“I hope my kids go to university. They should have a good job. They should do the education better so they can come to a level of life one better than me before.”
That’s Cain, who I met in a small settlement on the outskirts of Honiara, Solomon Islands. Cain lives with his wife Louise and their three children Tomi, Christina and Carl.
They’re one of many families whose lives have changed after taking part in small business and life skills training funded by Australia’s overseas aid program.
Cain and Louise were really inspiring to meet. Having completed the training, they saved about A$4.50 and started a small canteen, selling basics such as noodles and tinned tuna. They saved their profits patiently, and have built the canteen into a successful small business.
They have also invested some of their earnings in three pigs (one of which was pregnant when I visited), to diversify their income.
When talking about global poverty, statistics are never too far away; how many children have been saved (or not), or how many mosquito nets have been distributed (or are needed).
These statistics are important, and often harrowing. But they can also be overwhelming and miss the subtleties of overseas aid successes.
When I met them in person, it wasn’t Cain and Louise’s improved household income, or better educational opportunities for their children that I noticed first. Rather, it was their sense of hope, industry and purpose that was most striking. I think their shift in mindset is the biggest success of the training.
It would be naive to suggest that a ‘happily-ever-after’ future is guaranteed for Cain and Louise, and others who have undertaken the training and started small businesses. They are as susceptible as any business to changing market and personal circumstances.
But I left feeling their broadened world-view will hold them in good stead. The brief video below featuring Cain and Louise is a great introduction to their success, but they have plenty of other irons in the fire.
The couple lead a community savings scheme, which is adding members every month. Cain also tried a t-shirt printing business, and told me that at the ripe old age of 26, he has started writing his autobiography!
The importance of education, at all stages of life, is probably best captured by Cain himself, who told me: “The life skills training, no-one can take that. Even the Prime Minister can’t take those skills out from my life.”
Watch their story:
Dom McInerney works in communications and is heading up the new Good Aid Works website, which shares the stories behind Australian aid.