In 1993, a handful of pastors gathered together to dream.
Witnessing the poverty in their community of Limuru, Kenya, they dreamt of a way to serve the poor among them.
Their dream started small with the founding of Grafco—a church-based savings and lending group
But in their early years, Grafco faced many challenges including savings group management, loan repayment, and establishing an institution that was partnered with the church, yet independent from it.
After years of navigating these challenges on their own, the pastors realized they needed a likeminded partner; they needed support and guidance if Grafco was to embody their dream and become a force for good in their community.
Joining the Partners Worldwide Network
The pastors were close to shutting Grafco down when they found a partner in Partners Worldwide. In 2006, they joined our network—eager to turn things around and learn from other experienced institutions across the world.
As Partners Worldwide staff began working with Grafco, we also connected them with Chess (our longest-standing partner in Kenya) as well as a volunteer Business Affiliate team.
Together we came alongside Grafco, providing mentoring, coaching, and guidance on topics ranging from loan repayment to policy development.
With renewed confidence, improved management, and loyal mentors by their side, Grafco registered as a savings and credit co-op (SACCO) in 2011.
Today Grafco serves over 4,000 businesses each year with access to capital, business training, mentoring, and advocacy tools.
As Nicholas, the Grafco Chairman put it, “Partners Worldwide and our mentors have ensured we are out of the pit. We are now confident of where we are going.”
Local Mentoring in Action
Years later our newest LCI in Kenya, Thika Community Development Trust (now Talent SACCO), is facing similar challenges Grafco once did. While struggling with management issues and repayment rates, Talent is also undergoing the same transition Grafco went through as they shift from a church-based trust to a fully independent SACCO.
Remembering when they were a struggling institution themselves, Grafco felt compelled to help Talent succeed and signed on to become their mentor—serving as a local Business Affiliate.
For the past eight months, Grafco’s leaders have met regularly with Talent’s team. Walking side by side, both Grafco and Talent are encouraged and strengthened as they pursue the shared goal of ending poverty in Kenya.
Grafco and Talent Board Members
Building Local Capacity
Volunteer Business Affiliate teams mentor our partners like Talent SACCO and the entrepreneurs they work with. Historically these teams have been from North America, however local mentorship has increased significantly the past few years.
Last year alone we saw an 81% increase in local mentors, with 976 volunteers now serving in their own communities.
We are ecstatic to see our vision of local institutions leading the change in their communities coming to fruition. The mentoring model Grafco and Talent have pioneered inspires us to continue investing long-term in local leaders.
Over the past twenty years of partnering with local institutions around the world, we have found the words of Helen Keller to be true: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Grafco started over 20 years ago as a small dream, yet with mentoring and support has matured into a strong institution that is now able to mentor others. Through partnership and local initiative, we believe even the smallest of dreams have the ability to change the world.