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Helping the vulnerable help themselves

Encouraging Self-Sufficiency

"In this just, generous, and prosperous system, labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him." - Abraham Lincoln

We believe freedom is the necessary foundation for an individual to experience self-actualization, self-realization and sustainable livelihood. We believe the chains of poverty, destitution and abuse must be broken in order for one to excel, that once freed, one is capable of knowing their value, developing personally, seizing opportunity, and becoming financially sound. We work to improve the lives of individuals, families and communities by helping them acquire the skills and assets needed to be free from oppressive labor, recover from setbacks, and create a better future for the next generation. 

Our Livelihoods programs encourage individual self-sufficiency through literacy, micro-finance, and business skills training, while empowering communities to identify and solve their own problems.

Women in rural Kenya face a variety of challenges. Lack of educational opportunities places them at high risk of becoming victims of human trafficking and illness, and their children are vulnerable to early childhood marriage.

In the African nation's male-dominated culture, a woman's husband is often her sole source of support. If she loses her husband or he loses his ability to provide the entire family can spiral hopelessly into poverty.

That?s what the Salvation Army's WORTH program, a microfinance banking and skills training program aimed at rural women, seeks to address. Women not only gain access to a system of savings and loans that empower them to become entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities, but also learn the skills they need to take advantage of those resources and succeed.

In groups of about 25, WORTH's women make small deposits each week into a shared fund, kept in a strongbox with three different locks and keys, each held by one of three leaders elected by the group itself. When the fund grows large enough, group participants can take out loans to purchase livestock, supplies and materials to start their own small businesses and pursue financial independence.

WORTH also provides a curriculum for participants to teach each other basic literacy and mathematics, and bookkeeping. The women meet regularly to make their deposits, learn valuable new skills, and support each other emotionally and spiritually.

Inside the Corps Community Center for the monthly meeting, these women talk about their journeys, sometimes accompanied by tears and other times with shouting. They speak of escaping instability, poverty, homelessness, sickness, abuse, and neglect, with their voices growing louder as they announce newfound strength and independence they have achieved from their involvement with their WORTH group.

Many use their newfound skills to become business leaders and employers in their communities, providing opportunities for their friends and neighbors and strengthening their own local economies. Some even form partnerships and start new ventures together.

And success breeds more success -- members are asked to commit a portion of their income earnings to the group savings account, which in turn offers loans to other participants to start their own businesses. The interest earned is then given back to the women in the group.

Phanice, a woman in her early 50s, once shared a tiny grass house with her 15 children. She bought her first pigs with a WORTH loan, which she now raises and sells for a profit. Her success has led to a larger, more comfortable home for herself and her children, who now regularly eat three healthy meals every day. She plans to start additional businesses, and hopes for her children to receive university educations.

"WORTH has transformed my life," Phanice said. "WORTH is a light -- it brought light into my home."

Building upon this success, The Salvation Army World Service Office will continue to bring hope to women's lives by expanding WORTH?s proven approach throughout Kenya, and beyond.

Other Ways We Meet Needs