From a young age as a street vendor Will Broad experienced first-hand how housing Poverty affect all areas of life.Via Smart Havens Africa, he is now on a mission to provide Sustainable,Eco friendly and low cost affordable housing Solutions to low-income groups in Africa, starting with Uganda.
Why and How did Smart Havens Africa get started?
I grew up in a poor family of eight children, for which access to basic essentials of life – such as housing, Education, food, clothing, transport, medical care, clean water and Sanitation – was difficult. When I started primary school,my parents did not have enough income to sustain themselves and us as well.They became the village laughing stone because they sacrificed to make sure we get access to basic education which most families did not value at that time. Living Conditions became tougher and tougher for us every day and my parents decided to send me to a family friend who was much better off and with a small family.However after a few years staying with my caretaker her family started to grow big with now more children to look after, Problems worsened when his husband left.
It became so challenging for my caretaker who had now become a single mother to pay for rent and to take care of her children and me as well. The landlord would always be shouting at us as tenants who can’t pay for his house. Being the oldest of the children I was forced to move on streets selling what the Baganda call “Obuwepe” also known as local mats for my school fees and what we could eat at home.
We often had to choose between paying rent or paying school fees for me and my Caretaker daughters, which severely impacted my education to the extent that I missed most of the classes while on street trying to look for food for my family and school fees for my education.This is how my journey as an entrepreneur started and it is at that moment that I started understanding the ramification of poverty especially in poor families headed by Women.
I struggled all the way like any other poor child and managed to get admitted to University. At the university I had to find how I would survive and with a loan from a friend of 500,000ushs I bought a printer and a personal computer and started a stationary and printing services in the University hall of residence since I was an evening student and I had free access to electricity, It was not long that the hall of residence caretaker realized that I was using the University hall of residence as a place of business as people were flocking my room for printing and copying services since I provided the cheapest options for students at campus and he chased me from the hall. With the disappointment of being chased from the hall and with fears of my business failing and not paying back the money from my friend I went to nearby slum of Bwaise where rent was cheap and I rented a small room from the money I had saved and expanded my Business to a computer internet café. And started collecting orders from my previous customers and doing it from my new place and delivering it in the evening when I would be going for class.
From my Computer Internet café in the slum of Bwaise to University I walked and every day for three years I saw the challenges faced by people in slums and this further opened my eyes to the housing challenge that need to be addressed, because in this slum it is one of the filthless slums in Uganda that when it rains it becomes struggle for life and death and in this slum even up to today Women and children are still denied of access to good health, denied of basic education,denied of employment opportunities so they are mired in poverty forever.
After graduation from the University I hit the streets and tried to look for jobs but like any other youth I could not access employment Opportunities, I remember When one boss at one of the commissions invited me to take to him my documents so he could see if I would get an opportunity but to my surprise I was turned down by the secretary and my documents trashed as I was seeing, I went back home crying with no hope for the future.And it was at this stage that I was fortunate to be asked to volunteer on one of the Newly starting radio station as its Station manager the work I enjoyed and did for a full year and by the time I left the radio station I had managed to put the radio station among the best performing Stations In the region with the best Youth Audience.
Though I Volunteered for the whole year the experience and skills I gained are invaluable, because as the saying goes “Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime”. My experiences from the job taught me how to fish and survive in this challenging World. It was at this moment that i took the worst risk of my life, going to work in a war torn country of South Sudan, and my experience was not much better, as I had to sleep in the bus terminal, because I had no access to money for rent first of all and the few poor houses available are too expensive to be afforded by the people at the base of economic pyramid,I realized that housing Poverty was even worse there and a big a problem everywhere.This is where i met my co-founder and her experience with Housing Poverty was similar,
Together we decided to set up Smart Havens Africa, a social enterprise with the mission of Ending Housing Poverty in Africa by providing appropriate affordable &Sustainable Green housing solutions to individuals, families &communities in a financially sustainable manner. Through Smart Havens Africa We would like to End housing poverty & create thriving communities in which people can live, work, learn and play, and which they are proud to be part of and priced so that these households are also able to meet other basic living costs such as food, clothing, transport, medical care and education while contributing to saving the environment