The pandemic has revealed the fissures in our society and the ways in which living within the same geographical borders has no correlation with our lived experiences. The precarity of the lives of our countrymen is most clearly seen in the lives of the poor, especially those living in slums or informal settlements. One organization that has seen just how difficult it’s been for the poor during this pandemic is Greencard Mtaani.
Greencard Mtaani is a small, awe-inspiring, and dynamic community organization committed to helping the most hard-hit communities recover and build resilience. To this end, they have partnered with Mastercard Foundation to run a far-reaching campaign with the Kibera community’s needs in mind. We had the opportunity to speak to Fredrick Juma, Greencard Mtaani’s director about their work in the community and the #ItsUpToUs campaign.
Greencard Mtaani work in the community
#ItsUpToUs Covid awareness campaign
One of the things Greencard Mtaani has seen is that over time, people are becoming laxer when it comes to adhering to Covid-19 prevention protocols. To this end, they have launched an awareness campaign with a view to resensitizing the community and reminding them to stay vigilant. This is why the campaign has been dubbed, it’s up to us. It’s a reminder to take some personal responsibility and control what we can in a world in which so much is outside our immediate control and influence.
They have set up handwashing stations in various schools in the Kibera area and its environs that are manned by community health volunteers. They have also set up a water distribution project that will distribute water for free to these areas. This will be done through water bowsers that will deliver 10,000 litres per area for free to the residents.
Clean-up in the various wards
Along with other local community organizations, they identify areas that need cleaning then organize clean-up events with volunteers. Clean-up efforts that it’s worth noting continually attract more local volunteers than they know what to do with.
Economic recovery programs
This is one of their most transformative programs in the community. Along with some of the most engaging trainers, they organize interactive training sessions on personal finance, including discipline, loans, and savings. The course on VSLAs takes three days after which they help the members form groups and begin making the theoretical-practical. VSLA is an acronym for Village Savings and Loans Association.
The idea is through training open the eyes of community members to the power of pulling their resources together and helping each other reach their financial goals through consistent, disciplined saving. The sessions which encourage and thrive on the participants’ engagement focus on the importance of saving and what’s possible even when you only have a little to save. There is also some training on coming up with and running a business.
At the end of the training, participants form groups and begin to save together based on the rules they set together. They also identify a need, start a business and run it based on the lessons.
Greencard Mtaani then does something that is immediately financially empowering for the participants. They teach them how to make soap, teach them how to price it as one would if they were running a business, along with the different considerations when running such a business then they purchase the soap from them for use in their different handwashing stands.
Work with community
Greencard Mtaani prioritizes working with the community. To this end, they work with religious leaders, sportsmen, and artists. Because of the cancellation of most sports activities in light of social distancing, most youth who previously spent most of their time in sporting activities find themselves with a lot of free time. They organize activities for the youth and commission artwork, usually murals with enriching messages to be done in the communities.
With the support of the Mastercard Foundation, the economic resilience program including VSLA and soap making will run for two months. It’s targeting 16 different groups. Gabriel “Gabu” Ngige, one of Greencard Mtaani’s trainers shared the success stories from the Village Savings and Loans Association training. Groups that started and run successful businesses, people who have bought motorbikes for their personal business, a man who started a pig farm and now employs other people.
Such stories are encouraging especially during the difficult times occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic. We all wish we could change the world, transform people’s lives. Greencard Mtaani is showing us how. Organize and start small and maybe one day, even you can partner with an organization like Mastercard Foundation to transform people’s lives.
Keep up with Greencard Mtaani here because we haven’t even scratched the surface. I haven’t even told you about their pad bank that gives free pads to school girls or the daycare they run for women in the community.