Sales, expenses, assets, liabilities . . . a succinct way to sum up a business. But equally important in determining the health of a company is the emotional balance sheet. What percentage of pessimism? Optimism? Determination? Numbers don't tell the story of a business, people do. Ajiri Tea, while yes, profitable, is run on a healthy dose of optimism.
It is that same optimism and brazen determination that we try and instill in our 30 Ajiri-sponsored orphans. 100% of Ajiri scholars graduate from secondary school. And 98% of our scholars have gone onto some level of higher education. Those are the good numbers.
But there are some numbers that challenge our optimism. Young adults in Africa make up 20% of the population. These same young adults make up 37% of the working-age population. And yet, they account for 60% of the unemployed. The jobs numbers coming out of Kenya aren't any better. Of the 800,000 jobs created in 2016, 90% were in the poorly paid informal sector. Newly minted college graduates are quickly outpacing the rate of formal sector jobs.
At the darkest and most frustrating times in our business, these numbers can seem defeating. Are we filling our students with hope and telling them that they can do anything, just for them to find out that anything doesn't exist? Where is the line between sponsor and parent? Where is the line between being a business and being human?
Numbers just tell one story. People tell another. The 100% figure of Ajiri graduates doesn't show the tears cried over a math exam, the searching of a kid who has run away from school, the textbooks lost and rebought again and again. That figure doesn't reflect our doubts--it only reflects our triumphs. And so we must approach the unemployment figures as one that reflects the doubts, but doesn't show the triumphs.
So what choice do we have but to be optimistic? What choice do we have in this world but to try? Thank you all for being part of this journey. You see the real value in a $9.00 box of tea, and the real value in people.
With ongoing hope and determination,
Kate and Sara
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