When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Deborah’s community in rural Kenya, the stakes were already high. Like small businesses everywhere, Deborah’s thriving business saw its sales plummet and she was at risk of returning to a very precarious livelihood: subsistence farming in an area prone to drought and known for its low crop yields.

At Baptist World Aid Australia we’re grateful for the ongoing support of the DFAT’s Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP). Partnership with ANCP has helped communities like Deborah’s weather the COVID pandemic in inspiring ways.

The pandemic continues to have devastating effects on poor communities around our world but with the support of our Christian partner Anglican Development Services Eastern (ADSE) in Kenya and the ANCP program, Deborah’s community is now flourishing. ADSE’s projects in the area have helped the community improve livelihoods, public health and hygiene practices creating the conditions for families to grow well.

As a mother of three children, Deborah has always worked hard but it has been a struggle to make a living subsistence farming (growing ‘just enough’ for her family) in a region known for its low agricultural yields. Then, Deborah joined an ADSE self-help group. These groups receive training in savings and loan management, microfinance literacy, agricultural and business skills as well as good hygiene practices. They also receive support and training that assists them in accessing loans and grants from local financial institutions.

The program helped Deborah access a low interest loan to open a shop in the local market, purchase stock for the shop and begin trading. ‘Within the first month [of trading] I started repaying the loan without challenges’ Deborah said.

Business was going well until COVID hit. Shutdowns and restrictions led to a drastic drop in income for Deborah and other members of her group. Repaying loans was difficult and meetings had to be suspended. For communities like Deborah’s, the return to a precarious life of poverty seemed likely.

Fortunately, in August, the group was able to resume meeting. Baptist World Aid’s Christian partner, ADSE provided training in soap making and Deborah immediately saw the opportunity. She could diversify her business and help people stay safe during the pandemic selling her soap.

The demand for soap was high, as it has been everywhere, and it required little capital to kickstart the new business. Deborah has been able to sell to individuals in her community as well as the local hospital, schools, and local government offices.

A woman in a mask sells soap to a local man.
Deborah selling her soap!

This ANCP partnership has also enabled our partner to improve access to clean water in this community. And they’ve provided training to the community in good hygiene and sanitation practices critical to the health of families during the pandemic.

‘COVID-19 has led to harsh economic times forcing communities to adapt to a new normal,’ Deborah said. ‘[but we have] been flexible and changed with the times. . . I am happy that even during this time of pandemic, I have been able to make ends meet.’

Deborah has a vision to increase her production and attain the certification needed to sell her soap to major outlets. She is thankful to have been able to support her family through a challenging time and help protect her community.

As our partner staff remarked, ‘Deborah is such an example . . . she is a ray of hope in these times of crisis.’ Deborah’s message to everyone who’s supported her is that she is, ‘praying [for} God to reward abundantly all people who have helped me grow my business to where it is now.’

As our Christian partners support the most vulnerable, the impact of a gift to the Matching Grant Appeal BEFORE 30 June will have greater impact because it’s combined with Australian Government funds!