Health Options for Young Men on HIV/AIDS and STIs (HOYMAS) is a community-based organization in Kenya founded in 2009 by male sex workers and men who have sex with men living with HIV/AIDS.
In 2016, Charlie Rounds visited HOYMAS Offices in Nairobi, where he interacted with their Chairman, Trevor. The two exchanged ideas on a potential economic empowerment program. In October, the Kevin J. Mossier Foundation granted $15,000 to HOYMAS to purchase a taxi cab. The cab was purchased in the same month and enrolled in Nairobi Uber services.
As part of the ‘Step up Step out (SUSO)’ project, HOYMAS set up a Savings and Credit Cooperation (SACCO). Many members of the MSM and male sex work community are struggling to make a decent living in Nairobi due to a lack of employment. They often sleep in hotel rooms that their clients pay for, simply because they have no home to go to. In addition, sex work does not guarantee a stable income over an extended period of time. The SACCO offers members the opportunity to save money securely and borrow money when needed. Each member saves a fixed amount each month based on his personal financial situation. The group is open to all members who have successfully completed the financial skills training that HOYMAS offers.
The SACCO’s rules and regulations are set by the community during monthly meetings and a committee made up of HOYMAS staff enforces these regulations. The SACCO has 40 members, each one making regular contributions of around 300 Kenyan shillings (USD $2.85) a month on average, and some as much as 1000 Kenyan shillings (USD $9.50). In addition to this joint savings account, members agreed to acquire a taxi cab to ensure that sustainable monthly income would enter the account and increase the amount of investment options that they could explore beyond the taxi cab.
On a monthly basis, the cab generates a total of Kshs. 60,000 ($600) in net income after expenses related to fueling, servicing the cab and other miscellaneous items are deducted. The monthly savings are recorded and put in the joint savings account. Ten percent (10%) of the profit has been used to buy and supply nutrition for HOYMAS members who are on medication. Not only does the taxi cab create a total of 6 jobs, but it gives HOYMAS a consistent revenue stream that supports their main line of service: providing health services for LGBTQ+ individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
The cab industry has seen tremendous growth in Kenya, especially in Nairobi. With the introduction of Uber, the opportunities have increased substantially over the year. The SACCO chairman, therefore, saw this as an opportunity to tap into this market and assist the LGBTQ+ community. In a country where it is illegal to be LGBTQ+, driving a taxi cab, primarily for western tourists in Nairobi, creates a safe environment for the drivers. The pilot taxi cab showed tremendous results and our hope is to fund additional cabs in the future. Our goal is to add two extra cabs by the end of 2018. This will create more job opportunities and improve the participant’s social and economic status.