Aboard the SII Learning Visit to Nairobi

Written by Chimwemwe John Paul Manyozo and Wangiwe Joana Kambuzi

In a recent trip to Nairobi Social Impact Incubator (SII) Champions had the opportunity to visit various organizations to observe the social enterprise approach they utilise in their operations. These organizations are serving mostly disadvantaged children, women and youth between 18 to 35. The social enterprise approach helps NGOs innovate through the application of commercial strategies to maximize improvements in financial, social and environmental well-being. This includes maximizing social impact alongside profits for external shareholders.

So, where do we start from? Well, we will start at Kamuzu International Airport, where we finally met the other SII Champions. Aboard the 13:10 KQ752 to Nairobi was the SII Champions from Malawi comprised of young men and women who are doing exceptional work in Health, Education, Agriculture, Entrepreneurship, and girls support. What was meant to be a long trip, was ‘shorter’, because of the charming, lively and creative flight crew, and the conversations that people had with friends and strangers alike. Of course, Chichewa seemed to have dominated the conversation in the flight even at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). I guess you know why. We landed at JKIA, then headed to Radisson Blu Hotel which was our home between the 30th September to 6th October 2018.

In the morning, we quickly grabbed our breakfast, boarded our vehicles, ready for our first visit to HEART (Health Education Africa Resource Team), located about an hour away from Radisson Blu Hotel. HEART, is an organization that aims to empower the people of Africa to survive and to thrive beyond the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

(SII Champions given a tour of Heart Lodge)

With a beautiful scenery and garden was HEART lodge which accommodates up to 25 guests and a conference room with free access to the internet, a gift shop that stocks products made by women in their WEEP (Women’s Equality Empowerment Program) from tailor-made handbags, dresses and various accessories. The lodge and the gift shop are both income generating initiatives that feed in funds to the entire organization.

Sitting in the conference room we watched a documentary on the WEEP program where we saw women start a business, others building houses and engaging communities to support these projects which is more impactful, and most beneficiaries are moved with the experience.

“As women, we experience a lot of weeping with HIV an all the trauma, but we will WEEP no more as we are heroes of today”, Mama Vickie-the Heart founder said.

After the documentary viewing and networking session with staff members, we visited Kibera Resource Centre-The Bowman’s Centre one of their seven resource centres in Kibera, the largest slum in East Africa where we saw women that have had a transformation through WEEP.

‘As I reflected on the day. I learnt that we have to make sure that you do not only focus on width but also the depth of your impact. It is better to reach a few people and have a holistic impact on the people.’-Chimwemwe Manyozo, CO-Founder of Maphunziro265

Wangiwe Kambuzi the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Mzuzu E-hub also shared her lessons from the visit.

Wangiwe said ‘Transparency and accountability are an important aspect in managing a social enterprise and for all audited recommendations provided they must be implemented.’

She went further to say that ‘Beneficiaries of your programs must be able to give back to the organization through mentoring new beneficiaries, supporting other community projects and motivating others within the communities to enhance the sustainability of the programs.’

The team also visited Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH), LivelyHoods, Education for All Children (EFAC), Kijiji and PAWA254.

(SII champions given an orientation of Ruben Centre’s work)

The final day of the tour was at the Ruben Centre located in Mukuru kwa Njenga, in Nairobi. What was meant to be a less than 1 hour and 30 minutes tour, turned out to be more because of the diversity of the programming and the size of the structure.

We started our tour with the crop and livestock farming sites. It was interesting to learn how they have developed an ecosystem that feeds into each with the catfish, vegetables, the rabbits and chickens.

We then proceeded to view their special needs education Centre. The passion was very evident from any person who works with the special need’s children. Thereafter, we toured the primary school, the Counselling Centre, pre-school, the radio station and the Health Centre. The tour finished with a discussion and a good cup of tea, and coffee.

Wangiwe Kambuzi had to sum up the tour with the following words

‘This learning visit came at the right time. It’s time to turn our attention beyond the traditional ways of creating the impact to where there is plenty to do for our beneficiaries in Malawi.’

By the way, we also had Food.