Going to prison marked the beginning of Emmanuel Chamango’s openness to God’s transforming power.

Emmanual describes his former self as someone who avoided hard work, choosing to steal or rely on others to provide for his family. Emmanuel’s imprisonment humbled him. “What led me to come here?” he pondered. “Is it the person who reported me to the police [for illegally farming land he didn’t own], or was it God?” A visiting pastor preached on forgiveness, and Emmanuel took the message to heart. He remembers praying as he never had before. “Slowly I started changing, and that’s when I started loving God.”

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In recent months, COVID-19 has severely disrupted economies and markets. In this climate, we’re seeing executives from huge corporations—like Spotify, Whole Foods, Panera, and United Airlines—lead their companies to pivot, adapting their business model in ways that ensure short-term survival and create new avenues for future development.

At HOPE, we’re seeing the same business savvy shown by execs of multi-million-dollar corporations carried out by the entrepreneurs and savings groups we serve around the world—but with fewer resources and more challenging circumstances. Here are a few stories of women and men in the HOPE network demonstrating their resilience, tenacity, and entrepreneurial innovation, as they pivot their businesses to adapt to the new economic landscape shaped by the coronavirus:

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When I heard that a whole generation of economic progress could be lost because of COVID-19, what might have been an abstract concept felt personal.

Like kids across the country, my first grader, Addi, spent this spring learning from home. One assignment had her interviewing a family member, and she chose her grandpa: my dad. She carefully printed questions in her notebook—using her best phonetic spelling—and as FaceTime connected, I settled in to hear the stories I remember hearing as a child: my dad and his brothers chasing each other across farm fields, dad knocking an aggressive farm goose senseless in self-defense, his exasperated mother shooing six boys out of her kitchen with a rolling pin—or whatever else was handy.

Addi and I giggled over several of these same stories, but hearing them as an adult, many were tinged with a sadness and struggle I hadn’t remembered. Like when my dad told Addi about his family’s two-seater outhouse, how the brothers competed to be first in line for a weekly bath so the tub water would still be clean, how glasses of water turned to ice on bedside tables in the wintertime, how his parents saved every bit of extra money to buy each boy a second-hand bicycle one Christmas, how they rarely visited a doctor, and how his parents buried their only daughter and a son before their fifth birthdays.

It dawned on me: Not in a faraway country or too long ago, my dad grew up in poverty. Continue Reading…

A self-described “serial entrepreneur,” Anthony Barton has always had a keen eye for unmet needs. As a child, he trudged up and down sandy beaches in Malibu selling ice cream to hungry surfers. In college, he noticed the mess generated by fraternity parties on campus and started a business cleaning up the trash left behind. After graduation, he noticed that a lot of bars and restaurants could also use a good cleaning. Knowing he had the experience to do something about it, Anthony launched his first wildly successful cleaning business—the A Specialist.

Several years ago, Anthony and his wife, Yolanda, sold the A Specialist and together launched a new cleaning business called SAFE Kitchens, with the goal of “creating a culture within commercial kitchens that is as risk and worry-free as humanly possible.”

Then COVID-19 struck, and 95% of their business evaporated as their clients in food services, aviation, and film shut their doors. Continue Reading…

We asked several leaders from around the HOPE network—Rwanda, the Dominican Republic, and Paraguay—to share how they are coming alongside the men and women we serve as they recover losses related to COVID-19 lockdowns and reopen their businesses.

Rwanda

Hear from Diane Uwamahoro and Isaie Ndayizeye, co-directors of the HOPE Rwanda savings group program.

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Leah Reyes

Starting out as small business owners, Leah Reyes and her husband relied on an unstable income to meet the needs of their young family. And even as they gradually grew their tricycle transport business, they could only employ a few neighbors from day to day. They needed larger loans to invest in greater community impact.

INCREDIBLE GROWTH

In 2006, Leah took her first loan from CCT (the Center for Community Transformation), HOPE’s local partner in the Philippines, to help her scale up her transportation business. Since that time, she has added a line of trucks and buses and expanded into managing a grocery store, a cooking gas business, and a large logistics operation. With later loans, she even purchased a cargo ship to transport agricultural supplies to the small island she lives on. Continue Reading…