Neema Mungusikiza (center) and her daughters Stella (at left) and Sara have new-found hope and entrepreneurial spirit after becoming program members of Under the Same Tree, a nonprofit managed by UMSL alumnae Kaitlyn Gresham and Christy Horton. Through microfinancing for small business ventures and school tuition sponsorships, UTST economically empowers families living in extreme poverty in Kenya and Uganda. (Photo courtesy of Under the Same Tree)
Before Neema Mungusikiza encountered Under the Same Tree, a nonprofit run by two University of Missouri–St. Louis alumnae, she’d go from house to house in Nairobi, Kenya, offering to wash people’s laundry.
At the end of a good day, she’d have earned $3. The poverty line in Kenya is $1.90.
Mungusikiza, a single mother of two young girls, hadn’t anticipated this life. When she married and left her parents and small village in neighboring Tanzania, she thought her husband would always support the family they had started.
“I put all my dependence on my husband,” she said in a Skype interview. “I never knew that someday he would leave, and I’d have to start supporting myself and my girls.”
She began by selling bananas – walking 15 kilometers to the market every day to buy the fruit and returning to a spot near her home to sell it.
“I didn’t want to give up because I wanted to support my family and kids,” Mungusikiza said.
She had moved to Nairobi for better educational opportunities for her girls, Stella and Sara. But now with a single and extremely limited income, Mungusikiza had to first worry about basic survival for herself and her daughters while living in one of the city’s slums.
Under the Same Tree would help Mungusikiza change the circumstances for herself and her daughters.
Kaitlyn Gresham (at left) and Christy Horton are the driving force behind Under the Same …