Community-run microfinance groups proven in sustainable health efforts

In an effort to help improve income security in western Kenya, AMPATH developed a community-run microfinance model called Group Integrated Savings for Empowerment (GISE). A GISE group consists of 10-20 community members that meet every two weeks, usually at a member's home or a common area such as the village tin-roof church. A community-elected committee collects weekly contributions from each GISE member (pictured right) and tallies the total permissible to allocate for loans requested by the members so they can start entrepreneurial endeavors. The loans are paid back with interest and at the end of the yearly cycle that interest is divided among the members and the cycle starts anew. Throughout this process, the group members are able to learn about savings, management, self-organization, elections practices, and decision-making skills.

On December 18, the Bunyala area in western Kenya, which includes Port Victoria and Mukhobola, will celebrate the success of their GISE groups. The Bunyala area has proven to be AMPATH's best model for the GISE's long-term sustainability initiative. Just a few years ago, Bunyala started with four groups which now has grown to 110 groups (there are more than 400 groups in the total AMPATH catchment area). Last year, the Bunyala GISE groups further leveraged their investing power by coming together in a single Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization (SACCO) and registered as Pamoja GISE SACCO. Through their diverse membership, this SACCO demonstrates the strength of patients integrating with non-patients into a single community organization. Their diverse makeup includes 500 AMPATH patients, 600 caregivers in AMPATH's Orphans and Vulnerable Children program, 400 members of AMPATH’s maternal and child health groups, and 1,500 non-patient members of the Bunyala community. Hongera (congratulations) Pamoja GISE SACCO!