Giving a Hand up not a hand out
I have been involved in working with the very poorest of families in slum areas across Kenya since 2006. Initially it was simply giving funding for food, house rent, education in a kind of vague personal way, funded by my work making TV shows about porn and motorbikes. But having spent more and more time with these women, in 2008 MAma Biashara proper was born.
"Giving A Hand Up, Not A Hand Out" is our motto and we try to stick to it.
Money given by Mama BIashara is never paid back to the charity, rather the committment is that, once a business is strong enough, the business person takes in someone else in need and brings them up the way Mama B brought them up. And, unlikely as it may seem in this world, that is exactly what happens.
From Nairobi (where, so far, we have had our base) to Awendo in South Nyanza, up to Western Kenya and down to Mombasa and the Coastal region Mama Biashara sets the poorest of Kenyans (mainly women but also men) up in small, manageable businesses that can start generating a daily income immediately. £25 will start a small business selling vegetables or charcoal, second hand clothes or making chappatis. We have started a business selling chicken heads with £5. And one of our biggest successes has come with selling dairy cattle feed made from chicken shit. Strange but true. You learn a lot about where the good business is if you spend enough time on the ground.
Thousands of families now have an income. A continuing income. Not much but enough for mother (and/or father) and children to survive on. One thing Mama Biashara has discovered is that the worst disease here - and elsewhere in Africa - is not really HIV, but poverty. Total poverty. People die of that kind of poverty every day here in the slums. And the cure for poverty is not charity, but business.
Mama Biashara also takes food supplements and medicines (cod liver oil saves lives out there!), educational supplies, baby food, condoms and anything from here that will help start a business there.
Mama B has built a children's home and two schools, we have dug a community well in Juja, where we also run a Feeding Project (with deworming, head-shaving and basic medical supervision), run hugely popular safe-sex and empowerment workshops, created a 'secret school' for women who want to learn to read and write and set up training sessions in everything from pedicures to peanut butter making.