Last week was a real rollercoaster for me. I had some serious ups and downs.
There was the usual internal bickering and politics and bureaucracy that makes me want to tear my hair out several times a week. Plus a bit of a bollocking which I feel was slightly undeserved, so that never puts one in a good mood.
Then we had an unexpected donor visit – we found out at 4pm on Wednesday that they were coming at 9am the next morning, so we had to scramble to come up with some activities we could take them around and see. Luckily we pulled it all together (on account of having such an awesome team) and they absolutely loved it, so we ended the day on a massive high.
However, at 5pm on Friday, my lovely colleague P made my day – no, he made my week.
He was running a small business training in the room next door to our office, a 2-day training event which I knew almost nothing about. At 4.55pm he came and asked me if I would come and do some closing remarks (for some reason it’s very popular over here to bring in someone else to open and close meetings and training events).
Anyway, I said sure, why not, but can you tell me what on earth the training is about so I can think of something relevant to say?
It turns out the training was for 23 women who have all been victims of gender-based violence. They were brave enough to leave their husbands to get away from the abuse, and were moved into a women’s shelter in Tacloban. There is plenty of NGO and Government support for them in terms of counselling and psycho-social services, but they are struggling to establish viable livelihoods on their own. Without husbands and family support, these women can’t earn enough on their own to move out of the shelter and support themselves.
So a group of them got together and decided to set up a food processing business making fishballs, squidballs, and other street foods that are very popular here. Our organisation happens to be working closely with several Gov departments on our livelihoods work, so the women approached us asking for livelihood support to start up their business.
We provided the women with some Community-Based Enterprise Development training, which includes helping them prepare a viable business plan, financial management training and clarify roles and responsibilities of the women in the group. We will provide them with some equipment and start-up capital to rent a space for their processing centre, WASH support to ensure water is clean and safe for food preparation, as well as training on good hygiene practices, and regular monitoring to see how they are doing. We will also link them with micro-finance institutions to get insurance for their business, and help register them with the Dept of Trade and Industries (DTI), and link them to the Dept of Science and Technologies (DOST) to get ongoing business support and training.
The women have already identified a great place they can rent, which needs some minor repairs, but is nice and big, and they proudly showed me a video tour of what will become their processing kitchen.
I was utterly blown away by how awesome this project is. Walking into that room, seeing those 23 smiling faces, buzzing with excitement for their business venture, was such an incredible experience. I don’t think I said much of value in my closing remarks, other than what a fantastic project it was, and how privileged we are to be able to support them in it.
In spite of all the drama of the week, I walked out of the office on Friday night on cloud nine. I won’t forget those happy faces for a long time, and they reminded why I’m here, and what I’m doing this for. For all the crappy days, internal politics, red tape and other frustrations that we all face every day, spending 5 minutes in that room with those 23 women was the best part of my week. Times a million.