January 14th – Brazzaville, Republic of Congo
We leave Rwanda bright and early for a flight to Brazzaville. Brazzaville is the capital city of the Republic of Congo and home of HOPE Congo, one of our microfinance institutions. While our Rwanda program is a “savings-led” program where we provide operational support and training resources for savings groups, HOPE Congo is a “credit-led” program where we make small loans to local entrepreneurs. The loans start as low as $80. The group lending model is quite similar to the group savings model described in Rwanda. The groups tend to be about 15-20 people, and there is a strong sense of solidarity that develops within the group. Also, as in the savings groups, we deliver a Christian message and/or biblically based business training.
The flight is smooth, and we arrive in the late morning. HOPE Congo is led by Manny Palis, our managing director. Manny has spent his whole career in international development, with career stops in Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Kosovo, and now Congo. Manny has an incredible heart to serve the Lord and has done an excellent job building a strong staff. Peter Greer and I had a two hour meeting with Manny and his key staff members in the afternoon, reviewing several key operational improvements that have been implemented over the past three months. I was very encouraged by the team’s progress.
Peter and I have been joined on our journey by David Johnson, president of Silent Images. David’s ministry is to mobilize professional photographers to support other nonprofits. He has been traveling with us to document our clients’ businesses and their stories, through a combination of still photos and video. David is a very gifted photographer who has worked all over the world – you should check out his website: http://www.silentimages.org/. Taking pictures in the countries where we operate can be very challenging, and David has a talent for taking excellent pictures without drawing unwanted attention.
We are staying at SIL, a missionary compound in Brazzaville. It’s very comfortable and quiet and an excellent place to rest and reflect after a busy week.
God bless all of you. I’ll submit another post tomorrow.