Each year, HOPE celebrates clients who demonstrate our values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing the Thurman Award winner. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO, 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 Peter, this year’s runner up for microfinance institutions!
After a severe case of measles left him blind at age 8, Peter felt he had limited options for his future. In a culture where blindness is highly stigmatized, many blind people live as beggars. To support their three children, Peter and his wife, Mukanziza—who also lost her sight due to measles as a child—decided to start a business building rental properties.
Prejudiced by his disability, every bank he and Mukaniza approached for a loan turned them down. And that’s when Peter learned of Urwego Bank, HOPE’s microfinance bank in Rwanda.
Receiving his first loan from Urwego in 2013, Peter began a business building rental properties, hoping to provide affordable housing for his community during a time when it was scarce. In the five years since his business began, Peter’s business has grown to include 25 rental properties—four blocks of housing.
Passionate about empowering others, Peter also started a cyclist cooperative to hire young people to transport goods on bicycles. The co-op makes it easier for co-op members to get a cycling license and uniform, allowing them to take on more jobs and have a greater income. Peter’s cycling business has helped provide jobs for more than 150 people, giving young people the opportunity to make a livable wage.
With their increased income, Peter and Mukanziza can now send their three children to school. Passionate about serving those with disabilities, Mukanziza also went back to school to study special education, and she now teaches other visually impaired people how to do chores without the full benefit of sight. Peter has also been able to support his brother, parents-in-law, and brother-in-law, and he gives free lessons to his community on the value of saving.
Peter dreams of continuing to grow his business, as well as empowering people with disabilities to move beyond the societal stigma. For other families in their community with disabilities, Peter and his family are an inspiring example of overcoming stigma with patience, courage, and diligence.
“I believe that who I am and what I have is because of God,” Peter said. “The fact that I am blind, but God gives me ideas and designs on how to construct my houses, gives me a strong reverence for him.”