A blur of inconspicuous villages hug the main road as I make my way by matatu bus to Tezo, a small village on the coast of Kenya. Already from outside I can smell the sweet fragrance of freshly baked scones.
As I enter the Fondo compound, a petite woman with a gentle smile greets me with a warm embrace, one of those usually set aside for old friends. Her husband, Albert, does the same. I feel instantly at home. A community within a community, the Fondo’s residence could be a small neighborhood, for their compound is made up of several houses, a nursery school, and a newly built kitchen. Generations upon generations live here.
The Fondo family compound
I happily accept a tour around the Fondo neighborhood, our first stop being the nursery school. The school began in 2012 with no more than two students, one chalkboard, and a piece of wood sitting atop a couple of rocks acting as a bench.
The nursery school, October 2012
After only a few months, this school of two quickly grew to thirty-one, and today has well over seventy students. Being former teachers, it seemed a natural progression for Joyce and Albert to offer a place of education to the community of Tezo. HIV/AIDS has caused many children in Tezo to become orphans, leaving them with few or no educational options. Most of the student body consists of orphans, and the Fondo’s school provides them with new beginnings and opportunities.
Nursery school students with Joyce and Peace Corps Volunteer Jennifer Grimm, October 2013
In addition to teaching at the nursery school, Joyce and her husband also volunteer as Community Health Workers, as part of a program in Kenya that brings health education and basic clinical services to rural villages. In this position, the two of them serve as front-line medical contacts for twenty families, whom they teach how to live a healthy life while administering vaccinations and preventative treatments to children to protect them from diseases like polio or tetanus.
But of course, volunteers also need to make a living. Joyce and Albert therefore run a bakery. In order to acquire more information about how to increase its profitability, they attended a business class that was held by SCOPE, a community development organization. That is how Joyce got to know Jennifer Grimm, a US Peace Corps Volunteer who had been helping local residents access Zidisha loans.
At the time, Joyce was using a simple pot heated with coconut husks to bake bread, only allowing one roll to be made at a time. In speaking with Jennifer, Joyce realized that she could use a loan to purchase a commercial oven made by a local craftsman.
Joyce holding the coconut husks she used to bake bread one roll at a time
Joyce raised her first Zidisha loan of $484 in September 2012 and used it to purchase the oven – increasing her production capacity dramatically. The new oven allowed her to bake up to 100 rolls at a time! She hired employees to produce rolls in large volume to satisfy the demand of customers in Tezo and the nearby town of Kilifi.
The new oven
Fresh rolls waiting to be baked
Joyce repaid her first loan and raised another, of $813, in November 2013. This time she used the capital to install electricity in the bakery to enable production before sunrise, and to add windows to improve the air quality in her baking room. She also used a part of the loan funds to purchase a wooden cart. With the cart, Joyce’s son can sell scones and also juices at the local market.
Joyce serving fresh rolls to a friend
A year and a half after joining Zidisha, Joyce enjoys a dramatically higher income thanks to the increased production and distribution capacity that resulted from the oven, electricity installation and delivery cart purchase. She uses the revenues to pay for her grandson to attend a quality secondary school, in addition to supporting herself and her husband while they carry out their volunteer work as teachers and health workers. “Zidisha has helped me so far,” Joyce said. “Now I have a stable income.”
The love and cohesion of Joyce’s family and their contribution to the community is incredible. I wish them all the best!
This article is based on blog posts by volunteer Kenya Client Relationship Managers Traci Yoshiyama and Theresa Schneider. You may view more comments and photos at Joyce’s Zidisha loan profile page.