August 31, 2010 | 12:58 PM
Who She Is: Ingrid Munro is the Founder and Managing Trustee of the Jamii Bora Trust, the largest Microfinance organization in Kenya. As a leader and advocate of microfinance in one of the poorest and most dangerous areas in Africa, she has provided a way out of poverty for nearly 250,000 people.
Why We Love Her: After working in housing research for the government in her homeland of Sweden, Ms. Munro became the head of the African Housing Fund. She had become close to Kenya on a personal level when she and her husband adopted 3 boys from the slums outside of Nairobi. When she retired in 1999, determined to help the community where her sons were born, Ms. Munro started Jamii Bora to help the poor of the Nairobi slums find legitimate work through microfinance. In just eight years Jamii Bora, which means “Good Families”, has increased its membership from 50 to 250,000 men and women.
What makes the work Jamii Bora does so unique is that it helps everyone in the slums including disabled beggars, former gang members, and victims suffering from HIV/AIDS. “Mother Ingrid” as she is called by many of the people she has helped in the slum, saw an opportunity to create a community free of these problems by extending a hand up to anyone who would take it. “I think one of the secrets is not normal banking rules but in Jamii Bora is we love everybody.” Explains Munro, “It doesn’t matter where you come from it just matters where you want to go in life.”
Among the many moving success stories is a notorious gang leader who, under the guidance of Jamii Bora, renounced his criminal ways, opened a legitimate business and made amends with his mother, who he had not seen in thirteen years. He now spends much of his time mentoring youth to stay away from the violent street life he once lived. You can view several additional success stories by clicking here.
In addition to loans, Jamii Bora also offers health insurance, business school, a housing program, the “Levuka” substance rehabilitation program, and the “Tumaini” program for street beggars, plantation workers, and the handicapped. They have laid plans for a new town outside the slums called Kaputiei which will give 10,000 people currently living in the slum the chance to have a real home with bathrooms, running water and electricity.
Quote: “When they become members of Jamii Bora we give them access to a ladder. By being a member of Jamii Bora they can get access to that ladder and they should use it to climb out of poverty. But we also make it clear to them that while we provide the ladder; the climbing will have to do themselves.”
Please make sure to check out this short two part documentary video on Jamii Bora.
Link to Part 1
Link to Part 2
Link to Coverage of Kaputei Town project