Aaron, SP staff in Manila, shares how God spared Ajie’s burger shop during a community-wide fire and how this business brought new stability and hope to her family and the recovering community.
Ajie worked for nine years in a burger stall. During that time she learned the tricks of the trade and was promoted to manager. Ajie was doing everything from ordering supplies to hiring new employees. The only problem was that she was being paid under the legal minimum wage. On top of the low salary the commute was very far and was consuming a quarter of her salary. She dreamed of starting her own burger business in her community. She would be her own boss and not have to spend three hours each day in traffic.
When Ajie was dreaming of starting her own business, she was offered a small business start-up grant and an interest-free loan. Before accepting the grant, she looked for the perfect location for her business.
The stall she wanted was located at the edge of the main basketball court in her community. This popular hangout spot would ensure plenty of potential customers. When the owner of the stall agreed to rent to Ajie, things quickly fell into place. She was given the grant and purchased the needed equipment. Ajie launched her business on December 6, 2015.
The first few months were a difficult adjustment, but things stabled as she gained regular customers. She was able to hire employees so that she would not have to run the store all day, every day. Ajie experimented with different burger related products. Her number one seller is french fries.
March 6, 2018 just before 6 pm was a normal day. Ajie had fries in the frier and customers in line when someone yelled, “FIRE!” Smoke began rising behind Ajie’s burger stall, and people started to run. Ajie finished cooking the fries and locked the burger stall.
She headed toward the smoke, because her house was located in that direction. The strong winds pushed the fire directly toward Ajie’s home and burger stall. She grabbed a small bag of possessions from her home and fled to safety. The fire soon engulfed her home and burned all of her possessions. The fire department arrived at the basketball court and parked near Ajie’s burger stall. Her burger stall was the only building on the entire block that was not burned.
The post-fire recovery was slow. Ajie moved in with another church member and helped her church’s emergency feeding program for the first two weeks after the fire. The basketball court was covered with debris and soot, so she could not reopen until that was removed. After about two months, Ajie was given another grant as a part of her church’s fire recovery program. She bought a cooler and a gas frier so she could re-open even if she did not have electricity. Business has been much slower after the fire, and she is not able to have an employee. But her re-opening was an encouragement for the community because it was a sign of the post-fire recovery. It served as an inspiration for other fire victims.
Ajie’s business has a positive influence on her family because it is a source of pride from her mother knowing that her daughter is a business owner. Her family sometimes also uses the burger stall to sell their products.