HCW's Melody Curtiss and Laura Horvath, and Laura's husband David, traveled to Kenya in February with Carol Cartmill, Sheree Reece and Anne Gatobu of Church of the Resurrection (Kansas City). Joined by LC and Brenda Brooks-Alexander from First UMC Forth Worth; and Dr. Ronald Kaluya and Timothy Kaindi of Uganda Counseling and Support Services, the team visited the Zoe Empowers project in Maua, hosted by Reegan Kabieri, Chief Executive Officer of Zoe Global South and Kenya Country Manager.
The Zoe Empowers program is a youth economic empowerment program currently operating in eight countries. Participants in the project are typically former street-connected youth and are usually the primary bread-winners for their families, and they range in age from 14 - 19 years old. Zoe pulls participants into groups of approximately 35 young people. Over the course of three years, Zoe helps these young people find their independence through an empowerment model that includes micro grants, life skills and vocational training to help them become secure, healthy and connected members of their communities.
The team observed one Zoe group meeting, led entirely by the youth themselves. Groups elect their own leadership, and participate in a "table bank" that allows the group to pool funds and take out loans when they need to. Each participant is able to borrow money through a "merry-go-round" process that gives each person a turn, but the table bank can also be used in emergency situations. Zoe graduate Titus shared that Zoe had provided him with training to repair cell phones, and he was able to open up a small repair shop. When his shop burned down, he appealed to his Zoe group, who decided to offer him a loan to rebuild from their table bank. Most Zoe graduates have multiple businesses, employ others, and provide for the education of their younger siblings.
HCW and Zoe are exploring the potential to bring the model to Sierra Leone. Stay tuned!
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