COVID-19: Livelihoods

Location: Uganda

NextEnergy Foundation partnered with FINCA to support BrightLife, a social enterprise which provides first-time clean energy to poor and low-income households in Uganda, to resume its operations. In 2019, through its agent model, BrightLife provided first-time clean energy access to 7,000 poor and low-income households in Uganda, where 73% of the population rely on firewood, kerosene and charcoal for lighting and cooking. BrightLife is undertaking the Lamp Library Project which NEF supported in Uganda in 2019.

As well as recruiting and training new BrightLife agents, additional safety supplies were provided, and BrightLife’s communication channels were leveraged to disseminate accurate COVID-19 health information. This was all part of BrightLife’s Continuity of Operations Plan to ensure that the business and distribution network could resume in a safe and responsible manner as lockdowns eased in Uganda. The aim was ultimately to ensure that BrightLife could continue to be on track to meeting its target for 2020 to provide 80,000 Ugandans with first-time access to clean energy. This would avoid over 14,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions, create over GPB 1 million in savings on energy expenditures by BrightLife clients, and over GBP 3 million in additional income generating opportunities by BrightLife clients.

Location: Afghanistan and Jordan

In order to respond to the socio-economic impacts of Covid-19 in developing countries, NextEnergy Foundation partnered with FINCA’s Impact Finance business to restore livelihoods and economic opportunities for female micro-business owners in Afghanistan and Jordan.

FINCA Impact Finance is a double-bottom line social impact business which manages a network of financial and microfinance institutions in 20 countries. It is working towards a hybrid socially responsible business model that maintains responsible customer relationships while enhancing service and reach through technology. In 2019, FINCA Impact Finance provided financial services to 2.7 million low-income customers worldwide, 41% of whom are female, typically operating retail and trade businesses.

In 2020, FINCA projected that 100,000 micro-businesses of its FINCA Impact Finance female customers would be destroyed because of the pandemic. Global gains in women’s financial inclusion were at risk, local communities lost trusted businesses, and female borrowers with unpaid loans found it very difficult to obtain credit to start anew. NextEnergy Foundation provided low-income Starter Loans and Starter Business Kits to female customers to rebuild their business once commerce resumed. The Foundation support 80 female borrowers in Afghanistan, where 65% of FINCA’s borrowers are women, and 80 in Jordan, where 92% of FINCA’s borrowers are women.

Success story from one of FINCA Impact Finance’s branches in Jordan:

Sawsan is 27 years old, and the mother of four children. She lives with her husband and children in Russaifeh , Jordan.
Sawsan was working as an employee in a factory making cleaning materials, and supplementing her income by selling the items to relatives and neighbours to support her husband, and improve their standard of living. When the pandemic hit, Sawsan lost her job. Her husband’s work was also affected, with his salary being reduced. Sawsan and her friend Haleema decided they would try to go into business together, both obtaining a loan from FINCA. This allowed them to purchase more items to sell, such as blankets and fabrics, as well as the cleaning materials. Growing the business will allow them to pay for their children’s’ school expenses, but they are also being sensible and saving an amount each day. Sawsan says: ‘This new work can support us to build our life and have a great hope to expand it more’.

Location: Italy

Intrecci Cooperativa Sociale is an non-profit organisation established in 2003 in Italy and operating under the umbrella of the activities undertaken by the Fondazione Caritas Ambrosiana. Their work centres around creating and managing services to support the inclusion and emancipation of those people who remain marginalised and socially-disadvantaged within society.

During the pandemic, Intrecci created the concept of a Solidarity Emporium: The Emporium is a pop-up food shop created to support vulnerable families. Families and individuals are free to choose the food and healthcare products available and acquire them through a pre-paid card which is provided by Intrecci. The card is loaded with points and each point corresponds to ~2.00 EUR. Cards are topped-up monthly for 6-12 months. There are currently three operational Solidarity Emporiums: one in Varese, one in Saronno and one in Garbagnate Milanese (all in the Province and Comune of Milan). Each one serves approximately 80 families (~220 individuals).

Intrecci worked with Caritas and local community centres and helplines to indentify families for whom the NextEnergy Foundation sponsored the cost of pre-paid cards every month for 6 months. The initiative began in January 2021. Over the year, NextEnergy Foundation covered the cost of six pre-paid cards.

In total, 10 adults, 8 children and 4 young adults (18-25 years) benefited from the Foundation’s support. Each pre-paid card covered the costs for the beneficiaries to shop at the Solidarity Emporium, as well as local social support and regular financial training to help the families to manage their economic resources effectively. For some families, the project helped to alleviate household costs by not forcing them to choose between buying food or paying bills. For those where one or more adults were unemployed, the social support received was the necessary stepping stone to re-integrate into the labour market. Thus, the benefits of the project will continue beyond the project’s completion.

Location: Italy

Associazione La Rotonda is an association which works to promote social, educational, formative and labour-related initiatives across the most marginalised communities in Milan. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Associazione La Rotonda began distribtuing food parcels to 750 individuals and 80 families in the Municipality of Baranzate, the Municipality within Milan with the lowest per-capita income and the highest percentage of migrant residents.

The NextEnergy Foundation Trustees agreed to allocate 50% of the budget which had originally been set aside for the NextEnergy Capital Milan office Christmas 2020 festivities to delivering additional food parcels in Baranzate during December 2020. An additional donation was made by NextEnergy Capital Group Italy to bring the number of parcels distributed to 84.

In total, 125 individuals received food parcels with the support of the NextEnergy Foundation, of whom 85 were adults and 40 were children, and from almost 30 different nationalities.

Location: UK

Solace Women’s Aid exists to end the harm done through Violence Against Women and Girls. Their aim is to work to prevent violence and abuse as well as providing services to meet the needs of survivors particularly women and girls. In March 2020, Solace launched an Emergency Appeal to ensure that no woman is forced to choose between Covid-19 and domestic abuse. NextEnergy Foundation expanded the remit of its Mission during the Covid-19 pandemic to support Solace’s work.

The focus of the Appeal was on providing accommodation, food and clothes for women and children fleeing from situations of domestic abuse; ensuring that there were sufficient crisis support workers to provide holistic support and advice; and, expanding the existing advice line to ensure that women had the opportunity to seek support even if their perpetrators were working from home.

Overall, the Appeal addressed both the immediate and longer-term needs of women and children fleeing from domestic and sexual abuse. It ensured that as many of the additional women who were expected to come forward post-lockdown as possible received the help they required for the long-term. It will also supported capacity-building (e.g. crisis support workers to provide wholistic support and advice) and new forms of temporary accommodation.

Six months after donating to Solace Women’s Aid, the organisation reported that NEF’s donation to the Emergency Appeal:

  1. Provided bed spaces for 175 women and 78 children fleeing abuse;
  2. Supported over 180 women financially to find temporary accommodation and buy basic food supplies;
  3. Deployed additional crisis and well-being workers to support women and children in the refuges;
  4. Deployed additional support workers to respond to the increase in calls to the organisation’s helpline;

Overall, 4951 adults and 561 children were supported by Solace Women’s Aid in the first 6 months of the pandemic.

Location: UK

The Akshaya Patra Foundation (“TAPF”) is an NGO originally established to eliminate classroom hunger in India.

Since 2018, TAPF has been tackling hunger among children in the UK, serving almost 50,000 hot holiday meals to children in holiday clubs across Greater London. Between March 2020 and April 2o21, TAPF cooked and distributed over 120,000 hot, vegetarian meals to the homeless, and vulnerable adults and families across Greater London. Meals were prepared in TAPF’s community kitchen in Watford.

In order to respond to those most socially and economically marginalised by the COVID-19 pandemic, the NextEnergy Foundation distributed hot meals together with TAPF during the 2020/21 festive period. Together, 10,000 hot meals were cooked, packaged and distributed through distribution points in Kentish Town, Camden Town, Trafalgar Square and King’s Cross.

NextEnergy Foundation also responded to the pandemic with TAPF in India.