A Wonderful Life

karanja

By Tracy Yoshiyama and Kerry Tiedeman, Kenya Ambassador Volunteers

Thousands of non-profit organizations make their way to developing countries and the many you do see are founded by foreigners, often times not shedding light on the good work being done by the people of that country. Without a doubt, they are there, strong-willed and determined to do what it takes to make a difference. One such individual is David Karanja, father, husband, pastor, founder and CEO of Tumaini Fund for Economic Development International, and now a member of Zidisha.

Pastor Karanja, or Dave as he likes to be called, has come a long way from the life he used to live. He grew up in western Kenya and during his younger years he made ends meet by conning people. Dave actually wound up in jail three times. He turned it all around though when he met his now wife in 2002. His is a story of redemption and transformation.

I met Dave at the church where he now works and also where he married his wife back in 2002. There he volunteers as the leader of a nonprofit organization he founded, called Tumaini.  Dave began Tumaini after working various jobs years after first moving to Nairobi.

When Dave married he was a house husband for some time, cleaning and washing. He then met a man who offered him a job to deliver gas for a promised 180KES per day, roughly 2 dollars per day. He worked for six months expecting to be paid, and in the end his boss only gave him a canister of gas. After this disappointment, he began working for a microfinance bank taking care of the customers. This appeared to be working out fine, until his boss at the company was taken away to jail for stealing the clients’ money. Dave felt he couldn’t catch a break.

At the time he was teaching Bible study at the church, when the accountant at the theological institution where his wife works approached him to begin a nonprofit, because he saw Dave’s ability to mobilize people. Thus Tumaini (Swahili for “hope”) began, with a group of five women and a revolving fund. David provided business training, counseling, and marketing opportunities to support their businesses. Since then, five hundred members, spanning across Kenya, have joined the Tumaini family, bringing David’s vision to life.

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Tumaini offers training along with savings and loan services, in which members compile their resources and then receive loans when they meet weekly.  Tumaini also focuses on assisting HIV-positive clients, with many of their loan recipients being such people. Dave says this has been especially great to see, as being trusted with a loan is such a strong sign to these clients that HIV/AIDS is not an immediate death sentence and contributes to reducing some of the stigma HIV-positive people face in Kenya.

Dave loves this volunteer work and he is there five days week.  In order to earn a living, he used Zidisha loan funds to purchase a car and hired a man to provide taxi services with the car. Thus it was thanks to the Zidisha lenders Dave was able to afford his source of income while volunteering the bulk of his time.

Dave’s only child, Paul, recently celebrated his ninth birthday.  He is studying hard in Standard 3 and wants to go to university one day and become a pilot.  Dave would like to use future Zidisha loans to purchase another taxi car to further help him support his work with Tumaini and generate additional savings for Paul’s high school and university education.

Besides his work at Tumaini, Dave is a volunteer preacher at a nearby slum, where he often offers the local kids and community free meals and assistance.  He also has a permit to preach in Kenyan prisons and makes prison visits in various parts of the country several times per year.  Meeting Dave and spending some time with him, it is obvious he is very generous. This is a man who has turned his life around and made himself indispensable and loved by those around him.

To learn more about Tumaini, visit http://www.tumainifund.org/.

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