January 13, 2012, 1:17 EST – Byumba, Rwanda
Our day started bright and early this morning. We met Jeffrey Lee, the CEO of Urwego Opportunity Bank, for breakfast. Urwego is one of the largest MFIs in the HOPE network, and under Jeffrey’s leadership it has managed to grow very quickly while keeping credit risk at reasonable levels. There are many best practices at Urwego that can be applied elsewhere in our network. Jeffrey and the entire Urwego staff live out their Christian faith every day while serving roughly 100,000 clients across Rwanda.
Following breakfast we went to Urwego’s offices for morning devotions. There was wonderful music and singing from the Urwego staff. Peter Greer, the president of HOPE International, was the guest speaker for the day’s devotions. Peter lived in Rwanda for three years, and is the only muzungu (affectionate term for “white guy”) I’ve come across in Rwanda who is fluent in Kinyarwanda, the local language. Peter and I are traveling together in Rwanda and will fly to the Republic of Congo tomorrow morning.
After devotions we headed out of the city and traveled to the Byumba province. The scenery in Byumba was stunning. It looks like the remote parts of Hawaii, with very green and lush vegetation and beautiful mountains. The villagers mostly make their living by farming, often on the face of the mountain. They use “terracing” for this mountain farming, where the villagers create stair steps all the way up the mountain so that they’re able to grow crops on flat surfaces.
We visited with more savings groups, and saw more evidence of the savings progression that I described in yesterday’s post. We went to a village in Byumba where a new church was being built. A lot of the funding for the church building project came from increased tithing from the congregation, which was driven by the increased savings and prosperity enabled by the savings groups.
I am writing this post from the Kigali airport where I am straightening out some complications relating to my flight tomorrow. The last time I came to Africa I created a list titled “Things in America that I will never complain about now that I’ve traveled to Africa.” Included on this list were tap water, public utilities, Internet service, potholes, peanut butter, and getting through customs. I will now reluctantly add “airline customer service” to that list. Please note that this is not a knock against Ethiopian Air, my best friend forever. I’m flying Rwandair to Brazzaville tomorrow, and they have been very challenging to deal with this evening.
Peter and I are off to Brazzaville, the capital city of the Republic of Congo and the home of HOPE Congo, tomorrow. It’s my second time to Brazzaville, and I am really looking forward to my trip. Thanks for reading!