You Will Never Walk Alone

You Will Never Walk Alone

Since our first blog post, CoWA has continued to work with our partners to deliver training through our different programmes. In this blog post, we will focus on the work of the You’ll Never Walk Alone Project.

What is this programme?
The You’ll Never Walk Alone Project (YWNA) is a programme for Community-Based Rehabilitation for Children with Disability in Nairobi. CoWA, alongside partners such as Call Africa, DEK (Deaf Empowerment Kenya), ANDY (Action Network for the Disabled), and Medicus Modi, work on the economic strengthening of caregivers with children with disability.

Why is CoWA involved?
CoWA started working with Call Africa in 2013 and after such a length of time it now has a wealth of experience of economic empowerment of vulnerable communities such as women and young people. CoWA has amassed this knowledge and put it into action by following its guiding principles of respecting the value of the person, the value of work, educating the person and the heart. CoWA strives to involve subsidiaries in the localities by addressing their community issues and therefore ensuring long lasting intervention and sustainability.

What does this programme involve?
This program contributes to the improvement of living conditions for the child population with disabilities in informal settlements on the outskirts of Nairobi. Its specific goal is to improve access to prevention and early diagnosis services, community-based rehabilitation as well as educational inclusion of children with disabilities (0-5 years) in the informal settlements of Nairobi, whilst strengthening active participation and economic inclusion of their families.
At CoWA, our objective is to promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. We do this by training youths on how to generate a business idea, how to start a business, and how to improve a business. This project is developed in such a way it’s able to promote the economic inclusion of families with children with disabilities. This is done through progressive paths of economic empowerment. The courses range from simple training sessions to assess savings and family budget management skills, to entrepreneurial orientation paths that can stimulate family entrepreneurship.The courses are structured so they can achieve the four sub activities namely:
a) Meetings to present the economic empowerment program to parents/guardians of children with disabilities. In these meetings, the CoWA operators will interview the parents and gather information to evaluate the successful completion of the course whilst considering factors such as the socio-economic status of the family.
b) Professional orientation course, entrepreneurial management and savings for parents/guardians of children with disabilities. In this phase the beneficiaries will complete written questionnaires and will be assessed on their knowledge of economics, any income-generating activities started in the past, the lifestyle and the socio-economic conditions of the family. This phase will constitute the baseline from which the impacts of the intervention can then be measured.
c)  Activation of mutual economic support groups between DPOs of parents/guardians of children with disabilities. These groups are self regulated and aim to provide a mutual aid mechanism. In the initial phase each member will pay a predetermined amount in the common fund and, by working together, the methods of use will be defined. Each participant can access the group's common fund according to certain rules for investment purposes or to deal with family emergencies. To facilitate participation and the start of the first phase, the project provides for the provision of a revolving fund to each mutual aid group that will constitute the initial fund. The mechanism set up in this way provides that the fund will generate itself year after year through annual quotas and returns to the group.
Mutual aid groups will be accompanied in registration at the Ministry of Youth, Gender and Social Services and at the National Council. What gives strength to this saving/investment method is the responsibility and sense of belonging to the group and it is for this reason that the figure of an external facilitator who will have the task for each group to stimulate the meetings will be of central importance for the comparison and resolution of any internal conflicts. 20 mutual aid groups are intended to be formed, which can subsequently register as organizations of family members of persons with disabilities at the National Council Person With Disabilities Kenya. In order to formalize the registration, make the whole community participate and further motivate the sense of belonging of the individual members, public ceremonies will be organized at the health centers. The ceremonies will be an opportunity to sensitize the community and other families with disabled children who might be interested in participating in the subsequent training courses. In fact, during the ceremonies, the families themselves will address the issue of the rights of people with disabilities and will explain the motivations and objectives of the entire project.
d) Activation of mutual economic support groups between DPOs of parents/guardians of children with disabilities. The activation for the start-up of individual or group micro-enterprises will be encouraged. The beneficiaries will then be invited to present a business plan thanks to the information obtained in the training phase and, if in a group, thanks to the ideas that emerged from group work. CoWa operators will try to encourage and stimulate young mothers especially to submit proposals, given that they are the most vulnerable target among the families identified. The business plans deemed valid by the CoWA operators (a maximum of 5 people involved per group totalling 150 beneficiaries) will then be developed together with those directly involved.  The development will be carried out by both addressing the feasibility of the intervention and by supporting the beneficiaries in setting a five-year economic/managerial plan. Support includes a first 5-day training phase for each specific group on the start-up of a micro-enterprise. A CoWa operator will support each company for five months in the start-up phase. In this phase, CoWA will not only arrange meetings/interviews to analyze risks and mitigation measures and possible financing and incentives, but also field visits to analyze the offer and demand, visits to companies already well underway in the reference sector of the proposals of business. The beneficiaries will finally be joined in the search for funding and opportunities and will be able to access the fund of their mutual aid group. In the last 4 months of the project, CoWa operators will carry out a final coaching of all the entrepreneurial activities activated and also of final verification of the progress of those activities started in the initial phase.
During this stage we have issued 8 boost funds called the Microcredit Program Revolving Fund (MPRF) for start--ups as well as scales interest free repayable back within 3 months.

How was the programme structured?
The creation of economic self-help groups has allowed many people belonging to vulnerable groups to improve their economic condition. Hence the training needs assessment was carried out  to establish the training gaps of the beneficiaries before any intervention is carried out in the 1st year of the project with a target of 150 beneficiaries.
The assessment of the groups began in April 2020 through the mapping of various stakeholders working for the people living with disabilities. During the mentioned period a total of 10 community-based organizations were mapped. The mapping included the identification of the groups, their leaders, physical locations, natures of the business and number of the beneficiaries in their groups. After the mapping, the generated data was shared with CoWA during the monthly report.

How many people were actually reached?
CoWA, in collaboration with the economic strengthening officers, planned a series of information meetings for parents of disabled children. The meetings were held at 10 health centers spread amongst the 3-local partners during the sensitization meeting for the health component. The parents were sensitized on the importance of economic strengthening and how they can stay resilient in the midst of having a child with disability.
From this activity 485 parents were met who were in 24 support groups as indicated below:
a.    ANDY had 6 groups with 128 caregivers
b.    Call Africa had 8 groups with 180 Caregivers
c.    DEK mapped 10 groups with 177 Caregivers
The number was further screened down  to 150 caregivers based on the year 1 target. But because of high demand, 191 caregivers were reached in the various programmes. This was composed of 100 caregivers without businesses and 91 with business initiatives.
The majority of the 100 caregivers were in casual activities.Their initial programmes entailed creative skills ranging from artwork, baking & pastry skills,homemade detergents and disinfectants, mat making & bead work aimed to provoke their entrepreneurial mindset to come up with viable & simple business ideas. Later they were taken through a business startup programme entailing how to start a business, the requirement in business operation and business formalization
The other 91 caregivers were taken through a business scale up programme.They were attached to business mentors and coaches within the intervention period where they were helped to verify their business models. Most of the beneficiary businesses were in Kayole slums, Umoja, Shiranga in Kibera slums, Kariobagi informal settlements and Soweto slums in Kahawa West. 80.5% were product businesses, 12.2%  service while 7.3% were doing both.
A staggering 95.1% of the beneficiaries have noticed an increase of new customers in the last two months whilst  95% noted an increase in sales. This demonstrates the success that CoWA’s programmes have in changing people’s lives.

Have there been any setbacks?
Like with any programme, YNWA has run into some problems that have been addressed. For instance, the start of the programme came when the country was struck by the outbreak of COVID-19 which led the country into lockdown. However, thanks to modern technology, the first sub activity was able to be carried online. This involved calls, doing training needs assessment and documenting everything online. Later on, the other activities were able to commence in person when the government allowed the carrying on with businesses with strict health measures and direct adherence.

Have there been any success stories?
The YNWA programme has created success stories. This can be seen with Abdon Nestor. He is one of the youths who is a beneficiary of the project and he explains how he started a detergent business from the training knowledge and the progress so far. He makes 30,000-40,000ksh per month which he uses to sustain his family and to even carry out some other small projects at the same time.

What other positives have come out of the project?
Many positive aspects have come out of this project. The participants wanted to be trained on how to grow businesses and so they were eager to learn how to write business plans and keep business records. They also wanted to know of opportunities to get funding for business. As they were also eager to learn how to manage their business properly, the sessions were able to advance as it was of benefit to them.

What is the way forward?
The self-help group model has already provided the members with unintended benefits namely increased visibility on people living with disability, psychosocial support group, economic platform for merry go round, reduced stigma for persons living with disability, increased networking and social capital. The collective group gain has effectively tilted the disability landscape for advocacy. Therefore, if the same approach is used well in the YNWA project it will accelerate the economic empowerment of the beneficiaries.

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