A few months ago, Kura and I were sitting by the Ewaso Nyiro River in Samburu. After a 12 day trip in the field, we were enjoying watching a family of elephants play in the river. Kura was in a reflective mood.
“You know, Mama Rungu,” Kura said, “we have to be careful that we do not become an elephant. Right now we are like a squirrel. We can easily see our tail so we know where we came from. But we could also someday become an elephant who has a much harder time seeing his tail. Then we might forget where we came from.”
“Do you think we should become an elephant, Kura?”
“I don’t know. There are so many women and children in need. Everywhere I go, I know that if we help some of those women launch businesses, then their children will have good food to eat, and they will be able to go to school. But everything is going so fast, and we are all working so hard, that sometimes I’m not sure where I have been.”
“I know Kura. I feel the same way. Let’s figure this out.”
And so that is what we have been doing. We’ve hired more field support and invested in professional development opportunities for our Kenyan staff. We’ve conducted an impact assessment of our businesses so we can understand how our program is working, and what we can do better. We’ve researched software systems so that we can better analyze the data that we collect on each of the participants in the Rural Entrepreneur Access Project. And we have had a LOT of meetings by Skype between Kenya and Vermont.
In May, Kura headed out to launch new businesses in four northern Kenya districts. This time, he went into the field with better data and forms. Our systems for reporting have been streamlined and a new satellite phone made daily communication easier. In 18 days, he oversaw BOMA mentors conducting business skills training sessions and grant distributions to 180 new businesses enterprises in over 25 villages. The result: 540 women who will be able to provide for over 2700 children.
I don’t think that’s a squirrel or an elephant. I’d call that a cheetah.