Hello from Kenya! I just returned from visiting one woman, who benefited from ServeNow’s Micro-Enterprise program. Teressia lives in the slum area and sells maize for a living. With the pandemic, the job was hard work and tiring to travel. Fun fact, more than 300 million Africans depend on maize as the main staple food crop! However, ServeNow’s Micro-Enterprise program helped her open a shop to sell maize and additional items. Now, she is thriving, excited about her business, and ready to expand to a larger shop!
Our Micro-Enterprise programs intend to impact some of the poorest believers, who live within poverty and are in dire need of financial assistance, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Africa is considered one of the poorest continents in the world, and 47% of its population living on the poverty line (The Borgen Project). According to the World Bank, the international poverty line is currently set at $1.90 a day. Poverty is considered “not having enough material possessions or income for a person’s basic needs. Absolute poverty is the complete lack of resources to provide the basic life necessities including food, clean water, shelter, and clothing.”
Those vulnerable to poverty often experience malnourishment, gender inequalities, disease, domestic abuse, and lack of education. Children and women are some of the most affected and vulnerable to poverty. Women, girls, and children are abuse victims, which often leads them to prostitution, stealing, and drugs. 70% are at high risk of becoming street children, prostitutes or conflicted with the law. ServeNow desires to provide support to educate and enhance their lives through our Micro-Enterprise program.
A couple of months into the COVID-19 Pandemic, Simeon (National Director of Africa) explained how various coordinators noted immediate relief could not continue forever or become sustainable. In turn, these coordinators suggested the Micro-Enterprise Programs.
Until then, ServeNow had a strong skill-training program in other parts of the world, but could not launch full-scale programs like that due to restrictions. However, ServeNow recognized the need to help in more sustainable ways. Relief aid has its place and is still necessary for various circumstances like survival, but it has a temporary limit. So, we launched some Micro-Enterprise programs! This program became highly effective in a way that has been a particular highlight for us out of otherwise challenging COVID realities.
But what is micro-enterprise, and how does it work at ServeNow? Micro-Enterprise means small business. Over the years, Micro-Enterprise loans have become popular in the non-profit world. Some organizations solely focus on that ministry method. Many organizations require those loans to be paid back over time to provide more ongoing funds to others.
Early on, ServeNow decided no required repayment. Instead, participants gather in small groups together. As individuals generate income, the groups pull a percentage of resources collectively to provide grants to others. This way the group has more support, fellowship, encouragement, accountability, and ownership. This allows a direct opportunity to multiply the impact on others and experience the joy of empowering more people in similar situations.
Most of the recipients receiving small business grants are women who are particularly in need or vulnerable. Usually, the women are connected to a local church, who we partner with other projects, such as The Basic Series discipleship program. Other times, we help pastors or their families, and in some cases, have supported some young men in some programs, such as barber skills. The grants size range from $50 at the low end to $300 on average. In some cases, in Ukraine, it is higher due to the economic situation or kind of business started. In addition to the grant, ServeNow provides a respected businessperson to share basic business and accounting principles with the participants.
Small business programs are highly effective, especially in more impoverished areas or among those battling poverty. Our Micro-Enterprise programs are a way to not only share the love of God with people but show the love of God in a practical way that also helps build self-esteem, confidence, and fulfillment in life. It can be hard to share God’s love with people when they do not see how it makes a difference in their daily lives. But when you can find meaningful ways to help people in their daily lives, God and his love become real and tangible.
If you would like to help provide small business opportunities to others in need, you can directly donate to Micro-Enterprise: https://weservenow.org/donate/educating-for-eternity/micro-enterprise/.