OSI publishes first peer-reviewed article

Alison and I are very pleased to have recently published an article in the Malaria Journal which describes the malaria project that OSI supported in the summer of 2007-2008. The study demonstrates that providing incentives to households to use mosquito nets can boost the use substantially and may offer a potential tool for reducing malaria-related mortality in groups that are especially vulnerable such as pregnant women and children under 5 years of age.

Effect of incentives on insecticide-treated bed net use in sub-Saharan Africa: a cluster randomized trial in Madagascar
Krezanoski PJ, Comfort AB, Hamer DH
Malaria Journal 2010, 9:186 (27 June 2010)
For an abstract and pdf:http://www.malariajournal.com/content/9/1/186/abstract

Our next step is to try to find funding for a larger effective study to study whether these targeted incentives may be a more efficient way to save lives than traditional education campaigns, especially in epidemic, refugee and other emergency situations.

Interview with Aina Fideline Miarinirina

My name is Aina.  I am 30 years old and the mother of two daughters.  My husband is a teacher at a private high school.  I am a housewife but at the same time I am able to have a little business thanks to the loan that Masomboly has given me.  Thus, I have a small business in front of my house selling all kinds of things like different cereals and fruit as well as vegetables.  This business helps me to earn some money because my husband does not earn a lot; therefore I am able to help with some of the expenses of our household.  I like what I am doing because it enables me to have time to take care of my family as well as to earn some money.  At this time, it is a little hard because in spite of the fact that I sell things that people need on a daily basis, my business is not doing very well because the people don’t have very much money because of the political crisis.  But I don’t just do that business; I have also invested in poultry.  I buy chickens when they are very young and I raise them for a few months and afterward I re-sell them.  This business does very well especially during the period of holidays and celebrations.  My clients are the people who live in my neighbourhood.  I don’t know what else to tell you except that I earn enough each day. I have chosen this type of business because I did not have many years of schooling.  Thus, this is the only domain in which I am competent and which allows me also to have time for my family.  When I received the loan from Masomboly, I did not change my business but I added something else – that is the raising of poultry as I already said.  With the next loan, I would like to enlarge this animal-raising business.  I would like to add pigs as well because this would bring in a lot more money. Sometimes I ask myself how I can do everything during the day with a baby and without anyone’s help.  I start my day at 4:00 a.m. by preparing the coffee and little donuts to sell, and at the same time I make the breakfast for my husband and my daughter who must leave the house at 6:30 a.m. each day.  After that, I get myself ready and then to the housework.  I get out the things to sell in front of my house and I stay there throughout the whole day.  That’s where I make lunch because I have bought all the things I will need for lunch the day before.  Each day my day is spent like that except for Sundays because on that day, I go to church in the morning and then in the afternoon I do the ironing and braid my daughter’s hair. The person who has inspired me is my mother.  She is very courageous and animated.  She was always strong in spite of the hard things that happened in her life and I admire her courage.  If I was able to change one thing in my life, it is that I would like to have studied more, but I did not have the chance.  I am not complaining, however, because my mother did so much for us. The thing that I like the best in my life is my children and my mother.  I am ready to give my life for them.  I can’t think of any quotation that inspires me.  Thus, I think the lenders now know a lot about me.  I don’t know what else to say except to thank them for all they have done for us.

Interview with Perline

My name is Perline.  I am 36 years old and I am the mother of 4 children:  three daughters and one son.  

I am a woman who does everything.  In the beginning I did not choose a particular career because I knew that if a person is not able to do everything, she will have difficulty in succeeding in life because my level of schooling is very low.  I began working as a housekeeper in a house, but soon after I married an exceptional man who taught me a lot.  At this time I have a small cook-shop but at the same time I sell agricultural equipment that my husband makes himself.  He buys the raw material and then forges the iron and makes the equipment.  

As I said, I have done many jobs and my husband just opened another business – a butcher store because the sale of agricultural equipment does well only during the rainy season.  Therefore the rest of the time I continue my cook-shop and my husband works as a butcher.  We just began this job a few weeks ago and in general it is going very well, but like all other businesses, there are weeks when business is not very good.  The best period for this job is during the holiday period because the people need to eat good things and then we can sell pork.  My cook-shop is doing well but at this time it will not bring in much money until it is the harvest season.  Our job is like any other job in that we do it with determination and hard work and we appreciate what we are doing.  It is a job that brings us enough money.  In addition, selling agricultural materials is a job that not many people do so that has its advantages.  But most importantly, I was fortunate to receive the loan from Masomboly and with it I was able to begin another business – that is the sale of meat products. 

There are many things to do each day.  We get up early in the morning, at 4:00 a.m..  My husband leaves for the slaughter house to weigh the meat, and I bathe and get dressed and then prepare the breakfast for the family.  About 6:00 a.m. my husband comes back and we eat, and after he gets out the things to sell and I clean and tidy up the house.  After all that, I get the children ready for school and when the children have all gone to school, I begin to prepare the things for my cook-shop, and my husband leaves for his butcher shop.  I spend the whole day at my cook-shop and that is where I eat lunch and dinner each day except Sunday because then we go to church.  Saturday is the day to do laundry and a big house cleaning.  

In my life I do not remember a person that inspired me, maybe because I was not raised in my own family.  I was brought up by many different people because my mother had me before she was married.  Thus, it was my grandmother who raised me, but after she died, it was my uncle who took over.  At the age of 14, I lived with a woman who took me in; in spite of all that, I did not lose faith because I knew one day my day of Happiness would come and it is since that moment that I like to go to church and pray.  In fact, the thing I like the most in the world is to pray to God because without Him I would not be as I am now.  It is for this reason that this Bible verse inspires me:  “God will look after you and you will have no reason to be afraid.” I know that the lenders already know a lot about me, so I don’t have any more to say about my life except a huge thank-you for all they have done for me.  Merci!

Interview with Juliene Razanamalala

My name is Julienne Razanamalala and I am 31 years old.  I am a single mother, and I have two children, one son and one daughter.  I run a little grocery store.
I get up at 5:00 a.m. each morning and get my business ready (I sweep the floor of my shop and I arrange the things I sell). 

Every day I spend 40,000 ariary ($18) for my business and I receive a profit of 10,000  ariary ($4.50).  My neighbors are the customers.  My business does well every weekend and at the end of the month, but between the 10th and the 20th of the month, I need to loan food items to my customers. 

Because I do not have a high school diploma, it is very difficult for me to find a better job.  That is why I do this business and thanks to your aid (the loan from Masomboly), I am able to support my basic needs. 

What I would like to change in my life is to completely leave this life of poverty and live a quiet, better life (with a big, beautiful house made of concrete, and a car).  
Every day, even the weekends except on the day we have the meeting with Ms. Agathe and Ms. Filonne, I stay in my shop.  I do not have the time to go out or have fun.  It is only my two children who go to church on Sunday. 

A proverb that I like very much is “Those who visit others will be loved by their neighbors. 
Another proverb that I like is “It is better to lose money than to lose a friendship.” 
I would ask you to increase the amount of money you lend me in order that my problems can go away and I thank you very much for your financial help.  I hope that they continue and never stop. 
Merci et au revoir.

Monthly Interview Fort Dauphin: Liliane Razafimalala

My name is Liliane Razafimalala and I am 45 years old. I am single with three sons and two daughters. My business is selling bread, tea, and coffee.This is how I spend my day and prepare for my job:  In the evening, I do my first batch of bread baking.  In the morning, I make a second type of bread.  I also prepare the tea and coffee.  It costs me 10,000 ariary each day and I make a profit of 5,000 ariary per day if sales go well.  Most of my clients are my neighbors and people who live near me.  It is during the time when people have money that my sales go well, that is between the 15th and end of the month.  Other than that, my sales do not do as well.

I have three children who still go to school.  One older child is married and the other helps me around the house.  I have no rest, even on the weekend, because I continue to sell.  Every Saturday I take advantage of being able to do the laundry because the children do not go to school that day and they are able to help.  The children help with both the washing and selling.  On Sundays we go to church to pray and then we sell afterwards.

The money I earn each week helps to expand my sales.   I would like to be able to improve the place where I do my selling because my house is made of palm fronds.  I would like to become rich like my friend Dehaulme. She has lots of houses made of durable materials, much land, some cars, and extra money that she can use.  What I wish most is to leave this miserable poverty.
Here are the Malagasy proverbs that I like:
I never cease working for my well-being.
Each person has his own destiny.

The women in Fort Dauphin thank you very much for your consideration of their situation in helping us to make some profits.  May God bless you and your lives. I wish that this aid will continue forever and could be expanded because there are so many women in Fort Dauphin who cannot find work and would like to improve their lives, but do not have the funds to do so.


Christmas celebrations in hard times

Continuing a Holiday tradition, the Masomboly team recently celebrated a holiday party in Ambalavao for all of the borrowers and their families. Masomboly provided funds to buy each family a package of small presents for the children. It was a chance for the Masomboly team to connect with the women outside of the project. Ravo, our manager there, wrote that everyone was very appreciative of “the opportunity to celebrate, especially during these trying times”. She continues to say that another round of protests may be on the horizon in the capital for the New Year and she worries what this will mean for these women and their businesses. These are lean time in Madagascar, so every bit helps. Even a green bag of candy!

As you can see, some were more happy than others….

But, for the most part, everyone had a good time.

Monthly Interview Ambalavao

My name is Raeliarijaona.  I am 45 years old and I am a widowed mother of 3 children, two girls and a boy.  I am a seamstress.  In the beginning, I did not choose to be a seamstress, but my marital situation pushed me toward this vocation because my husband left us and I had to work to have enough to support my children.  Thus I began by working as an aide to a woman who did “haute couture”. This gave me the basic training to become a seamstress in my own right and afterwards, I was able to develop my own style.  At this time, sewing and dressmaking is my livelihood.  In general, this works well, but, like with other careers, there are times when it goes very well and other times when it does not.  The best period for this career is when there are celebrations because the people need nice clothes for the celebration.  But at this particular period of the year, the time when children are returning to school, parents only spend what is necessary.  The vocation of a seamstress is like others.    One appreciates it because it is interesting and that is how I can earn my living.  In spite of all that, I have the loan of Masomboly which enabled me to try another job – the sale of used clothing.  But that is not going well. Thus, my next loan will be for the sale of ready-to wear clothes.

At this time, it is a difficult period for me because my husband and I have been separated and he only helped a little with the schooling of the children, but since his death  a few months ago, I must now take care of the children all by myself without any aid, and that is really hard but I must assume that responsibility.  In order for our life to be somewhat normal, my children and I take care of the household tasks and the laundry; our daily life is the same almost every day because every day it is my daughter who gets up early in the morning to prepare breakfast, my son gets the water and after the breakfast, my two daughters get ready for school.  My son leaves to do his work as a day worker and I stay at home until their return.  I do the housework and then begin to work all day and often at night.  For the preparations of the meals, it is my oldest daughter who is in charge almost every day. On the weekends, we do a big cleaning and lots of laundry.  On Sunday afternoons, we have a small gathering of the family in order to talk of the past week and the things that must be done in the week to come.  It is the only time that we are all together to relax and enjoy each other.

In my personal life, what inspires me the most is my oldest sister because of her courage, her ambition, and her desire to help us after the death of my mother.  I was proud of her at that moment but time has passed and lots has changed.  She has become very egotistic and arrogant. If I were to change my life, I would like to go back in time when all our family loved each other and got together in joy and love.   But now in my family, each person is for himself, no one helps each other or loves each other, and that hurts me very much.  I always ask myself the question, “why has everything changed?”.  Why is it no longer like it was before in my family?  In spite of all that, I have my children and they are my reason for living.  Thus, I am able to say that what counts the most for me are my children.  There is a Malagasy phrase which inspires me and I say it often to my children.  The phrase means that even though life is difficult and hard, we never give up.  To finish,  I do not have any more  to say to the people who lend to me because I think that they must know everything about me, but I  wish to ask if it is possible to create a center of education for  young people because it is very difficult to raise young people today.  Thank you.  

Monthly Interview Fort Dauphin: Delicia Rasoambiniaina

My name is Delicia Rasoambiniaina and I am 63 years old. I am single with one son and three daughters. My business is selling cakes, sweet donuts, coffee and cigarettes along the road in town.

Each morning I get up to buy the things I am going to sell:  lemons, little cakes and doughnuts, cigarettes, sugar and coffee.  I spend 20,000 ariary each day.  Then, I earn 23,000 ariary by sundown.  Thus, my daily profit is 3,000 ariary.  My clients are all kinds of people:  children, young people adults, passers-by, workers, the people in my neighbourhood as well as people who live far away.  I have about 40 clients each day.

Here is how my family spends the day:  I get up early each morning to buy the things I will sell.  My son who is already an adult goes to work and my other little children go to school.  I take advantage of selling on the weekends, because the other sellers take a day of rest on these days.

Someone I admire is Djipi, an Indian family who lives in Fort Dauphin.  I admire their way of life because they are rich:  they have a car, a big house in concrete and a large food shop.

Each Saturday and Sunday, my sales do very well because most of the sellers do not sell on Sundays since they go to church.  It is at the beginning of the week, on Monday, that my sales do not do well, because everyone has spent their money on the weekend, celebrating when they all get together.  Thus, they aren’t hungry on Monday.

I have chosen to sell in a little shop because I know how to cook the doughnuts and little cakes that everybody needs each day.  This job of selling in my little shop is a parallel job to my principal work and thus, I am able to reap an additional benefit.

Since I have received the loan from OSI, my business has increased because I have been able to increase the things that I sell. My hope for the future is continuing to have good results from my sales and to turn my little shop into a bigger food shop or even a big hotel. Because of my present financial situation, I would like to change my life by leaving poverty and becoming rich. Being a seller is an occupation that I like the most because one can earn a lot of money and I am content when sales do well.  

Here are the Malagasy proverbs that I like:

      It is in suffering that one finds happiness.

      It is money that makes the person.

      Mutual love makes a good friend.

I would like to thank those who give me the financial aid and hope that this helps continues because life proves to be very difficult with this financial help.

I thank you very much.

Monthly Interview Fort Dauphin: Julienne Rasoanandrasana

My name is Julienne Rasoanandrasana and I am 36 years old. I run a business that sells doughnuts, cakes and coffee. I am married with three sons and one daughter. Every morning, I get up at 3:00 a.m. to prepare the coffee, soup, and doughnuts for my clients. Then I buy the cakes from a friend and resell them.  My clients are my neighbors, and those who pass by, both big and little.   The passers-by are my best clients; for example, the school children, workers, and those who are going shopping. If the weather is good, my business does very well because there are lots of people coming by.  But if the weather is bad, my business does not do well at all because the people stay at home.

I have chosen this type of work to help out at the end of the month because the monthly salary of my husband is not enough for us.  Furthermore, there are also school expenses for the children.  There is definitely a positive change in my business since I became involved in the Masomboly project.   Before I did not have a place to sell my food, but now I have a little cook-shop to sell in, thanks to Masomboly.  I hope that my business will grow even more.

Every member of my family gets up early each morning.  I prepare what I am going to sell.   The child who doesn’t go to school anymore prepares the meals. Another child goes to school and the two others are independent. Each Saturday we do the laundry together and at the same time take care of our business.  On Sundays, we go to church.

I very much like the style of life of Perle Endor, the local pharmacist.  The reason is that she and her husband work together and they are also believers in God. They have big houses, cars and a pharmacy.  In addition, their children are very smart.

What I would wish for in my life is to have a house made of wood.  I would also like to have another made out of brick. What I like the most to do is to pray.  Since the time that I have been a believer, I have developed more interests and my life has changed positively.  I am not depressed anymore because Jesus Christ comforts me.

These are the proverbs that I like:

      It is money that makes the man.

      It is in the bitter that we find the sweet.

      Don’t despair – your turn will come.

I thank you very much for the loan because I have seen a positive change in my life and I hope that this project will not stop.  God bless you.

Thank you, from Julienne.

Becoming overwhelmed with happiness

I recently became completely overwhelmed with happiness and this is why.

I traveled to Los Angeles a few weekends ago to be a bridesmaid in one of my dear friend’s wedding. Being an artist, my friend had prepared elaborate plans for the wedding including place settings that consisted of a test-tube, held up by a wooden stand which was individually hand-carved by the groom. The test-tubes were filled with tiny clear stones, water, a flower, and a hanging silver pendant with the guest’s name on one side and a quote on the other. This is just to give an idea of how elaborate, creative, and thought-out each detail of my friend’s beautiful wedding was. 

When I arrived with another bridesmaid on Thursday evening, we were greeted by the bride-to-be with our first task at hand: assembling the wedding favors. The bride-to-be showed us the different materials we would be using to assemble the favors. Then she told me that she had a surprise for me because the favors had something to do with me. She said: “Remember how I had asked you if the women with OSI could make something that we could give away as favors and you said that it was a great idea, but it would be too complicated. Well, we thought of something else.” I waited, knowing that my extremely talented and creative friend had come up with an exciting alternative.

She continued: “We decided that instead of favors for the guests, we would like to make a donation to OSI.” I gasped. I had not expected this one bit. She had not breathed a word of this to me before. I couldn’t believe that that was what she and her husband-to-be had decided to do. I felt overwhelmed. I think I had a huge smile, my face lit up, but this all felt so unreal. All I could say was “thank you, thank you, thank you,” over and over again. And “you don’t know what a difference this will make to the women.”I felt overwhelmed that my friend and her husband-to-be had decided that the way they would like to start this journey together, was not by putting money aside for future family investments. Instead, they wanted to give money to women in Madagascar. I had goosebumps. My friend and her now husband are like Paul and me- we make ends meet, but we don’t have much extra money at this point in our lives. So to think that they were deciding to give us a donation, instead of keeping the money for themselves, was just overwhelming. It was an act of pure generosity and caring. I did not even know at that point how much they would be donating. But once I found out, I was floored yet again. Their donation enabled us to give a second cycle of loans to all the women in our second site, Fort Dauphin, who had repaid their first set of loans. 

Now going back to the favors. My friend had bought and assembled small boxes. We were to fill them with golden crepe paper and then place two pieces of chocolate inside. One of the chocolates had a colorful artistic pattern on it, and the other had a map of Africa in a bright color. These were gorgeous stylish chocolates. Inside the box, we also placed a small note to the guests that read:

 “As we begin our lives together, we think of those less fortunate. A donation has been made to opportunitysolutions.org in each guest’s name that will provide small-scale loans to women entrepreneurs in Madagascar, Africa.”   

Our job was then to tie the boxes closed with a piece of raffia (ironically, raffia is made in Madagascar) and twigs to give the boxes this very natural look. The end product was these beautiful looking favor filled with a message of generosity and compassion.The whole spirit of the wedding consisted in the couple giving thanks, particularly to their parents. This gift of theirs to OSI, this generous donation, was just so symbolic to me of how grateful the couple felt for the blessings they had received in their life and their desire to give back to others. I am sure I was not the only one who left the weekend feeling totally overwhelmed with happiness because of this beautiful and generous couple.

To my friends: “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”