After getting legal personality, SVO continued working its survey in different areas in the three Regions of the country: Addis Ababa, Oromiya and Southern Nations, Nationalities and people’s Region. Addis Ababa was selected to commence its first intervention and Teklehaimanot area self help project began functioning. This is the FIRST project of the Stand for Vulnerable Organization. SVO formally started its activities in September 2006 after signing conventional agreement with the then Federal Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency (DPPA). As a result, Self Help Group (SHG) formation was started in May 2007 in Lideta Sub-city of former kebele 09/10 (lowest level of local government administration). At this time, the resource of the organization was only the vision in the heart of the founders, their academic backgrounds and experiences. The project, then, initiated self-help group formation of the target community members in the targeted Kebele through enabling them to mobilize their own local resources.
The founders prepared training in April 2007 and called a one day workshop for the kebele administration officials and local community leaders. The training has emphasized on the development from within through mobilization of local resources. The workshop was participatory in which all of concerned community and local government leaders actively participated. After thorough discussions, the kebele administration promised to provide working office and office furniture for the work. The founder and co-founders were entered into a commitment of employing one community social worker, provision of office materials and other project expenses from their own contributions. Their painful commitment and contributions enabled the Teklahaimanot Area Self Help Project to be commenced in May 2007 without any external support. This laid a solid ground not only for the project but also for the long term implementation of the vision of the organization as well.
At the beginning, a Community Social Worker was employed to work on the wholistic community development and responsible to mobilize, teach and organize the community members with low income into self-help groups. Self Help Group consists of 15 to 20 people. The members of the groups hold meetings on weekly regular bases for an hour get trained, discuss their individual family challenges, share experiences on solving their multidimensional problems, get business and other life skill trainings, and save money based on their capacity. Self Help Group found to be a place where the organized poor people are economically, socially and psychologically empowered to achieve holistic livelihood improvement for their personal and family life.
Self Help Group is where people are empowered and helped to explore their potential gifts and resources around them so that they are able to mobilize for their own sustainable livelihoods and community development. It is a strategy by which SVO has broken dependency syndrome that was inculcated in the hearts and minds of the people in the project. Irrespective of ups and downs, SVO succeeded organizing about 426 people into 24 Self Help Groups within two years until February 2009. It was the year where the first round of the self-help groups graduated and handed over to the local government and accessed working plot of land and credit. Their capital saving reached about 119,000.00 Birr (11,900.00 USD with exchange rate of the time USD 1 = Birr 10). The saving account was opened by the name of each group for their regular savings on weekly bases. It is in such a way that SVO mobilized the communities to work for their own wholistic improvement by themselves.
Self-help group members take loans from their groups’ saving with small interest depending on their group rules and regulations to subsidize their small businesses. They also take loans from their savings to purchase house furniture on long-term repayment bases. Through the group loan, they used to buy house consumptions (such as sugar, salt, and grain) at the time of cheap prices. This helped them to improve their household consumptions in a planned way and to increase their savings.
The self help group members also started cleaning their environment through their cluster campaigns. Their being organized into self-help groups among their communities has increased their awareness to positively affect their environment in many ways and started cleaning their area through their cluster campaigns. SVO, therefore, has proved the possibility of development from within communities through enabling them to mobilize their own local resources. It has focused on capacitating mind and heart set up of the target population. The lessons learnt from the project are that emphasizing on the importance of software (attitudinal change) of human being is a very good strategy to enable the real transformation of target beneficiaries/agents in any development work. The organization is convinced that giving emphasis mainly on the software (mind + heart = attitude) is attainments of required positive change while considering investments on hardware (physical structure = building roads + schools + clinics + etc) remain as supplementary interventions for sustainable livelihood and development.
Out of the organized 24 Self Help Groups, eight of them have got work place from local government and started their diversified income generating activities using the money they saved within the two years. The eight self-help groups (SHGs) were organized into a cluster and elected committee. This committee started lobbying with local government officials to get work place/sheds for shop. It helped the cluster of SHGs to get working shop free of charge from the local government in July 2009.This has impacted the livelihood of each household of members of the SHGs and their life is tremendously improved. SVO has also been conducting training for local community and government leaders to strengthen their capacity of delivering community and public services in the project area. Currently, fourteen self help groups in the project are amazingly growing socially, economically and psychologically. Their saving deposited in the bank is ETB 258,453.65 (USD 13,747.53) and this has given them capacity to take loans from their savings with small interest to run their businesses individually and in cooperation.
Following its motive of “saving the vulnerable and leading them to self reliance”, SVO is focusing on realizing community development that leads families to wholistic development and self-supportive status. It is targeting cooperative bank establishment within the coming thirteen years. Hence, emphasizing on the attitudinal development of all the target beneficiaries has been the strategic focus and approach of SVO that will continue enabling communities to be self-supportive.