11 February 2016 – What a wonderful day. Finally after so many months of planning, meetings, visits to villages, we had a special Giving ceremony with our first eight women ‘village entrepreneurs’.
I have no doubt that this is the easiest part of the project, because now we have to make sure that all their plans to achieve financial independence are going to happen.
These are not grand corporate ideas, these are small but really significant plans that are going to make a difference. One woman is buying a sewing machine so she can start making clothes for the local market and also do alterations. Another woman is buying supplies so that she can pot plants from her flower bed and sell them at the market.
It may be hard to understand, but these women are unable to raise enough money to buy even the most basic items. Their lives can be unbelievably hard and yet they have such beautiful dignity.
So it was quite a challenge in the beginning to make sure everyone clearly understood the aim of the Mia Fratino Foundation. Most people are used to the idea that charities will simply hand out ‘free money’. So I needed to explain many times that the Foundation was following the old ‘Fishing’ truism – ‘give a woman a fish and she eats for a day, teach her how to fish and she eats for a lifetime’. We really want to break the cycle of handouts which only solve short term problems.
So we made sure that each woman really thought through her plan and that it was realistic and achievable because we want them to succeed and become fabulous role models for other women. We hope that within 6 months we will have a second group of ‘entrepreneurs’ ready to start.
But for now the hard work begins to make sure we all learn ‘how to fish…