On Friday we went out with Alfred and one of the loan officers, Marknevius, to the "Titikuke" group. This means "Let us Develop" in Malawian and is typical of the type of group that the Microloan Foundation works with.
We arrived in the village to lots of singing which made me feel incredibly welcome.
Here is a picture of the ladies who all took time out of their businesses to be there to meet me.
First of all we explained where I was from and all about innocent and the innocent foundation. Then, I wanted to find out all about the ladies' different businesses and how the MLF had impacted on their lives. We filmed everything (with their consent) so hopefully I'll be able to get it up on the blog when I get back.
In the mean time, here's a few examples of what some of these ladies do:
Sophlet - Runs a second hand clothes business as well as buying and selling tobacco.
Tocozani - Buys and sells fresh fish from Lake Malawi (about 100km away).
Batoma - Has a grocery shop mainly selling soap and detergent as well as other items.
Gertrude - Has a small restaurant in the middle of Kasungu.
Regine - Buys tomatoes, onions and beans in a market 90km away and sells them in Kasungu.
All of these women will be running these businesses on top of harvesting the land that will feed them and their families. The loans have helped them go into new things or develop their existing businesses which brings extra income into their families. Apart from the obvious benefits, one of the woman, Ester, mentioned how she has now been able to buy a bed rather than sleeping on the floor. Emy told us about how she has been able to buy her own plot of land to build a house for her family.
By starting their own businesses, these women have more diversified incomes which helps protect them if the harvest is bad or extra, unexpected income is needed, for say, medical expenses or funerals.
I haven't talked about it much but Malawi has a terrible HIV/AIDS problem with over 14% of the population affected. The woman also talked about how they need to support orphans that are often left behind when their parents die. When you consider these types of difficulties, along with the natural risk that a maize crop might fail on top of the extra responsibilities of running their own businesses, it is clear that these woman want to get out of the poverty trap and are doing everything they possibly can to do so.
I really felt that I could see the benefit the Microloan Foundation was having on these woman and it was brilliant to meet all of them.
At the end I was quite sad to go - it was awesome to see all these happy faces.