What you need to know:
- After he was appointed assistant chief, his seniors warned him that he was going to have it rough.
- This was because his area of jurisdiction was in the ‘most dangerous’ town of Murang’a County — Maragua.
- Just like that, members failing to raise hospital bills and burial budgets became a thing of the past.
- This mobilisation has rendered his work easier since he gets actionable information in real time.
When James Gachanja, 35, was employed as Rurago assistant chief in Maragua town four years ago, his first task was to assist relatives of a woman whose body had been detained at Murang’a Hospital mortuary for lack of discharge fees.
The woman was a casual labourer and her relatives could not raise the Sh12,000 required to release the body.
Mr Gachanja, a father of three, says the family further had a budget of Sh30,000 for burial but could not raise the money either.
“This was my first assignment,” says the community development diploma holder, now pursuing a degree in public administration.
After he was appointed assistant chief, his seniors warned him that he was going to have it rough since his area of jurisdiction was in the ‘most dangerous’ town of Murang’a County — Maragua.
Someone to make a difference
“Had they known that I grew up watching chang’aa and bhang being traded freely in my Mathare neighbourhood … that I knew how the gangs in the town operated, they would have rejoiced that at last, they had someone to make a difference,” he says.
But first, he had to help the deceased’s family clear the hospital bill before the burial. “Owing to her sickness, she was in arrears of five months’ rent amounting to Sh4,500. I organised a burial committee and we cleared rent and burial cost,” he says.
After the burial, Mr Gachanja sent out elders to register the financially weak into a community group that he named Maragua Hustlers Self Help Group and where every day, each was required to save Sh10. The members unanimously picked him as chairman with no term limit.
“Within a week, we had recruited 120 members contributing Sh36,000 a month. We set out our objectives as saving 75 per cent of it for investment and 25 per cent for welfare. This welfare was fixed at financing sickness and burials of our members,” he says.
Just like that, members failing to raise hospital bills and burial budgets became a thing of the past “as I also mobilised many to register for the National Hospital Insurance Fund”.
As the group steadily grew and stabilised financially, it was transformed into a savings and credit cooperative organisation named Maras Brilliant Sacco. Today, it has 105 members who have bought an acre of land and they are now saving to build rental houses.
The sacco offers zero-rated loans for extremely needy cases, low interest credit for emergencies like house rent and school fees, as well as asset financing.
According to Ms Esther Mbau, a member, their savings came in handy in the Covid-19 period.
“We were guaranteed house rent advances. None of our members so far has had any trouble with the landlord because our board of management met and communicated to us availability of rent loans that range from Sh800 to Sh2,500 at an interest rate of three per cent during the pandemic,” she told Nation.
And Ms Winnie Otieno, a casual worker at a nut processor says: "I became a member in August 2017. My Sh10 daily savings has enabled me improve my quality of life by accessing emergency loans to educate my daughter who is in Form Four now.”
The success story saw others scrambling to join three years later, but the entry fee was so high that Mr Gachanja formed a new group with similar structures — Maragua Aviation — which has also grown steadily to have 240 active members of which 70 per cent are single mothers.
He vows that by the time he retires in 2040, he will have at least 10 such groups with a membership of 5,000.
This mobilisation has rendered his work easier since he gets actionable information in real time, winning him the 2018 best administrator award in Murang’a South Sub-County in initiating arrests and recoveries.
Murang’a County Commissioner Mohammed Barre congratulated the administrator saying: “This is the kind of progressive service to our people that will make a difference and transform lives since I am made to understand that members can get cumulative loans of up to Sh100,000 and together they are worth a credit rating of Sh15 million.”
“I was greatly motivated by this coming together of purpose and I will encourage other officers to learn from this model of empowering people.”