Each year, HOPE celebrates clients who demonstrate HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing the Thurman Award. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman Award celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. We’re excited to share the story of Jean Marie, this year’s winner!
A role model in his community, Jean Marie Habyarimana owns the only restaurant in his small town in southern Rwanda, and he’s been recognized by the leaders of his district for exemplary farming practices. But in all his success, Jean Marie points first to his deepening relationship with God: “I was a Christian before joining Urwego, but being surrounded by other Christians in my everyday life, learning together how to do business, assisted me in understanding that in all we do, we must involve God.”
Enriching the soil
Though Jean Marie is passionate about farming, the soil in his community makes it hard to grow anything but coffee. To improve its fertility, Jean Marie used loans from Urwego Opportunity Bank, HOPE’s local partner, to buy two cows, two pigs, and eight chickens. By using their manure to improve the soil, Jean Marie has seen his fields produce abundant crops of beans, potatoes, cassava, bananas, and sweet potatoes.
Jean Marie is also a model of sustainability. Before using manure as fertilizer, he first puts it through a biogas processor, which turns the gas into cooking fuel for his family. Even Jean Marie’s businesses flow into one another, as crops and milk from his farm supply the restaurant, while scraps from the restaurant feed his livestock.
Jean Marie dreams of buying a car for his businesses, outgrowing the bicycle he currently uses to transport goods from his farm to his restaurant. With the increased mobility of a car, he plans to expand his businesses, buying seeds and other supplies wholesale and distributing them to other farmers in his community.
In juggling two successful businesses, Jean Marie works closely with his wife, Esperance, who operates the restaurant when Jean Marie is busy at the farm. But this wasn’t always the case, and Jean Marie credits Urwego’s holistic training with helping him value his wife as a partner not just in their home, but also in business.
With their business profits, Jean Marie and Esperance care for their five children—and they also provide for 11 orphans. Remembering a time when he had trouble feeding his own family, Jean Marie gives generously when he sees a need in the community, including giving piglets from his own herd to help his neighbors improve their soil.
Jean Marie has become a leader in his church, and he’s currently being discipled through deeper study of the Word. He values the relationships he’s built through Urwego for the way they’ve helped him grow spiritually. “I see the loan officers as my relatives,” he says. “In Christ, we are all siblings.”
For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. ~Isaiah 61:11