By Betsy Ramser Jaime
‘My name is John Okoth. I’m a fatal orphan with no mother, father, sister or a brother, I just stand alone. My mum and dad left me while I was only 4 months old. My grandmother was the one who took care of me. Unfortunately she also passed away.’
With such a rough start at life, it would be easy to assume that John continued to struggle throughout his early adulthood, holding a grudge against the unfair cards that were dealt to him. However, that could not be further from the truth. In fact, he shares, ‘When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide will turn.’
So, how did John the orphan grow up into John the wise truth teller? After his grandmother passed away he went to live with his aunt where he started his education in Eldoret town. He attended Obambo primary school in 2002 and finished his class 8 in 2008. After that, he joined Chianda boys high school in 2009, unfortunately, he had to drop out as he didn’t have a way to pay the required school fees.
Shortly after, John went to live with his aunt in Nairobi. However, after two months, his aunt’s husband chased him out of the house. Luckily for John, opportunity was just around the corner. In January 2011, his friends father agreed to employ him as a home cleaner. After 3 months, he was able to save enough money to quit that job and start selling mtumba clothes. As if that didn’t keep him busy enough, he also enrolled in a computer training course. After finishing the computer training in 2012, he acquired a job at Josflo Supermarket as a cashier. After proving to be a great employee he was promoted to a management and accounting role to work with the suppliers.
Currently, John continues to work in the supermarket and also has a mini shop on the side selling mtumba clothes. Since he is so busy in his day job, he is able to employ his best friend to run the clothing shop for him. Each of his Zidisha funded loans has helped him to continue to grow his shop and increase his inventory.
He shares, ‘Life is full of many challenges but we have not to give up on whatever we are doing no matter how it is, we never know about tomorrow.’
So far, John has raised 5 Zidisha funded loans ranging from $3 all the way up to $693. His first two loans in July and August of 2017 were used to cover travel expenses as he needed to purchase raw materials in his business. Shortly after, his third loan of $10 in September and his fourth loan of $298 were put towards purchasing stock for his shop. He knew that this would allow him to sell to more customers and also to expand his shop over time.
By January of 2018, John was in need of a fifth loan of $693 from Zidisha lenders. One of the amazing things about the Zidisha community and lenders is that they are able to help borrowers when they really need it the most. This loan allowed John to both meet his business needs of restocking his shop and to assist personally as well. In terms of his business, this loan allowed him to replace his crushed smartphone so that he could reach his Zidisha account via phone rather than searching for a cyber cafe.
In addition, on a personal level, he also used $168 of the loan to pay his cousins school fees for two terms. His cousin had lost both of her parents as the result of a road accident and as her guardian, John felt that it was important to be able to keep her in school.
In February 2018, John gladly shared this message with his lenders, ‘I do not have enough words to express my gratitude in you my lenders. For now, I want to tell you a heartfelt thank you! Never stop learning because life will never stop teaching. It means that you are never going to be the most wise person in the world because life can discover anything anytime.’
Today, John is also engaged and shares that he is ready for marriage, relaying this final message to his lenders:
‘Thank you Zidisha for your support, because with you, I know I can do more in my life.’
Would you like to be the change maker for other encouraging entrepreneurs? Don’t forget to head over to our Lend page to read their stories!