Emmie and her sewing

MicroLoan enjoys acknowledging the amazing success stories of our clients who as a result of our loans and training, have gone on to set up their own businesses to support their families. Furthermore, we feel it is great to share the success stories and experiences of our many volunteers, supporters and staff across the world who have seen for themselves the impact their work has in Africa. Read on to learn more about how we really offer “a hand up, not a hand out.”

Emmie lives in a village 4km from Kasungu. Five times a week she makes the journey into town to attend a two hour sewing lesson at one of MicroLoan’s training centers. "When I can afford it, I take a peddle-bike taxi," she tells me during my visit to the center "but usually I walk."

Emmie is a determined woman. When I ask her what motivates are to keep making the long journey she begins telling me about her family.

"They are all proud of me, especially the girls."

"You have daughters?" I ask her.

"Grand-daughters!" she laughs back. "I want to be able to teach them to sew so that they can find success."

Emmie- The MicroLoan Foundation

The success of the women we help relies on this spirit of teaching. Emmie’s adult life has been a struggle: she has had no income since she lost her catering job in Lilongwe fourteen years ago and moved back north to live with family. However, if she can complete her course, she will be able to help the most vulnerable members of her family.

Emmie hopes to start a clothing business, sourcing her own materials and selling her clothes to nearby villages. When I ask if she’s going to start up a family business, she smiles broadly. "That would be an incredible thing! But first I have to finish my course."

The course is structured to cover eight areas: machine work, pattern work, actual sewing, cutting, design, sewing skills, ironing and business skills. Emmie is two months into the three month course and, as I watch her practising, I can see that she is clearly very comfortable on the machine. I ask her if she has sewn in the past: Only by hand, never with a machine. I did all the sewing for my family, but now I will have skills to teach them."

Skills are not everything, however. Once Emmie’s training is complete she will have access to a loan to spend on initial overheads. To prepare her for this transition, she will be taught business skills in the last two weeks of her course.

Many of the women at the training center already demonstrate an understanding of business. "I have to purchase my own loom," says Jin Ulalo, who is halfway through a weaving course, "I have a cheap source of materials, but without my own machine, it is not profitable."

Women like Jin and Emmie are already planning the details of their future businesses, finding applications for their skills even as they learn them. However, Jin is also aware that the MicroLoan Foundation can’t give her everything she needs: "A machine is expensive. I will get help but it won’t be enough. I have to find a way to save."

For Jin, saving is difficult. Like most of the villagers here, she relies on unstable forms of income, selling fish and tomatoes in an environment of fluctuating supply and demand. "I have moved to Kasungu to attend this course," says Jin. "I am lucky because I have a relative here. It was worth moving for the chance of owning a loom."

MicroLoan can’t do everything for women like Emmie and Jin, but their determination coupled with the opportunity MicroLoan is giving them means they are on track to create earnings not just for themselves, but for future generations.

If you would like to support a different approach to charity, and give more women like Emmie a hand up, not a hand out, please donate today. Thank you for your support.