Lessons From The Blue Sweater

I will start this post by Quoting Jacqueline Novogratz’s paragraph on the last chapter of ‘The Blue sweater’ Novel. which says,

‘Traditional Charity alone can’t solve the problems of poverty, what is needed is a philosophy based on human dignity. We can end poverty if we start by looking at human beings as part of a single global community that recognizes that everyone deserves a chance to build a life worth living’.

This Blog is meant to outline what I have learnt from reading Jacqueline’s The Blue Sweater Novel, what I now strongly believe that those who bring aid to Africa should put to consideration, by outlining examples from the novel on how Jacqueline came to understand the depth of poverty in Africa and new methods to approach it.

She writes that the answers to poverty lies in the space between Market and Charity.

Sometimes aid, is much more helpful when it comes in a way of supporting profit making initiatives that look to uplift the lives of the poor families that live in informal settlements and marginalized areas.

‘Today’s world needs more than humanitarians, we need individuals who know how to listen and who have real and tangible skills to share. There’s a reason to believe that people everywhere can lift themselves up, but they have to be given the tools to do so.

When Jacqueline met Eliarehemu, a man who lived in a tiny village known as Usa River, In Tanzania, He was a man pron to Malaria attack. which affected his work in the nearby fields where he earned $6 a month.

Eliarehemu had gratitude and Joy despite how little he earned and a gift of a bed net changed his life. ‘he was happy to have the bed net even though he had no bed to tuck it to’.

Three years later when Jacqueline came back to see him, Eliarehemu was healthy and Malaria-free, working hard enough to feed himself and earn some money that even enabled him to study at a nearby church.

He had a mattress and sheets and for the first time the net could be tucked underneath the mattress.

In Rwanda where Jacqueline picked up, she realised that a financial institution focused on poor women was needed. and over the time after meeting local women like Honorata and Veronique, with the help of Rwanda’s only three women parliamentarians at the time that is Agnes, Prudence and Constance, they started Duterimbere, an organisation dedicated to lending to poor women with extremely low income levels.

Years later, after the genocide, Duterimbere grew to be a micro-finance bank having so much impact on many lives, helping women borrowers re-create their lives. one such woman was Charlotte, whose business started with just 4 litresof milk, after she and her daughter survived starvation by eating grass around the house they had taken refuge in.

Now with a great desire to build a business that actually created jobs for the poor people, Jacqueline met Prisca and her group that included Marie-Rose, Gaudence, Josepha, Immaculata and Consolata. together they expanded a small baked-goods project into a thriving bakery popularly known as the blue bakery which Gaudence thought should have been green.

The story of the bakery was a human transformation story that came with being seen, being held accountable and succeeding, to use Jacqueline’s words. Coming back later after the genocide, Jacqueline found a ugandan refugee living in the building that once housed the blue bakery.

Being the founding member of the Acumen Fund, Jacqueline also helped in supporting focused individuals such as Tralance, whose relatively new company at the time, that’s WHI, was selling clean affordable water to poor villages such as Vijayawada, in India. A poultry farmer explained to Jacqueline that he purchased averagely 10 containers a day to feed his chicken that were 7000 in number at the time from an earlier number of 5000 he’d been raising before.

Jacqueline aslo worked in Nairobi, Kenya and even rented a house here back then, she together with Mary Koinange from the Local Authority worked in reviewing a number of Women groups programs. she also speaks of meeting beatrice, a member of Jamii Bora. who, with the help of a friend saved enough to get a loan from Jamii Bora that helped her start a french fries business which expanded into her owning a water kiosk, a butcher and a hair salon.

Charity is good, but how can it be used to have a larger positive impact on people’s lives with the long term goal of reducing poverty levels, through social entrepreneurship just like Jacqueline did.

all this can only be summarized in the last sentence from Jacqueline’s great novel, ‘ We have only one world for all of us on earth, and the future really is ours to create, in a world we dare to imagine together’.

– (Inspired by ‘The Blue Sweater, Bridging the gap between rich and poor in an interconnected world’  A novel by Jacqueline Novogratz)

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