Even before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered Zimbabwe’s schools last March, Lorraine Chifamba’s attendance had been spotty. Sometimes her parents could afford her school fees, uniforms, and supplies—but often, they could not. When she and several other young members of her community, ages 11-18, saw an opportunity to help their parents provide, they joined the Sungano (“Covenant”) savings group.
“As youth, we primarily required school fees, books, and stationery,” 18-year-old Lorraine says. “Other basics such as food and sanitary requirements were similarly lacking. We also required platforms where we could be free to ask questions and get reliable answers about the Word, about life, and [about] projects.” Lorraine found all of this in her savings group, where community members came together not only to pool their resources and make loans but also to worship, fellowship, study the Bible, and support one another in their business endeavors.
The youngest members of Sungano started a communal vegetable garden. They specialize in growing leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, and onions. They sold their harvest in the market with the intent of easing their families’ financial burdens—but these burdens only grew with the arrival of a pandemic last spring.
“COVID-19 has caused our guardians to fail to provide for us as they would want to,” explains Lorraine. “However … our flourishing garden has helped us to support our parents in this economic hardship. We have been able to save from the selling of our vegetables to the community and have managed to pay off our school fees [and] buy stationery and school uniforms.”
Undeterred when schools were closed at the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the youth have continued working, saving, and trusting that they will soon be able to resume their studies. (In Zimbabwe, some students returned to classes in late September, while others are slated to return this month.)
In a time of crisis, their determination and resilience has set an example that others are eager to follow. “Their endeavors have not only brought light to their lives but have lit glimmers of hope in the lives of many around them,” says a HOPE Zimbabwe staff member. After witnessing Sungano’s fellowship and progress, community members have formed two additional savings groups: “Amen,” with 15 members, and “Echo,” with 17 members.
Lorraine reflects on the difference savings groups have made: “It’s clear to see that the financial well-being of the members has been improved due to the group, families have been fed and fended for, children have been kept in school, [and] ventures have been expanded.”
By the grace of God, these youth—as well as their crops—are flourishing.