Social Enterprises Change the Game for VAP in Kenya
In 2012, at a conference in Lyon, Enouce Ndeche, Founder & Executive Director of Vijana Amani Pamoja (VAP), attended a session on social enterprise development.
The session was delivered by Steve Fleming of Kick4Life, a fellow Common Goal community member organisation which had developed a series of successful hospitality social enterprises in Lesotho. Kick4Life’s restaurant and hotel were providing employment for young people, as well as generating income to support the financial sustainability of their Football for Good programmes.
For Enouce it was a lightbulb moment and he saw immediately that a similar approach could work for VAP, the organisation he had founded in 2008 to fight HIV/AIDS in Majengo, a slum district of Nairobi. From their first office, pictured below, in the following four years, VAP had grown significantly, reaching thousands of youth every year with health education and testing, as well as expanding their programming to provide holistic support including employability and entrepreneurship interventions designed to help young people work towards achieving sustainable livelihoods.
Despite these successes, and in common with many other NGOs, the biggest challenge for VAP remained funding and financial sustainability, with a competitive fundraising environment and the often short term nature of grants making it difficult and draining to maintain and grow the organisation’s impact. The workshop in Lyon showed Enouce, pictured below, how social enterprise could improve the situation, providing an opportunity to diversify their funding balance and to create a new and flexible income stream which could, at the same time, fulfil VAP’s mission to help young people escape the cycle of poverty.
When he returned from France, Enouce got to work, and when it was not being used for programme delivery, VAP started to rent out its various equipment, such as outdoor furniture, sports equipment, gazebos and audio systems. By 2016 they had raised enough capital to open M Food, a small restaurant and catering service located close to their office in Buru Buru, and it was soon generating a steady stream of income for the organisation. M Food was also providing paid employment to a team of three people as well as providing training opportunities for young people with pathways to permanent positions with various local restaurants, hotels and other hospitality providers throughout Nairobi and further afield.
With M Food successfully underway, Enouce and his team developed a vision for a centre which would be a dedicated facility used for both charitable operations and for further social enterprise activities, and over the next six years they put aside some of the income from M Food as well as fundraising towards making it a reality. By 2022 they had saved enough to buy some land on the outskirts of Nairobi and to begin the first phase of development of the ‘Youth Empowerment Centre’, which will include the following:
- Programme facilities including classrooms, a football pitch and a basketball court– safe spaces for health education and life-skills sessions and thematic sports tournaments.
- A health clinic providing youth-friendly services including voluntary counselling & testing for HIV, cervical cancer screening and referrals.
- A gender-based violence recovery centre – a safe haven for vulnerable young women including those at risk of gender-based violence, with access to vocational training courses for employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.
- A library and study space – offering a dedicated learning environment for young people to pursue their personal educational studies, with support and careers advice from trained tutors.
- Volunteer accommodation, providing a comfortable environment for short and long-term volunteers from around the world to visit Kenya and contribute to the work of VAP whilst being immersed in local culture.
- A vocational training centre, helping young people acquire technical skills and offering entrepreneurship training and support.
- M Food – the restaurant and catering service will also relocate to the centre.
Enouce says: “As well as providing an inspirational environment for delivering our work to young people, the centre will help us to operate more efficiently and will provide multiple opportunities for social enterprise. We can rent out the various spaces and sports facilities, run corporate retreats and expand M Food.”
Construction of the first phase of Youth Empowerment Centre is well underway, pictured below, with the team at VAP working hard to raise the remaining funds to complete the development.
Steve Fleming of Kick4Life, who runs the Common Goal-funded, Social Enterprise Assist (SEA) project, designed to support community members in launching their own social enterprises, says: “When I delivered the workshop in Lyon, before SEA formerly existed, but with the principles of sharing our work already in place, I did not imagine that someone would take the idea and run with it in quite the way that Enouce has. It has been incredible to learn about what Enouce and his team have achieved and to see how SEA can make such a long-term and positive impression on the sustainability of Football for Good organisations and their social impact. It gives us great confidence that the work we are doing at SEA now will bear similar fruits in the future.”
Over the coming year, Kick4Life and VAP will engage in a series of learning exchange activities to support the ongoing development of both organisations. This will include linking the respective hospitality teams, with the staff at Kick4Life’s No.7 Restaurant and Hokahanya Inn & Conference Centre, supporting M Food with the growth of their offerings and the transition to a new permanent site at the Youth Empowerment Centre.