and sign as guarantors for any member who needs to borrow a loan. In most of these financial institutions one would not access the loan outside the group because they lack collateral, but once in a small group even the banks would accept the group’s savings as security for the loans offered to individuals in the group. There is a Kenyan saying that a group of people can lift giant pot which can never be possible by a single person. Thus through a small group aclient will be able to access micro-loans to start or expand existing businesses. This way the individual will be able to fight poverty out of their lives. The group members know each other very well and so have trust for each other and so besides offering financial support to each other, they offer moral support to each other, they pray with and for each other and practice peer counseling and support. This goes a long way in achieving social and spiritual empowerment of the members.
During a seminar on group dynamics held at the Banana CARE for AIDS center, the facilitator who was from the Constituency AIDS Control committee clearly discussed the importance of small groups. He further explained, how to form and register a group, qualities of a group leader and how to write a group constitution. The clients at the center who were by then in their 4th month in the CFA program were convinced on the need of forming small groups for encouragement and support.
On the following weeks the clients formed groups of about 20 members based on their areas of residence. The first group is composed of members from Muchatha area andis headed by Esther. They are now preparing to start a poultry project after saving for some months. The group has opened an account at Equity Bank to keep safely their savings.
The second group is made up of residents from Gathanga and Githogoro. Simon their leader is very optimistic that the group although composed of members from different tribes will empower the members to fulfill their life goals. The group meets regularly at Banana –Hill Baptist Church. They have started a merry- go round. This is an arrangement where the members have agreed to contribute a small amount of money each time they come for their monthly meeting and the total amount is given to one person every month. The members through balloting pick a number which determines when each person will get the lump sum amount contributed by the members. This is therefore a kind of a loan with no interest attached. It enables the members to expand or start new small businesses.
The third group is composedof residents from Gachorwi and Banana town and their leader is Harrison. The group plans to join Equity Bank mixed Groups under the Youth Foundation, this way they will be saving on a weekly basisand can after six weeks access a loan from the bank at an interest rate of 8% per annum.
The fourth group is composed of residents from Ndumberi and is headed by Christopher a dairy goat farmer. This being arural set up area the members are much more interested in farming, they therefore have joined the Desert Oasis ResidenceEmpowerment (DOREP). Under DOREP the members are not only saving and have access to credit but also have a market for their Agricultural products. Beth a members of this group says “I am expanding my poultry farming to include more layers because am assured of a ready market for the eggs, the profit I made last year helped me pay school fees for my son in high school.”
Through the small groups the empowerment team at CARE for AIDS remains in touch with the clients through their leaders. After the clients have graduated from the center the small groups are used in following up the clients. This way the empowerment team is able to encourage them to continue adhering to medication, paying their health insurance premiums, running their businesses and taking care of their families. One year after graduation a common follow up meeting is held at the center for the larger group of clients and each group fills a questionnaire which is then used to assess whether empowerment has been achieved and maintained in the lives of the clients. So that is how the small groups have enabled CARE for AIDS to ensure sustainable empowerment to HIV-infected men and women in Kenya and it is working. Glory is to God who empowers us to be able to empower others.