BLOG – Balloon Kenya: Hope and Vision

In a packed alley that running parallel with Nakuru’s High Street you will find an army of young entrepreneurs. You can find shoes, photocopiers, second hand clothes, tailors and fruit salad sellers in this tightly packed row. Small talk of the English Premier League can be heard, with the different sellers challenging one and other about their favourite team. All of the members in Kenyatta Line are members  of the Best Run Youth Society in Kenya, Hope and Vision Youth Sacco, Balloon Kenya’s partner.

The six founding members were all refused loans and in 2003 decided to start a co-operative, with each of the founders contributing 1,000 KSH (£7.50) a month to their fund. As the number of members increased, as did the funding pot, with loans given on trust and character.

Now in 2013 the group has over 140 members from across Nakuru from varying diciplines. With a repayment rate of 97% the Sacco has proved to be a great success.

Mostly aged between 20 and 30 the members pay a 2,600 KSH (£19.50) joining fee and follow this up with a 1,500 KSH contribution per month to the Hope and Vision Pot. They offer 10 different loan products and are currently looking into home and health insurance packages for their members. Members are charged much lower interest rates than those offered by banks and micro-financing companies.

Balloon Kenya joined forces with Hope and Vision in 2011. Hope and Vision vet the groups before the fellows arrive and provide ongoing support after the Balloon Kenya team has departed.

The community spirit from the group is evident, with members watching each others stalls whilst they attend our training sessions and long may this continue.

BLOG – Balloon Kenya: One Hell of a Journey

Wednesday’s fire at Nairobi’s airport meant that the tents that they had erected were only able to cope with a small proportion of its normal schedule. This meant that the Balloon Kenya Fellows were sent to various airports across East Africa.

The night before Christmas was the only way to describe the amount of sleep I got prior to travelling to the airport – none. In all fairness it wouldn’t of been a great night’s sleep bearing in mind my alarm was set for 01:45 in order to catch my flight from Heathrow at 06:50.

The first flight left slightly late and was bound for Brussels, a 2 hour wait then saw us join a connection to Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. The flight was again delayed and was sat on the concourse for an hour longer than it should of meaning that we arrived in Uganda’s at gone midnight.

Our first night was spent in a lodge on the shore of Lake Victoria, near Entebbe. We arrived at the hotel at just after 01:00 and were told that an evening meal had been prepared. After eating we got to bed around 02:00 and set an alarm for 04:15 for breakfast before leaving for Kenya by coach at 05:00.

An entourage of 5 coaches were outside the hotel for the 10 hour journey to Nairobi – so we were told. We knew that Nairobi was 3 hours from Nakuru and thought that the journey would take around 7 hours to travel. Having only just crossed the Kenyan border after 7 hours we thought that it might take longer than we were told and arrived at the hotel at gone 21:00.

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However the bubble of the coach allowed me to witness the beauty of both Uganda and Kenya. Uganda notably has better roads for example. I’ll never forget watch the silhouettes of fisherman head out over Lake Victoria on a misty sunrise, it was beautiful!

We passed through Kampala, the capital of Uganda and it couldn’t be compared to our capital. I took note of different things on my journey and I’ll share them with you:

  • Shacks selling everything from bike parts to bananas to toilets, bed frames and coffins line the majority of the roads
  • Packed streets at 7am – Kampala was full of bikes, motorbikes, tuk-tuks and cars
  • A cow on a petrol forecourt
  • Motorbikes with up to 4/5 people on them (some children)
  • A Leicester City shirt in the small Kenyan town of Bungoma
  • People with AK47’s wearing high-vis acting as traffic lights at roadwork’s holding green and red flags

I’ve only been here three days, but I’m loving it!

BLOG – Balloon Kenya: Hello Uganda!

As you will of probably been aware, yesterday morning Nairobi Airport suffered a major fire in its Arrivals Hall and flight are now bring sent all over East Africa.

Going into my business mode (thanks Bosch for honing this talent) I assessed all the possibilities and spoke to all the different stake holders to assess my options and kept cool.

Initially I spoke with my airline who would not allow me to check into my flight from Brussels to Nairobi as they were unsure of whether or not the flight would be going. A later call confirmed that the flight had been cancelled and that I would have to talk to my travel provider. After talking to numerous people I am now flying from London to Brussels at 06:50 tomorrow, Brussels to Entebbe in Uganda, landing at 11pm, spending a few hours in a hotel before a 5am bus to Nairobi that will take 10 hours.

I instantly googled Entebbe’s location (I didn’t have a clue where it was) and I have noticed the Nakuru (home of Balloon Kenya) is on route to Nairobi, so I hope they will be able to drop me off there! Otherwise the journey will have an extra 6/7 hours added to it as Nairobi is 3 hours past Nakuru.

I tried contacting the Ugandan High Commission when I got home just after 16:00 to find they close at 16:00 and at 16:03 nobody answered. Hopefully they’ll of taken the diversion into account in regards to the visa.

Entebbe’s Airport is on the tip of Lake Victoria so hopefully I’ll get some decent pictures!

Top marks to the Balloon Kenya team who had everything in place for our arrivals in Nairobi, but they have been great help with their contingency planning!

A family BBQ to enjoy and then an early start for Heathrow!

BLOG – Balloon Kenya: The Final Countdown

Not a rendition of Europe’s hit from 1986, don’t worry!

3 more sleeps – makes me sound like an excited child counting down for Christmas! 4 if you include Thursday, but with a flight from Heathrow at 06:50 I doubt I’ll get much sleep.

I’ll be taking the 06:50 from Heathrow to Brussels and then taking a flight south to Africa, stopping briefly in Kigali, Rwanda before hoping over Lake Victoria and into Nairobi. There will be nine ‘fellows’ from my project on my flight, so its nice to know that the 14 hour journey will not be taken alone. Our Facebook conversations have been exuberating excitement and it seems as if they are going to be a great bunch to work with.

My playlist for my flight is under construction, with Tinie Tempah’s Trampoline being added yesterday  – I’m sure this will be a huge summer anthem. If anyone has any further suggestions drop me a message! Maybe something that’ll get me into a Kenyan vibe.

I was fortunate to be sponsored by my local Rotary Club (1070 Soar Valley) who have set up their own page for their Rotarians to follow my progress: http://www.rotary-ribi.org/clubs/page.php?PgID=387283&ClubID=448. Their current President Graham has been a great help with not only the funding but offering words of advice to working with different cultures. Over the past few weeks we have been trying to make contact with the Rotary Club in Nakuru and last week we made a link and I have been invited to look at their projects in the community.

As a proud Carlisle United supporter I was interested in looking at the Kenyan football system. After a few tweets (@djgarlick) I have made contact with the CEO of Nakuru Allstars, who play in the second tier of Kenyan football. I have been invited to watch their lads train and watch them play in the league, with a promise of one of their shirts. I’m excited to meet with them and discuss their squad development and their plans for the future.

Nakuru Allstars

 

Hopefully I shall be able to catch one of the Directors of Rockstar Youth this week, as we keep missing each others calls. Rockstar are the largest mentoring and funding organisation for young entrepreneurs in the UK and I know that their Director has worked in Africa. It’ll be good to talk to him about Balloon Kenya and also the plans for Sheffield Business School’s Enterprise Society, which I’ll be on the committee for next year.

Finally an e-mail from the Head of Business at University wants me to share the experience with the Business School and to the new students starting in September ‘to show what you can do when you put your mind to it!’.

My next post will probably be from a few thousand miles away.

Strap in! I’m sure it’ll be a bumpy journey from Nairobi to Nakuru!