Yenku Sesay: From Survival to Success
Trip Start Feb 29, 2008
45Trip End Ongoing
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Yenku Sesay very nearly didn't survive May 6, 1998. On that day a rebel army, led by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), invaded his village of Kondembaya in northern Sierra Leone, and cut off the hands of many of the villagers, including his own.
Many of the victims did not survive this horrific act, but Yenku's father used the family savings to hire a motorbike to take Yenku for treatment in a hospital hours away in the country's capital city, Freetown.
Though Yenku eventually recovered from the physical wounds, his life was destroyed. He was incapable of taking care of himself and eventually resorted to begging in the streets of Sierra Leone. At about 21 years old, Yenku's daily life had been reduced to asking for handouts, with little hope of change, little chance for something better.
Yenku would still be begging today, had he not been approached by Salone Microfinance Trust (SMT), in 2006, about taking out a group loan with four other local borrowers. No other institutions were even willing to consider Yenku for credit because of his amputee status. However, through lengthy discussions with Yenku, SMT saw in Yenku natural business skills and a drive to be self-reliant. He was approved for 300,000 Leones from SMT, the equivalent of approximately $100 USD.
Yenku used this money to develop a modest retail business. At first the business was no more than Yenku selling small items in the street, such as packaged biscuits, soaps, and other sundries. Over the past two years, by reinvesting the profits and building his credit with SMT, Yenku's business has grown to become a small shop selling an assortment of clothing, shoes, drinks, and other packaged food products.
Yenku dedicated himself to his business, and every month he made his repayments on time and often early. With the profits from his retail business, Yenku has recently expanded into livestock and agriculture. The result is that Yenku is now self-reliant. Instead of being a burden to his family or the community, Yenku has become a provider. He is able to support his family. He can feed and clothe his three children. He sends both of his school-age children to primary school, and he even pays for his younger brother's education.
I see the sense of pride in Yenku's smile. From raising a family, to relearning everyday tasks as a double amputee, Yenku is rebuilding his life. And the most critical tool for Yenku has been the microloan that SMT offered him in 2006.
(Continue reading at Huffington Post)