Kenya, as you may have heard, is a beautiful country full of many contrasts. It has a beautiful tropical coastline, a 17,057 ft. tall mountain, lush farmland, dry wasteland, modern cities and primitive villages. For many years, the rich and poor have lived together in this land. Recently there has been an increase in the middle class, but the growth of the middle class is still somewhat slow. Kenya has had a lot of development over the years, yet there is more needed. Not all of the development that Kenya has seen in the past has been completely helpful. As in many countries, there is a big need for conscious, sustainable development which comes through the form of empowerment. Thank you for partnering with us in prayer as we strive to be an organization which works toward sustainable development in Kenya, development which is a result of people’s changed mindset.
Many times we think that we are born either smart or slow, rich or poor. However this type of fixed mindset only keeps us where we are and makes us afraid to try new things. If we are in a less than ideal situation, we lack the confidence to try to improve our situation. If we are in a good situation yet have a fixed mindset, we will still be afraid to try new things because we will be afraid we will fail. We need to strive for what Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset” in her book entitled Mindset. People with a growth mindset believe that they can learn and grow, and they are the people who overcome obstacles and make a difference in their world. At Open Hands, we wish to show people that they have been given something by God, and even if it is small, when stewarded properly it can be used to do something big. Recently I was told the story of a woman in Kenya who at an old age went and worked in the field one day and received $2. With this money she purchased some bananas. She sold the bananas for a profit and purchased a chicken. After selling the chicken she bought a goat. The goats eventually enabled her to purchase a cow. Now she has four cows and is planning to sell some of them in order to buy land. Land is a very sought after and expensive asset here in Kenya. This is a great example of what can take place when people with the “growth mindset” steward what God has given them.
In Kenya, when people are presented with the idea of starting a savings group, many times they are interested and agree that such a group could be helpful. However in order to join a group, they need to cross the hurdle of needing to give something, rather than receive something. Instead of receiving a handout, they must give some time, some resources, and submit to a group. The rewards of being in a savings group are not immediate, but come over time in the form of being able to access loans from the group and receiving their savings back with interest at the end of the cycle. They also benefit from biblically-based teaching that is done at group meetings. Additionally, they are a part of the mission of the group and this gives them more accountability to help them steward their money wisely as they work toward goals. After they have been in a savings group for some time, they are able to recognize these rewards and their enthusiasm can grow.
There is a savings group based in the town of Nakuru that has been working together since 2013. Instead of receiving their money back at the end of their savings cycle, they are leaving their shares in the group in order to continue saving to buy land. Most of the members of this group are faced with the burden of renting houses in town, and they don’t have space for farming. Together they would like to purchase land to farm, and eventually divide it and build homes in order to avoid the strain of paying rent each month. This is another example of people with a growth mindset, people who believe that something that is difficult is actually possible, and this belief has moved them into action. They have no illusion that their goal will be quick and easy, but they are faithful as they continue to take small steps in the direction of their mission. People in Kenya are resilient, intelligent and hard working. They are able to accomplish much with the help of God. Our goal at Open Hands is to be a part of the hands and feet of God as we empower people to see the great things that they can accomplish to develop their country as God’s stewards.