Franciska Ogone felt like her life was wasting away. In a village where the main economic activity is bursting stones to make ballast for construction, her health was deteriorating from the adverse effects of dust she inhaled every day.
Heavily yoked with the burden of providing for herself and the orphans she lives with, Francisca was inspired to start a self help group with widows in her village.
"I need to find a good business that i can do to support my grandchildren. We are really suffering," She told me one day. I asked whether she was involved in any support group. She said she did, but the group was not helpful because it had become too expensive for them. Each member was required to remit $0.5 during the weekly meetings, this being contributions towards group savings to assist members in case they lost a family member or a close relative. With no jobs or viable businesses, this was far too expensive to maintain making the very group that was to lift the widows and grandmothers out of poverty plunge them into even more misery than they were already in.
Franciska, like all her group members have never used a computer before, and can neither read nor write. Further, the only languages they speak are luo and swahili. Whereas the government and commercial banks extend loans and funding opportunities to groups in Kenya, Franciska and her group have been unable to access these funding because they are both illiterate and do not have collateral required by commercial banks.
The Pollination Project Org, through its East Africa Hub Program awarded Fransika $1000 grant to renovate their old houses and venture into a maize selling business to support themselves and their grandchildren orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
"I'm very grateful to pollination project for helping me. I now have a business, i live well and can support the orphans. As you can see, my face is shinning, i don't cough because of dust any more and my group members are doing well too. So i say thank you,'' Franciska told East Africa Hub team when they visited her project.
Franciska and her group have since diversified their business to include selling mats made from papyrus reeds. With their resilience and hard work, they will continue to chat their own path out of poverty. Like many other grassroots changemakers all over the world, they may be voiceless, but with wonderful organizations like the pollination project that believes in them and their ability to create change, there is hope that Franciska and her ilk will get a more equitable share of the world's wealth and continue to champion change in their own communities and not be beggars in old age.