In 2002, Catherine Mbalaka was eking out a small living for herself and her growing family selling fish in the nearby market. She lived in a simple home in the village of Makuta near the beaches of Lake Malawi with her six children and husband, Ambrose, who worked as a fisherman, renting space on another man’s boat.
Catherine was one of the first women to ever receive a loan and training from MicroLoan. She applied for her first loan to open a shop at the back of her home selling village basics that she was able to buy at the market. As her profits grew she was able to save, and with the help of bridging loans from MicroLoan (the largest loans MicroLoan gives, usually around £220), Catherine was soon able to buy her husband his own boat and a set of nets.
Catherine’s entrepreneurial skills do not end there. She has bought a number of goats for food and for sale, as well as still running the successful grocery shop she set up. She also used some of her savings to buy and install a water tap outside her home not only for her family’s use, but to earn extra income by charging the local villagers to make use of it too. Her next plan is to buy a bigger fishing
boat with an engine.
Catherine is the treasurer of the Tadala group which has only four members. Currently, the members of the group each have a loan of 180,000 kwacha (around £200) which is paid back monthly over six months. They are one of only a select few MicroLoan groups which are offered this product, where the women have proved their strong
business skills and have a long history of the best repayment rates. This growing business activity has helped to improve the lives not only for Catherine’s immediate family, but for her extended family too. Those that are old enough work with her to catch the fish and sell it on. When the boats are not in use, Catherine rents the ten nets out to others, a business which her husband manages. He says he is so proud of his wife and the difference she has made to their family life.
Now 50 years old, Catherine has been able to install electricity and piped water into her own home. She has also built five houses, all with iron roofs, some for her large family and a couple that she rents out for further income.
Catherine has been able to support eight of her twenty grandchildren with school fees, as well as taking care of her four nephews and nieces after they were orphaned when their mother, Catherine’s sister, died of malaria. Her hopes are for all of them to finish their further education.
“I hope you can continue supporting the women of Malawi because the small loans and training that they are getting changes their lives, just like mine. None of this would have been possible without the help of MicroLoan Foundation.” – Catherine Mbalaka