One Hen

book cover: One HenOne Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference (by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes) tells the story of Kojo, a boy in Ghana, West Africa. Kojo's mother supports the family by gathering firewood to sell, but their life is hard. Luckily, the village they live in has a great idea - each family saves a small amount of money which they club together and loan to one another in turn. One family buy a load of fruit which they sell for a profit. They pay the borrowed portion back to the next family, who buy a used sewing machine and make clothes to sell. Kojo's mother buys a cart to carry more firewood to the market, and has a little money left over which Kojo uses to buy a hen. The hen lays eggs, some of which the family eat, and some of which Kojo sells. At first, he can only sell three eggs each week, but he saves the money, and after a few months is able to pay back his part of the loan. After a few more months he has enough to buy a second hen. Then Kojo and his mother have more eggs to eat and to sell, so he's able to save more quickly and to buy more hens. Kojo's flock grows, and after a while he saves enough to pay the fees so he can go to school. Eventually he wins a scholarship to an agricultural college where he studies poultry farming, borrows enough money from a bank to build a farm, and stocks it with 900 chickens. By now Kojo is able to hire people to work on his farm, and the wages he pays them support 120 people! Kwabena Darko with hensOver time, Kojo's poultry farm becomes the largest in West Africa and in the process helps to lift many families out of poverty. These families support more businesses when the use their wages to buy things they need. The taxes Kojo pays to the Ghanian government help to build roads and health clinics. As for Kojo, he never forgets how one small loan, a microloan, gave him the chance he needed to improve his life and the lives of others in his community. He gives the same chance to other people who come to him with ideas for starting their own businesses, and so the cycle continues. Sound improbable? As a matter of fact, One Hen is based on the true story of Kwabena Darko (pictured at right), who now sits on the board of directors of Opportunity International, a global organization that offers microloans to people all over the world. If you'd like to learn more about organizations that offer microloans, read some of the inspiring stories that these loans make possible, and perhaps make a donation, visit www.onehen.org.

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