Self Help Groups: Source of Hope for Widows

 Veronica Wambui, 67, is a member of St. Augustine Self Help Group Juja, she’s a mother of three. She was widowed in 2001 when her beloved husband succumbed to injuries sustained from a fatal road accident. At the time of his death, Wambui’s husband had a loan at St. Augustine Self Help Group. Since her husband had been servicing the loan promptly, the balance due at the time of his death was paid by the loan security fund allowing Wambui to access her husband’s savings in full.This as Wambui explains came as a surprise, “I was not a member of any group at the time therefore was not knowledgeable about the group’s operations. I assumed that since my husband had a loan, the group would not give me any funds,” she says adding that in the midst of misery Wambui had renewed hope from the support she received from the group.

It is from this point that she joined the group and has continued to save. Wambui has taken out several loans from the group to pay school fees for her children and construct rentals from which she earns an income. Currently she owns 15 units, which she rents at between Ksh. 1, 500 and Ksh.5, 000 depending on the size of the house.

“Self Help Groups are very inclusive, members can save as little as Ksh. 200 per month meaning those with meagre earnings can enjoy financial services. Additionally, there is the aspect of security. When my husband died, I was able to recover the shares from the group. Truly my journey with the groups has been fruitful,” she says.

My Story of Selling Sukuma Wiki to Owning Rentals

Commonly known as Franco by his friends, Francis Ngige, 55, owns more than 60 single room house units which he rents at between Ksh.1, 55o and Ksh.2, 550.His journey to where he currently is has not been easy one. Initially, his main source of income was from vending vegetables in Juja town. Despite his humble status, Francis managed to save some money at a local bank. His savings would later enable him take out a loan, buy a piece of land and construct his first set of single room units. “The fact that I was out of the market place was a plus. However, the biggest challenge I faced thereafter was the loan payments, the interest rates were too high. I was channelling half of my rental income towards the loan,” says Franco

Franco, a father of three, got wind of the affordable loans self-help groups offer but he did not pay much attention as he thought the loan facilities were only offered to the Catholic faithful since the groups are operated under the umbrella of the Catholic Church. It was not until a friend clarified that self-help groups cater for all without regard to gender, religious or cultural backgrounds. He joined the St. Augustine Self Help Group in 2005. The group enabled him clear the bank loan and build more house units. His most recent project consists of 48 units, which he rents to locals and students from the nearby Jomo Kenyatta University. 

Franco’s children have followed in their father’s footsteps. They are not only members of St. Augustine Self Help Group Juja but are in the process of building rentals, which their father is helping finance. “My children are witnesses of my transformation; this has encouraged them to develop a saving culture,” he says adding that he plans to continue with property development as it is a timeless investment. 

New Policies To Aid Groups’ Management

In an effort to enhance service delivery to members of Self Help Groups, the Self Help-Programme launched new policies during the programme’s 25th All Leaders Annual General Meeting held on March 4th. The policies were launched as supplementary documents to aid in the interpretation and implementation the newly revised Self-Help Programme Guidelines. Equally, the policies will aid the groups in establishing internal control structures that protect the groups’s assets.

According to the Caritas Nairobi Self Help Programme Coordinator, Mr Eric Gichobi, as the coordinating office of the groups’ operations, Caritas Nairobi has the responsibility to respond to the groups’ needs as they continue to expand in membership and capital base.“As the programme continues to grow so is the constant need to streamline administrative structures,” said Mr. Gichobi adding that the policies will assist the groups to adapt to the current economic, social and legal environment while maintaining the relevance of the programme in the communities.

The policies, available at the Caritas Nairobi office are:

The Finance and Procurement Policy:

The document offers an elaborate description of the relevant policies regarding financial management in the Self-Help Groups. It will also assist in guiding procurement functions within the Self Help Programme This is will ensure that the program adapts to the current economic, social and legal environment while maintaining the relevance of the programme in the communities.

The Credit Policy:

The policies will guide the management committees and other stakeholders in the processing and monitoring of loans, managing defaults and development of good loan products

The Human Resource Policy:

This document that is in line with the Kenyan’s Employment Act, guides the management is handling issues relating to human resources i.e recruitment of the groups’ staff members, motivation, the retaining of loyal, responsible and professional staff.

the new caritas nairobi self help group guideline is launched by His Eminence John Cardinal Njue

Revised Guideline

The Caritas Nairobi Microfinance programme recently reviewed its operational guidelines allowing Corporate membership. This means that joining the self help groups is not limited to individuals and churches but also grouping such as Jumuia, table banking chamas and the like.

This comes as a major boost to the growth of the membership base for the self-help programme. This also translates to more people improving their economic status, which is in line with the 2014-2018 Strategic Plan Goal 1 of enhancing self-reliance of 10, 000 targeted households within the Archdiocese of Nairobi by 2018.

“The essence of the self-help programme is to enable individuals become economically independent as this is a sustainable avenue for poverty eradication. Therefore, it is essential to widen our membership scope,” said Eric Gichobi, Caritas Nairobi, Microfinance Programme Coordinator.

With Corporate Membership, guarantorship challenges will lessen since these groupings comprise of members who are aware of each other’s financial standing therefore guarantorship is almost assured. Through this platform, more individuals will benefit from the continuous training forums that Caritas Nairobi organizes to build capacities of groups’ officials and members to manage their groups as well as income.

Last year, His Eminence John Cardinal Njue officially launched the Caritas Microfinance Bank in order to provide a platform where among others self-help group members can access wider financial services. The launch was also part of the implementation process of the Strategic Plan goal of improving access & subscription to affordable financial services to 4, 000 households annually. This target is now more achievable with the Corporate Membership.

The Microfinance Programme based on the sacco model has operated for 33 years with emphasis on savings and credit. It has over 190 active groups and is present in over 80 parishes within the Archdiocese of Nairobi.

Key Corporate Membership note:
Existing groups that are not members of Caritas Nairobi Self-hep group will be required to register with Caritas Nairobi
The groups will be required to renew their certificate on expiration in order for their account to remain operation.

Facts and Figures
Over 190 Self-help groups in Kiambu and Nairobi County
90, 000 active members of the self Help programme
Ksh4Billion in total share capital