Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Poor is how you define it!
We were off and running at 7am as we headed into the capital city of Maseru. We went to our first meeting at the Lesotho National Development Corporation where we listened to a presentation on 'business innovation in the country. We then visited a large textile plant that is run by two brothers whose family came from Shanghai, China. They employee over 800 people and ship clothing primarily to the US to major chains like Costco. It was an incredible operation to watch and learn about their challenges as well that included losing quality workers to HIV /AIDS.
In the afternoon our group was split in two and one group visited the government office of agriculture and our group visited AFM Handicraft and saw a smaller scale business that primarily makes school uniforms and specializes in embroidering logos. They employ about 20 people here and we took time to listen to their business plan and see how we could encourage them. We made our way back to Hlotse and arrived at 6:30pm after a 2 hour drive and were part of round table discussions with local businessmen and women there. We ate dinner together.and had the opportunity to hear their stories and learn about their challenges.
For me it felt like a God appointment as I sat right beside a pastor who had quite the business to sustain himself as well. Alex runs the Royal Beauty Palace Salon. He and his wife who has a degree in cosmetology provide hair care, do manicures and pedicures, make up and also provide massage therapy. He spoke very good English and talked about also training people in this field as well. He has a heart to see people overcome poverty and he spoke of the acronym for POOR...people overlooking opportunities regularly! I felt like I was learning more from him. He also has started a church called the "Christian Family Assembly' and he and his wife have a 5 year old daughter.
The main challenge he faces is finding a large enough space to do his business as his current location is quite small, but he has great drive. Also at our table was a young man starting a poultry business, another doing windows and one guy doing a computer business as well as learning how to harvest potatoes twice in one growing season. The biggest challenge overall is finding capital investment as the banks aren't too quick to help out business start ups and if they do it usually comes with about 15% interest. It was another full day of understanding what work opportunities people have here in Lesotho. Our time together closed in prayer as it began in prayer and it was great to hear Tsepo, the man in charge of the meeting, share that prayer is part of every meeting. The hope is that the business people gathered there will form an association and continue to meet. One of the neat parts of the meeting was listening to those who gathered share what they learned. One table realized how much they could gain from using each other as referrals as one lady made wedding dresses, another had a catering business and another, a print shop. So their 'ah ha' moment came when they saw how they could each support each other by telling their customers about each other's services.
It seems appropriate to pray the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 over this group, "For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."