The village of Matay Ta.

The Liberian village of Matay Ta is made up of seven households, clustered together under a smattering of palm trees at the end of a long dirt road. The village is small enough that it doesn’t show up on Google maps, but over the last three months, GiveDirectly staff have reached the village multiple times using GPS coordinates and local guides. They visit quite frequently because Matay Ta (along with 61 other villages in Liberia) has been selected to receive GiveDirectly transfers based on the level of poverty in this area.

In Matay Ta, every household receives USD $750 of unrestricted, unconditional funds.

In Liberia, some of the communities we work in are so small that, in a single afternoon, we can chat with every individual recipient. We recently did just that with the recipients in Matay Ta. Their stories demonstrate that — even in a village of just seven households — needs, plans, and aspirations vary greatly.

Meet Quitta

Primary spending choice:

Secondary spending choice:
Healthcare for her brother

Quitta M. stands in front of a tree.

Quitta M., who is 49 years old and moved to the village when she was 18, remembers that it was during the Ebola outbreak that outside organizations started coming to the village for the first time: “they came to tell us about hand washing and staying safe,” she said.

Quitta used a portion of her GiveDirectly transfer to buy two pigs. 

“I had wanted to buy pigs a long time ago but I never had the money,” she said. 

Meet Alphanso

Primary spending choice:
Iron roofing sheets

Secondary spending choice:
Starting a palm oil trading business

Alfonso S. smiles with his family.

Alphanso S., who is 25 years old and lives with his wife and two children, was born in Matay Ta and has lived in the village his entire life. Alphanso used part of his transfer to start a palm oil trading business in Monrovia.

“Before receiving transfers from GiveDirectly I had never been to Monrovia, and after I got my transfer I was brave enough to start a business and travel to Monrovia,” he said.

Meet Martha

Primary spending choice:

Secondary spending choice:
Iron roofing sheets

Martha S. poses with her 3-year-old son.

Martha S. lives with her 3-year-old son, who “likes to eat rice and beans and enjoys candy.” Martha bought food and clothes with her transfer, as well as iron roofing sheets to replace the thatched roof on her home. She is a widow and said she’s “okay and happy running [her] household alone.” 

“With the transfers from GiveDirectly I am not worried because I know I will be able to build my house,” she said. 

But she wishes it weren’t such a long distance to the market where she cashes out her transfers. “If we could have mobile money agents closer to us that would make things better for us.”

Martha’s feedback has been echoed by other recipients, so we’re continuing to test options to increase liquidity and solve the last mile payment challenge

Meet Tamay

Primary spending choice:
Iron roofing sheets

Secondary spending choice:
Donation to her church

Tamay M. smiles with her hand on her hip.

Tamay M., who is 70 years old, said, “I can’t recall how long I’ve lived here, but it’s been a long time.”

With her transfer, she bought iron roofing sheets that she’ll use to build a house for her children and grandchildren to live in — she has eight children and four grandchildren, and right now there are seven people living in her home. 

Tamay also made a donation to her church. “I feel very happy when I go to church,” she said. “I believe that my prayers were answered and that is why GiveDirectly came to our village.”

Meet Quita

Primary spending choice:

Secondary spending choice:
School fees for her daughter

Quita M. smiles with her daughter.

Quita M. moved to the village with her husband when they married because he was originally from Matay Ta. He has since passed away.

“As a woman without a husband it is not easy to run a household and feed children, send them to school, pay attention to their medical needs and build a house at the same time,” she said. “But I am thankful to be alive and I am grateful to GiveDirectly for the help I’ve been given.”

Quita has spent her GiveDirectly funds on food and school fees for her daughter, as well as on iron roofing sheets. 

Meet Isaac

Primary spending choice:
School fees for his wife & children

Secondary spending choice:
Starting a rice trading business

Isaac D. grins widely.

Isaac D., who is 29 years old, has four daughters; he is using his GiveDirectly transfer to put his daughters — and his wife — through school. His wife, who is 26 years old, will graduate from the 12th grade next month.

“I stopped going to school in the 7th grade because we didn’t have enough finances,” he said. “When I received my transfers I decided that my wife should complete her school and I will go to school after she graduates.”

Because Isaac can read and write, he said he helps out in the village when recipients get messages from GiveDirectly. “I help the old women in the village to check their transfers,” he said, “[and] go with them to the market and assist them with cash-out so they are not cheated.”

Isaac, who is also the town chief, let us know that Mary P., the seventh recipient in the village of Matay Ta, had fallen ill and was taken to the “sick bush” for treatment (where people who are unwell can be treated in isolation). For this reason, we unfortunately weren’t able to visit Mary P. 

Meet the Village of Matay Ta

The whole village of Matay Ta smiles at the camera.

Isaac said he’s noticed change in the village since GiveDirectly’s transfers came through.

“People have struggled here and people had never owned phones,” he said. “When GiveDirectly came, everything changed; people are happy and have been able to change their lives.”

Quitta echoed these thoughts: “GiveDirectly has brought unity to our village. After the transfers started coming we decided to have a communal farm, where we are growing corn and beans. Before GiveDirectly transfers it was difficult to start the farm because people had nothing . . . We will sell the produce from the farm and the proceeds from the farm will be used to develop the town or assist families with sick family members.”

Martha said the village continues to evolve as a result of the transfers. “Even though you see thatch roofs now, I can assure you that people have iron sheets in their houses,” Martha said. “In a few months this town will look different.” 

Matay Ta village

This project is made possible by Good Ventures, and the generous support of the American people through USAID. The contents of this blog are the responsibility of GiveDirectly, and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

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