Monday, May 23, 2016

Two Sacks of Potatoes and Renewed Hope: Jeniffer Aoko's Story in Nairobi, Kenya

Kariobangi, Kenya – At 28 years old, life was promising for Jeniffer Aoko, married and raising her four daughters in the family’s humble shelter in the Kariobangi neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya. Nothing could have prepared her for the tragedy before her.

Jeniffer’s husband died suddenly, leaving her to provide for her children all alone.

Jeniffer moved her family to Mathare Valley and, with her passion for cooking, opened a business cooking chips. For four years, life was bearable for the grieving mother as her business gave her enough of an income to pay school fees for her daughters.

Jeniffer Aoko of Kariobangi, Kenya cleans, peels, and slices potatoes for her chips businessl

Jeniffer cleans and slices potatoes for her chips business, working hard to make enough profits to send her four daughters to school.

In the slums of Nairobi, a challenge many business owners face is when the metal sheet structures they run their businesses from are demolished by fires, storms, or are bulldozed without notice. These demolitions force business owners to relocate and start from scratch. When Jeniffer’s business was demolished, she was forced to go back to Kariobangi, unable to restart her business.

With no income, Jeniffer grew desperate. She decided to get married again with the hope that her new husband could support her children. She became completely dependent on her husband for money, timidly gauging his mood before asking for any small amount of money, in fear he would get angry.

Renewed Hope through Savings for Life

Hoping to change her situation, Jeniffer joined a Savings for Life group with Bright Hope’s local, in-country partner in January 2015. The group encouraged her to take on an income generating activity to help pay her children’s school fees. Jeniffer explored different possibilities and decided to start up her chips cooking business again.

Jeniffer stands near her stall in Kariobangi, where she sells chips for a profit.


Jeniffer stands near her re-opened stall in Kariobangi, where she sells chips for a profit.


With a loan from the savings group, Jeniffer opened her business, and one month later she already had a customer base of over 100 people. With each sack of potatoes that she sells, she makes about 500 Kenyan shillings, which is about five dollars. “In a week, I am able to sell up to two sacks of potatoes! This is a very good amount of income in the community,” she says. Now Jeniffer is advising other group members, helping them identify good enterprises and make the best use of their loans.

Jeniffer has even bigger plans for her future. Once she repays her first loan, she hopes to take an even larger loan in order to expand her business. She explains, “I want to buy a machine in the future and install electricity to use for cooking instead of the firewood that I am currently using. That way I can be able to sell more and meet my children’s school fees.”

Jeniffer finally feels Hope and experiences a sense of community through her Savings for Life group. “Savings for Life is a blessing because it brings people of all calibers together for the common goal of saving for development. The group has empowered me despite all the challenges. It brings me Hope.”

Read more stories from Bright Hope's Ally Connection newsletter.