BOMA mentor Basili Lonyait meets with women entrepreneurs to talk about the dangers of COVID-19, and demonstrate proper handwashing techniques.

When Basili Lonyait was completing his Diploma in Community Development, he heard the women in the town talking about BOMA. His curiosity was piqued. A few years after graduating from college, he saw a job advertisement for the BOMA Project, and decided to join the team.

Today, Basili is helping women entrepreneurs navigate the challenging times brought upon by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this conversation, Basili speaks about why he feels motivated working for the BOMA Project and how he’s helping BOMA participants cope with the restrictions brought about by social distancing.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m from a village called South Horr on the border between Sambaru and Marsabit counties. My family took me to church from a young age. I began to work at the church volunteer group. I helped women whose mother tongue wasn’t Swahili to access financial services. So, I guess from a young age, I wanted to do something where I could be involved with my community.

After graduating from my Diploma, I worked for the International Medical Corps in a variety of roles. At the completion of my tenure, I joined the BOMA team.

Can you speak a little about your mentoring at BOMA?

At BOMA, I mentor women who are part of business and savings groups. Business groups typically consist of three women starting a business. Savings groups consist of several business groups that are geared to helping women save. Women can borrow from the savings groups in times of need and pay the money back with a small interest.

As a mentor I help ensure that the savings groups maintain liquidity, while ensuring that women who need money can access them. For example, we find that a lot of women need access to funds in January when they have to enroll their kids in school. A big part of my job is to help women gain the skills so that they are able to manage their money wisely, and plan for the future.

How are you working with BOMA’s participants following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Way back in February, even before the coronavirus had begun to disrupt life in countries like America and Italy, the BOMA staff was conducting hygiene trainings in Samburu county. I met with our participants and spoke to them about the proper way to wash hands, in addition to touching upon other aspects of hygiene. This is especially critical as practices like extensive handwashing are not a common among the pastoralists of Northern Kenya. 

It was also important to emphasize to our participants that coronavirus wasn’t something in faraway China or even faraway Nairobi. Instead, this was very real, and very present with a real ability to disrupt all our lives. 

“Seeing this transformation is so motivating for me. It helps me realize daily that because of the BOAM Project’s REAP program, a very real transformation is taking place in my community.”

What motivates you about working at the BOMA Project?

I feel motivated whenever I see a BOMA participant speak confidently to her family, community or village elders. I recall how the same woman was so shy only a few months ago that she couldn’t even raise her eyes to speak to others. Seeing this transformation is so motivating for me. It helps me realize daily that because of BOMA, a very real transformation is taking place in my community.