Vivian mother in rural Kenya
VSO/Obscura Media

Life on the brink

VSO is helping young mothers like Vivian in Kenya tackle hunger and feed their children.

VSO has supported Vivian to start her own small business
VSO/Obscura Media
Vivian found it hard to feed her family during the pandemic. VSO has supported Vivian to start her own small business with an investment of 20,000 Kenyan Shillings, to start her own kiosk.

Vivian Achieng Okebe (24), from Siaya county in western Kenya, is a young mum of two. A difficult childhood has shaped her hard work ethic and built her resilience through tragedy and challenges. 

Growing up in poverty she remembers: “I didn’t do well at school – because my parents couldn’t always pay the fees so most of the time I stayed at home. We didn’t eat good food and looking back I can see how much nutrition we were losing.”

During this time, she fell pregnant and contracted HIV. Vivian then married at just 17, but her and her children were abandoned by her husband. Life became a daily hardship to look for food and provide for her babies.  

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that up to 811 million people were without a reliable source of food and income to support themselves and their families last year. And nearly 1 in 3 people did not have access to adequate food.1 

In some of the world’s poorest communities, the problem of hunger has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as food prices soar and informal work disappears. Life is on the brink for Vivian’s family, and many other families, who are under immense pressure to stop hunger.

For Vivian, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a frightening time and affording three meals a day was very hard with no income. She says “I felt like my world was sinking again.”  

It’s not right or fair, but it can change

Thanks to VSO supporters, at this incredibly vulnerable time, Vivian was provided a lifeline with a cash voucher to start her own small business.

Watch Vivian’s story of hunger to hope

Vivian working on her stall
VSO/Obscura Media
Vivian now has her own kiosk selling sweets and other small items.

From hunger to hope 

Vivian shares, “VSO gave me 20,000 Kenyan Shillings (approximately £131) to start up a small business. Now I have a kiosk selling small items. I can pay for my family’s basic needs and I save a little for an emergency and the future. 

We have a broken food system built on exploitation and profit. The solution lies in giving power to indigenous peoples and women smallholder farmers – right now, these people don’t have a seat at the table."
Ruchi Tripathi
VSO Global Livelihoods Lead

“I feel worth and I feel motivated. Who knows, maybe one day I can manage a supermarket. In the future, I hope that my children will complete school and that I will build a house for our family.” 

VSO is committed to empowering young, marginalised mums like Vivian in fulfilling their right to healthy, nutritious food. They get a chance to earn a decent living through employment and entrepreneurship and provide for families for the long term.

Janet, a Kenyan volunteer for YEEP
Janet Okach is a volunteer on the Youth Entrepreneurship and Empowerment project in Kenya. She trains and supports Vivian and the other participants in their businesses.

Empowering young mums 

Vivian is one of 250 participants in the Youth Employment and Entrepreurship Project (YEEP) in western Kenya. In addition to cash vouchers to start or scale up small enterprises, VSO volunteer Janet trains and supports Vivian and the other participants on business knowledge and skills. They learn how to buy wholesale, sell at a profit, and save and invest for the future.

VSO has also provided food parcels to help families who urgently need food. Janet also supports the women in growing their own food through kitchen gardens, helps them access other funding, and brings them together in groups so they can discuss the challenges they face.

The project has been running since 2017 in support of fostering gainful employment, job opportunities, skills training and enterprise development for 15,000 women - and youth and people with disabilities - in Kenya and Uganda. 

Help tackle hunger and change futures  

The world doesn’t give everyone a fair chance to build a better life. Together we can change that. Donate now to help more mums like Vivian and their children escape hunger.

Donate now

Find out more about VSO’s work in building resilient livelihoods and helping people access their right to food.

 1 The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World,” FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO, 2021.

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