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Naomi’s family is slowly but surely building a strong future for themselves, supported in great part by our work uplifting them through our Family Care model.

They were first sponsored in 2017, receiving a solar light, advice and inputs for farming, and around $30 each month for school fees and other necessities. At that time, officially, it was only a sponsorship for the youngest girl Sareen. However, the mother used sponsorship support we sent for Sareen to do more than just ensure Sareen was attending school with all she needed. In this case, mother Naomi also used part of the sponsorship money to pay high school fees for her older children Yvonne (now 23), Mitchelle (just finished high school in April), and Moses (finishing up his sophomore year of high school). The mother Naomi even managed to save a few dollars each month as well.

It is stories like this of sharing among family, by necessity and for good reason, that led us to make Family Care our official program model. We knew for a long time that sponsorship support was shared among family members, but when we studied the reality more closely we realized that what we were doing was simply supporting a family, not one child. So we decided to make it official and call the approach Family Care.

At the end of the day, a child can only thrive if their family is thriving. Instead of complaining that resources weren’t focused only on Sareen, we embraced the reality of family life and now officially support whole families.

Among Naomi’s family’s early accomplishments, apart from ensuring all the kids went to school, was digging and cementing a water well at their home. With a high water table they were able to accomplish this for only $50. They also started investing in another kind of kids – baby goats – and now have five goats. Naomi participates in a rotational group savings scheme where each member contributes a few dollars monthly, and one rotating member gets the whole pot for that month. In this case, every time it was Naomi’s turn to collect her “merry go round” proceeds, she would invest in a goat kid. Goats grow well on wild-growing fodder, and as they get big they can provide good income from sale to buyers who celebrate traditional events by roasting a whole goat.

In April 2020, as Covid-19 first hit and the Kenyan economy suddenly ground to a halt, we provided this family and all the others in our program with $38 each month in emergency aid. By late summer, when it was clear that life would not return to normal any time soon, we phased out the emergency assistance and instead started asking families to plan a small business venture with our promise to support them in launching it. After all, we couldn’t provide emergency relief forever, and if we could help families earn their own money then they wouldn’t need to rely on our relief fund for food and other necessities.

Through this push to help guardians launch small businesses, Naomi has rented a small shop in her local market and used our assistance to stock it. The shop has slowly grown to have more supplies for sale as Naomi reinvests profits into her business. Her eldest daughters Yvonne and Mitchelle have helped tremendously with running it, and the youngest girl Sareen helps out occasionally (it’s great fun for her to feel like an adult selling goods from behind the counter).

A few months ago, in February, the mother Naomi was determined that she could earn more by adding M-Pesa mobile money services to her shop. So many customers requested to deposit or withdraw money on their phone lines, yet there was no M-Pesa agent around. In consultation with our social work and community development staff, she requested a major allocation of $200 for working capital called “cash float” to make the business work. That $200 came from her $450 annual Family Care budget. On her own, Naomi also managed to pay around $80 to register herself as a money agent and begin getting commissions. Much of that $80 came from her eldest daughter Yvonne, who was earning $5 each day from a government make-work program for youth willing to manually dig roadside drainage trenches. It was a risk, but Naomi had thoroughly researched the M-Pesa business, and as it turned out the risk really paid off.

In her first three months after adding M-Pesa services to her shop, Naomi was able to earn $145 from M-Pesa agent commissions alone – pure profit. She used this money to keep adding stocks to the shop, and also to continue work building a new latrine and washroom for the family. Their eldest daughter Yvonne also helped contribute towards the latrine’s construction with money she was earning from the government program digging roadside trenches. Today their new latrine is usable and almost complete, and the small shop that largely paid for it is helping the family gain momentum and see a brighter future.

Meanwhile, Naomi has also benefited tremendously from advice given by our agriculture team. She has started keeping chickens and sells eggs to help her with money for day-to-day expenses. She also bought a cow that now gives enough milk to both drink and sell. That cow also gave birth a few months ago and its calf is growing up well. Her maize crop is thriving, and she’s expecting a record harvest; this is thanks to training from our agriculture officers and fertilizer from her Family Care budget. What’s more, our agriculture officers have encouraged her to plant a more diverse set of crops and she’s fully followed their advice. Naomi is not only growing maize as before, she is now also growing beans, sugarcane, peanuts, sweet potatoes, bambara nuts, and several varieties of indigenous leafy greens including giant nightshade and cowpeas. In future years she looks forward to harvesting fruit from the seedlings that we gave her, including orange, mango, avocado, loquat, passionfruit, and banana.

The two youngest children in this family – Sareen and Moses – are progressing well in school. The second oldest, Mitchelle, finished high school two months ago and is planning to enroll at a local institute to learn basic computer skills (her mom will be able to provide the nominal fees). Mitchelle is also now eligible for partial scholarship support from our Family Care program to attend a short-course vocational training program, and she is keen to apply but needs time to think and be counselled on the best course for her.

Most incredibly, through determination and great luck, the oldest sister Yvonne just landed a coveted position in the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF). In Kenya, where steady jobs are scarce, the chances of being successfully recruited into uniformed forces are very low. Yvonne was uniquely qualified because she had studied physics in high school and performed well in that part of her high school exam. The army was looking for women with competency in physics, and this is what allowed Yvonne to be successfully recruited. As she joins the Kenya Defense Forces her future looks bright: a steady salary, job stability, and a long-term career with growth prospects.

On our side, we will continue to provide a basic level of support for Naomi’s family, but we also see that it’s time to begin phasing them out of our programs so we can focus on other families. It’s a long process of walking together with them, and we won’t disappear anytime soon. Our mission is to help families rise and stay out of poverty, so our staff will keep visiting and supporting them until they’re resilient enough to climb higher without risk of tumbling back down.

Mother Naomi at her shop, showing off her fastest-moving goods: tomatoes and dried omena (a sardine-like fish from Lake Victoria)
Mother Naomi in front of the family’s new latrine, which they built with income from their shop
Eldest sister Yvonne tending the family shop last year, before she was successfully recruited into a coveted job with the armed forces
Sareen, the youngest siblings and the one originally sponsored by us, shows off how the family fries fish for sale during lunch time.
Sareen, the youngest of five children, proudly shows off the family’s water tank that they received from us; the tank fills with rainwater from a roof gutter, and it’s installed on an elevated slab that the family built with income from their small business ventures .
Youngest child Sareen joyfully holding two of the family’s recently-acquired kid goats.
Mother Naomi selling fried fish at lunch time on the side of a busy local highway near the family’s home.
The family’s water well with an iron sheet covering the hole, one of the family’s early accomplishments in our program; the well was hand-dug and the family uses a bucket tied to a rope to haul water out of it.
Sareen, the youngest of five children in the family, poses with her mother Naomi at their home two years ago, in July 2019.
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