CFCA stories

Mutual support lifts CFCA mothers groups in Kenya

December 12, 2011

Monicah is the treasurer of Bangladesh, her 30-member mothers group in Nairobi, Kenya. One of her eight children, 8-year-old Lona, is sponsored.

Monicah's seventh-grade education limits her livelihood choices. She used funds she received from her mothers group to start farming.

Monicah, mother of CFCA sponsored child and treasurer of CFCA mothers group in Kenya
Monicah farms with support from her
mothers group in Nairobi, Kenya.
CFCA mothers groups empower
parents of sponsored children to build
their own future, rather than relying
on handouts.

"I planted kale, spinach and other vegetables," she said. "I sold the produce to make money. With the support of the group, I have been able to plant more crops and my farm is doing well."

Members have seen the benefits of the mothers group, Monicah said. Being part of the group has given her self-confidence, and she has grown socially because she can mingle with other women.

This is no surprise to CFCA's Kenya Project Director Janet Tinsley, who said group work was common in Africa before colonial times.

"The idea of group and communal work has been part of traditional African society for generations," Tinsley said.

The small-group model promotes the long-term stability of the family by putting control and decision-making in the hands of parents and giving families a social safety net.

"Distributing benefits is a temporary solution and can promote dependency," Tinsley said. "The small-group model provides women with the support of their peers and creates a space where they can work toward long-term self-sustainability."

That social safety net can make the difference between getting ahead and barely hanging on. Lillian Naka, the small-group coordinator for CFCA-Nairobi, said the benefits to group members are more than financial.

"Group members support one another in times of need," Naka said. "Members who used to argue have learned to resolve their differences. They have learned to cooperate toward a common goal and take charge of certain areas of the sponsorship program, such as letter writing."

CFCA-Nairobi now has more than 6,300 mothers and 230 fathers in small groups. Naka and other Nairobi staff members are helping the groups understand the goals of the Hope for a Family program and their responsibility toward their own success.

"We still have families with a mentality that they are poor and therefore totally dependent on CFCA benefits," Naka said.

Naka said the staff helps families understand CFCA is a grassroots organization that empowers families to build their future, rather than providing handouts.

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