The Business Opportunities through Support Services (BOSS) Project of UNDP, continues to put smiles on the faces of rural entrepreneurs despite challenging economic situation in the country.
One of those entrepreneurs is 43 -years old Ebola survival Madam Lydia Sanagon who received start-up capital in December 2018 to expand her business.
Lydia says, she unknowingly contracted Ebola in 2014 while providing care for a family member. This act of kindness devastated her life, business and wellbeing.
Ms. Sanagon narrated her story in tears during an assessment visit of the BOSS Team at her home in Ganta, Nimba County, earlier this year.
According to her, she was pronounced dead at some point. “I was helpless and pronounced dead by the Ebola Response Team, but they left my body for another day because the number of dead persons was small according to them. But my husband (a non-medical person) continued to treat me with mixed antibiotics by taking instructions on the phone from my friends who are nurses until I came back to life,” she narrated.
After additional treatments, Lydia and her family were declared Ebola free but continue to suffer serious stigmatization and humiliation in her community.
At her place of business, no one could easily buy from her, while at the same time, her husband was laid off from work because of the stigma.
Continuing, she points out that she has never benefited from any support for Ebola survivors because she was not treated in any of the Emergency Treatment Units (ETUs) but at home, therefore she does not have any identity card that others use to receive support.
Lydia also mentioned that she was ejected from a skills training program at one point in time.
“These and other conditions have made life unbearable for me,” says Lydia, a mother of 9 children. Six of them are hers while the other 3 are kids of neighbors who died as a result of Ebola.
However, hope was restored when she was contacted and profiled by the UNDP BOSS Team and assured of the project’s support.
Three (3) months after the assessment and validation Lydia was qualified and received US $450.00 as start-up fund to support her used clothes business.
With this amount, she quickly increased the size of her business moving from one or two bags of used clothes to four bags per purchase cycle.
The additional goods expanded the scope of her business as she periodically takes her goods to places on special market-days including some border towns in Guinea, while at the same time, giving some out to other young girls and boys to sell and pay the money thereafter.
She says this mode of business has allowed her to create jobs for over five persons.
According to Lydia, through the business, she is able to send all nine children to school.
The funds were residual money from UNDP Ebola Economic Recovery Fund intended to identify special cases to support. It blends social and start-up fund with business development support training, coaching and mentoring.
This programme has supported 24 females (ages 26-62) who are Ebola survivors and care givers with a total family size of 153 with 2-11 persons per household.
BOSS is a UNDP-supported project in partnership with the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Commerce.
It was established to enhance decentralization and support micro, small and medium enterprises policy implementation in Liberia through the establishment of Business Support Service Centres at the county level.
It also strengthens the capacities of youth, women and agri- producing enterprises.
The project is said to be key to the implementation of the small business empowerment act and the micro small and medium enterprise (SMEs) development in Liberia.
“The intent under this project is for socio-economic empowerment of rural enterprises that are faced with multiple constraints through decentralization,” says Marcus Zarway, UNDP-BOSS National Project Manager.