A Christmas Present That Lasts
Is there actually a great difference between implementing change in an African slum compared to implementing change in a large, corporate business in Northern Europe? And how can we learn from NGUVU; an organisation that supports single women in Kenya by giving them a job, an opportunity for education, and means to support themselves? We, at Hudson Nordic, pride ourselves of having experience in how to support the right changes and developments, in both companies and in people, and we consider it a great responsibility to develop and enable people to reach a new Master-level.
The Women of Kibera
On the dirty ground, outside a shed in Kibera in Kenya, a mother and her daughter aree discussing their future. The mother, Nancy, asks her daughter, Ashley, what she hopes to become aftere here studies; the question is asked with the hint of a smile and a twinkle in her eyes. Ashley, a small thin girl with braided hair, tells her mother, she would like to become a doctor. To this, Nancy replies: “As for me, I would like to see you live a good life, excelling in your studies, not sleeping hungry. And eventually we move out of this slum and live normally like those who live out there”. She gazes quickly to the horizon, almost as if she can see that future coming closer. In this case, it just might happen.
This is from a video posted by NGUVU and with the hashtag #itspossible. NGUVU helps single mothers participate in businesses where they can produce products and sell them and with a profit that is life changing. Based on the belief that lasting change starts with providing education for children and offering families a sustainable lifestyle, NGUVU focuses on single mothers; an overlooked and vulnerable group of people, in a country, where owning property and the right to vote only count for men.
Studies show that single mothers in these areas are likely to spend most of their income on their children, whereas men also worry about status and prestige. Lasting change, NGUVU believes, comes from giving these women the strength to reach their own potential. This is also the reason behind the organisation’s name “NGUVU” which means “strength” in Swahili. To help these women, NGUVU ensures they receive reliable jobs for which these women receive proper payment. Meanwhile, NGUVU pays for their children’s education until the women are self-sustainable. This has proven as a fast track for people like Nancy and Ashley a way that leads to a brighter future.
The Strategy for Lasting Change
NGUVU follows a certain strategy that has proven key for any lasting changes: The founder, Rune Sandholt, invested time in understanding the Kiberian environment before trying to change it. He approached the local community and engaged them in his work before he started trying to change their lives. To Hudson Nordic, he explains that “If I came and had my own model ready, on how to do things, this project would have died within six months – maybe a year.” Having several Anthropologists in Hudson Nordic, we, too, understand the importance of meeting people without any assumptions about, what their challenges might be. This is also why, whenever we collaborate with clients, we try to tailor the right solution by listening to their needs. It is not until then we bring in our experience and expertise.
“(…) it is also about understanding social dynamics. You cannot just give to the people, you think need it the most; you have to follow the local customs, even when your idea of fairness is different”
It Starts With You
NGUVU’s approach has proven to be a success. Still, Rune Sandholt accentuates that the collaboration with a local NGO was the main difference between failure and success:
“They ensured we had the necessary support from the local Chief or from any others in power. We acquired an understanding of the culture in the area, which we would never otherwise have had. This has provided the locals with a sense of ownership. Additionally, it is also about understanding social dynamics. You cannot just give to the people, you think need it the most; you have to follow the local customs, even when your idea of fairness is different.”
As his approach shows that whenever we want to make a change, we need to know ourselves and our limitations and also listen to the people in areas, where we want to create lasting change. This is what we can learn from NGUVU about creating lasting change.
Due to NGUVU’s success, the organisation has been allowed to grow and start up other initiatives based on the same principles. Therefore, NGUVU is now also involved in supporting women growing their own coffee 200 km north of Kibera in another exposed area – Meru. Here, vulnerable single mothers receive training to become experts within their area of expertise – coffee making – so they can become well established on a competitive market. The effects of NGUVU’s projects in Meru are the same as in Kibera: Life-changing.
A Christmas Present That Lasts
Due to NGUVU’s involvement of the local community and shaping a solution based on local culture and customs, NGUVU is – 5 years after the beginning – still making real changes. This work, however, also needs our support. You can support their cause by buying jewellery that the Kiberean women help produce for jewellery designer Helle Vestergaard Poulsen (purchase here: https://annilu.dk/products/anni-lu-for-women-bracelets-1). You can also support the women in Meru by signing up for a coffee membership and thereby receive monthly coffee supplies. 2 bags for DKK 164 and 4 for DKK 274 (sign up here: https://nguvu.dk/kaffe-private/). NGUVU’s coffee from Meru and colourful bags from Kibera is also a part of “Afrikakurven” which you can buy as a present for your employees (for more information: https://nguvu.dk/firmagaven/). Indeed, what better Christmas present than that of true change?
People to People
Christmas is a time where we are reminded of what humanity is. We come together in celebration and find light in the darkest of times. You may all have heard of that special Christmas during World War 1 where soldiers gave up their battles for a night and shared their food and had fun rather than fighting each other. It is a touching story because it reminds us that we are essentially all human. The same goes for the story of NGUVU; the people in Kibera do not need saving, but support. They understand that change cannot be done by anyone than themselves. This lesson is universal and with it NGUVU reminds us we are all human. Thus, their story is a Christmas message, indeed.