Hygiene champion in Kayaba: Fresh Life Operator Teresa Madere

Ten years ago, Teresa Madere and her husband Tony settled in Kambi Moto, one of Kayaba’s villages. With Tony working as a casual laborer at Nairobi’s industrial area, Teresa started out as a small-scale entrepreneur by selling fruits and vegetables to her neighbors. “I have always been passionate about running my own business; however, starting out was very difficult,” she says.

After a year of trying to make her business succeed, Teresa was still struggling to make her business work; she was often unable to cover the cost of her products, and she found it difficult to build a steady customer base. In light of these challenges, Tony advised her to quit the grocery business and set up a water-vending business. It was less capital-intensive and did not involve perishable goods; her risk of loss would reduce significantly. It was the beginning of her success as an entrepreneur; she developed strong relationships with her customers, and within the same year, she was able to expand by putting up a retail shop across the road from the water-vending shop.

The retail shop, however, suffered because of the poor sanitation situation in the community. Until only a few years ago, there were no toilets in the neighborhood, and people used plastic bags to relieve themselves. Situated next to a ditch where residents frequently threw their used bags, Teresa’s shop was deeply affected. “I had to get up very early to remove polythene bags full of poop, or else I would hardly have any customers at my shop,” she recalls.

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Teresa Madere in her retail shop

Installing proper sanitation in the area was difficult due to the lack of a proper drainage system. Teresa was delighted when a solution presented itself: “One day Benedict Muli from the Fresh Life team visited my shop with news that I could have a toilet that did not need a sewer system to operate.” Teresa had previously heard about Fresh Life Toilets; she knew that the residents of the neighboring area, Crescent village, appreciated how clean they were. After her discussion with Benedict, she was determined to join the network.

She already had some extra space next to her retail shop where she could build her toilets. As for the required capital, she applied for financial assistance through Kiva. “I launched two Fresh Life Toilets in October last year, and so far there is a huge improvement in sanitation in our area,” says Teresa. The stench from flying toilets is gone, the environment around Teresa’s retail shop is now constantly clean, and her neighbors have access to toilets—even at night!

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Teresa and her son Cybrian in front of her Fresh Life Toilets

When it comes to hygiene matters, “Initially, I did not know how to properly wash hands, but through Fresh Life trainings, I now understand the importance of the practice, and I can teach my children and neighbors how to do it. I’ve also noticed that disease outbreaks such as cholera and dysentery have greatly reduced among children,” she says.

Having been in the network for seven months, she has learnt that a clean toilet is a sure way to attract customers. She also offers added incentives to keep them coming back: “I have introduced a pre-pay model for my toilet services where households pay as little as a hundred shillings per week for unlimited access to the toilets. I also accept disposal of children’s potty waste for free,” she says, adding that it has been a good strategy to retaining her customers.

Teresa’s dream to thrive as a successful entrepreneur is becoming a reality, and it has motivated her to aim even higher. “I hope to stock more items at my retail store, making it a one-stop shop for my neighbors. And I look forward to building additional Fresh Life Toilets as soon as I acquire some land for the facilities,” she proudly beams.

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