“I was not lucky enough to pursue my education dreams. My parents were poor and could not afford school fees for me. They also just never bothered with education since they themselves were never schooled, so they didn’t know the importance.”
This is the story of Ann Nyongesa, a sales agent with LivelyHoods, a non-profit operating in Kenya that supports women and youth by training them to be salespeople and entrepreneurs. LivelyHoods’ network of trained sales agents sell life-changing and eco-friendly products such as solar lamps, clean-burning cookstoves and other household applicances in slum communities. The products offer residents of the slum cost savings through reduced fuel usage and health benefits thanks to a reduction in smoke emissions.
“Our overall impact is far-reaching, first touching the growth, success and financial independence of the youth and women we train, and then the households that these youth and women reach, with life-improving products,” explains Claire Baker, Director of Development for LivelyHoods.
“The community grows economically, as 100% of the profits from the organisation are reinvested into creating more jobs for youth and women. We also see societal norms about gender roles shifting, and we see a generation of empowered youth and women providing for themselves and their families in a safe, sustainable way.”
For Ann, joining LivelyHoods meant that she could pursue a career even though she didn’t have the education she had dreamed of.
“I had always wanted to be a nurse. Unfortunately, I lacked support and that’s how my dream died. In my family, I’m the second born of six siblings, and all of us went through the same — no one was able to finish studies, so [we could not] help one another. When I was told that LivelyHoods offers free training, I came for the interview. I struggled a lot in the training because I’m not sharp, but I decided to never give up. This was like a golden opportunity. I’m grateful that I was offered an opportunity to work here, and that I get some income at the end of the month. My basic needs are now taken care of from what I earn through my sales.”
Ann is just one of the success stories from LivelyHoods, but there are many more just like her. Here are the personal stories of some of the other women and youth impacted by the program:
“By interacting with people from non-Swahili speaking countries, it has helped me improve my English, and these interactions teach me how to deal with different customers more confidently. My English has improved so much, and given me a completely new opportunity I never expected.” – Kitindi
“Before I joined LivelyHoods I used to depend so much on my husband, who is a casual labourer. The nature of his work is that it’s not dependable. Sometimes we would sleep hungry as a result of him missing being clocked in. It was difficult, especially since I had a small child and was expecting another one. But since I started working, I have been able to provide significant support to my husband. I am now an independent woman who is more respected by my husband because I don’t have to depend on him for everything.” – Harriet
“Ever since I joined LivelyHoods, a lot has changed in my life. I am now part of the praise and worship team at my church. Recently my mother visited us from upcountry and we invited her to visit our church. It was a coincidence that that day I had been selected to lead the praise and worship. As I was leading the service, I did not notice that my mother had been awed by my presentation. During the testimony service I was surprised to see my mother go upfront… She said that she was proud of me. And she was grateful of what I had turned into. It’s the first time I had ever had such compliments from my mother and I have never been so proud.” – Emily
“I was struggling a lot after I lost my other job and it was hard to settle my bills and feed my family. But after joining LivelyHoods, this changed since I started earning a decent pay, which is sustainable for my family. I can even pay my children’s school fees.” – Malusi
“Through my interaction with new people, I have grown in three major skills, namely communication, time management and convincing power. Because of the support from the LivelyHoods team and particularly my branch manager, my monthly sales have been consistent. I have earned a living through sales, something that I could not manage before. My earnings now range from 15k to 30k. With such earnings, I have been able to plan my spending well to gather for my family. Budgeting is part of me now. LivelyHoods has also instilled a savings culture in me and I am happy with the amount I have saved so far. I feel confident I can start my own business because LivelyHoods has given me a classroom training and a practical training in the field of sales.” – Purity
“Before Joining LivelyHoods I was just from a broken marriage. I was confused because I was literally dependent on my husband for everything and anything. When my marriage broke, I was devastated. I moved to Nairobi without any plans to get a job and life was hard trying to get people to host you every now and then. I had just moved to Kabiria, rented my own house (single room) and the house was empty and I could barely get rent to pay for the house, let alone food. Since joining Livelyhoods I now never have to worry about what to eat or where to get money for rent. The best thing that happened is a few months after joining LivelyHoods I got money to claim my kids’ custody, which came through and am now able to care for them to and even pay their school fee and their upkeep.” – Rachel