Union Church 1K Micro – Loan Economic Justice Mission

“When We All Hold Hands Together, Magic Can Happen”  – featured in the Criterion Institutes March Newsletter

In October 2017, after nearly two years of study, prayer and planning, the Union Church in Waban, Massachusetts, officially became a 1K Church when they extended a $2,500 loan at 1% interest to Sandra Okiror-Njoroge, who is the owner of Wham’s Café in nearby Lowell. This small business is closely aligned with the congregation’s concerns with food insecurity, homelessness and children.

Born and raised in urban Kenya, Sandra Okiror-Njoroge emigrated to Toronto to attend university where she studied entrepreneurship. Today she operates Wham’s Café with the help of her older daughter, Wambui. They serve Kenyan foods while also building community with their customers.  Sandra describes the Café as serving “excellent Kenyan coffee, delicious Kenyan food and cool Kenyan vibes.”  The food is inexpensive but healthy, a combination she hopes appeals to nearby college students as much as it does to the neighborhood locals. The loan from Union Church allows her to expand to offer meals her customers can take home for their families.

The café feels as much like a community center as it does a restaurant.  The pleasant banter Sandra and Wambui exchange with their customers over the counter sounds like the friendly chatter among friends on a village corner. Families are welcome at Wham’s.  A corner of the café is set aside as a play area, with games and toys provided.

When Sandra’s loan repayments began in January, she was invited to visit the Union Church to celebrate.  Sandra brought her mother Charity and her daughters Wambui and Stella to meet the congregation.  She participated in a dramatic reading of the scripture and helped serve communion during the church service.  Following worship, the family stayed to share refreshments and an informal conversation about the Café and their dreams.  Sandra and Wambui shared the news that revenues have grown, and their optimism about the future was contagious.  As Sandra said, “When we all hold hands together, magic can happen.”

In the coming weeks, small groups of church members will travel together to Lowell to share a meal at Wham’s Café.   All look forward to growing in relationship with Sandra, her family, and Wham’s Café.  Lay leader Alison McCarty reports: “We are excited to be making another loan.  And with Sandra’s repayments we will soon be able to look for our 3rd!”

To watch an interview with about Whams Cafe and the 1K initiative, go here.