Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saving Cash - So We Can Help Those In Need

I started this blog originally because of my interest in Africa, and my current work training African Union peace-keepers in West Africa. In the weeks and months that followed, the blog took a turn towards the world of frugality. Has it strayed from its initial mission? A bit maybe, but not entirely.

If you have read the blog from the beginning, you know that my husband and I moved to Senegal in 1997 as newlyweds for two years. Luckily, a chance meeting in a Paris airport introduced me to the amazing job I have now. I have been fortunate to return often to Senegal, where I usually have an afternoon to spend with two of my Senegalese friends, Ngone and Marie (pictured here on Goree Island).

Marie just called me two weeks ago. She hasn't had any full-time work in years, and in the last ten years, she's only had a few short-term jobs. Ecstatic, she was calling to let me know that she had been hired as a full-time housekeeper and cook for a Spanish man who works in the fishing industry. In a country where unemployment rates are around 50%, this was wonderful news. I have been helping the family financially over the last few years, as her eldest daughter is attempting to continue studies at a sort of private business school in Dakar. Her daughter's success at school and gainful employment in the future are like their social security, their retirement, their 401K.

Now that Marie has a job, she's searching for a job for our friend Ngone. Ngone lives with her husband's extended family where the cooking is done outside in the courtyard, they all share a common living room, and each family has private space in their 12x12 foot bedroom. It's not really a house; it's more like an enclosed compound which surrounds an open, common courtyard. Life is very hard for her. Her husband had been laid off for several months, and her 2-year old daughter died last October after being sick for a month. Their income is about $30 a month, which isn't even always enough to buy rice, an essential grain staple in their diet. Her dream is to save enough money to open her own small business someday.

These two friends opened up their hearts and homes to me and my family. One is Catholic and one is Muslim, but together we are family.

All that money I've been saving lately is maybe more like reimbursement for the Senegalese business school registration I paid in the fall, the three month's worth of rice that I sent to pay the local merchant who had given my friend rice on credit, or the money I have provided for childhood vaccinations for their children. We never earmarked the recent $2000 we saved for projects such as retirement funds, college education for the kids, or that 3-6 month's of living costs we're supposed to have on hand. Maybe somehow that money has been spent charitably along the way already, and that's something I don't mind.

If you want to give some money charitably this year, you could consider these organizations below. When I’m training the African Union soldiers, I actually pretend to be employees of these organizations in place like Darfur, Congo, or Cote d’Ivoire. I do role-plays with soldiers, to give them a chance to role-play various scenarios they’ll encounter when doing their peace-keeping.

CARE - Emergency relief, tackle the underlying causes of poverty, emphasis on women to promote social change

Medecins Sans Frontieres - (MSF) Doctors Without Borders - Emergency medical assistance to populations in danger

UN World Food Programme - (UNWFP) Fight against global hunger, save lives in refugee crises, improve nutrition and quality of life


Dr. Mom said...

Thanks for the information on the charities. Wow, it really makes you appreciate the life we have in the US compared to what other women deal with in their countries. Just curious, how much money is required to start a business?

Katy, Planet Perspectives said...

My friend Ngone said that she would need about $500, and her colleague would also need $500 to get started. I can certainly help her with some of it, but I want to make sure that there's some sort of business plan in place. It seems like such an incredibly hard time to start a business, when they are struggling to buy rice, but on the other hand, if the business is successful, it could lead to a great future. I will probably get to visit with her in Senegal in January, so I'll talk to her more about it then.