What We Do Project Elisha
The disadvantaged in rural China face a number of great barriers to finding employment or starting their own businesses. Although many desire to work and provide for their families, these barriers can seem overwhelming. In Suqian prefecture in Jiangsu province, disadvantaged groups include households living in poverty, the disabled, returned migrant workers, laid off employees of state-owned enterprises, and peasant women.
OI China believes that reaching out to those who are marginalized in society is an integral part of its mission to grow businesses, create jobs, and transform lives. The goal of OI China's new apprenticeship program is to provide an opportunity to the disadvantaged and see lives transformed through skill enhancement, capital accumulation, and income generation. Initially, the Program will focus on rural industries such as chicken farming, mushroom growing, and pig rearing.
OI China will partner with our existing clients who operate mature businesses and rural cooperatives with transferable know-how. OI China first provides training to these clients so as to make them qualified mentors. The loan officers and Rural Service Centres (RSC) of OI China will, at the same time, identify groups of apprentice candidates. Selected disadvantaged participants will then sign an agreement and take on training and an apprenticeship at local cooperatives, learning a valuable trade. Over time, these apprentices will move into a custodial partnership with the cooperative, which will last 9-12 months. Finally, once they have acquired the skills necessary for success in their trade, the apprentices will begin their own independent businesses or arrange a partnership with the supportive cooperatives. During the apprenticeship, apprentices will be paid a stipend not lower than average market wage. The mentor and their assigned supervisors will monitor their progress and review their performance based on the agreed development schedule. At the end of the training period, apprentices will become eligible for an OI China loan.
OI China has identified 10 disabled members of the Suyu community (pictured above) to take part in the pilot project. Mr Zhao Wei is the mentor of the program, an experienced chicken farmer and a loyal client of OI China. He has agreed to teach these 10 individuals his trade through active participation and mentoring, to enable each of them to set up chicken farms of their own or to join his cooperative. In return, he will be given a 1% discount on a 100,000 RMB loan. The program has two phases. The first phase will last 12 months. During this phase, the apprentices will learn the basic skills of chicken farm management. Upon graduation each of the apprentices will receive a graduation loan of 50,000 RMB. The second phase will commence with apprentices opening their own chicken farm with the graduation loan provided by OI China. They will then run their own chicken farms with the supplies and consultation of Zhao for 12 months. This will ensure a high success rate for the new chicken farms. All loan repayments will go towards funding future apprentices through Project Elisha.
Profile of the MENTOR:
- Wei ZHAO, 39, born and raised in Suyu.
- Did not have the chance to study in college
- Apprenticed as vet initially
- Started chicken farming since early 1990s
- Through the support of OI China Zhao expanded his farm:
- Set up chicken farm coop of 102 members
- 42 local employees
- 51 households under the poverty line (approx. 200 lives impacted)
- 37 disabled workers (partner Ding is head of association of disabled)