Archives For community

What is the most significant change members experience while participating in their savings group? HOPE’s partner in Zimbabwe, Central Baptist Church, recently asked 120 members this question. Through drawings and testimonies, members shared stories of strengthened community, deepened faith, and greater provision. We’ve included just a few of their responses below.

Merina found living water

I have been blessed through the savings group. I have found living water. I have learned the reality of Psalm 1:1-6 in my life, and even in trials I will persevere knowing I have recourse and resource in Him.

Merina

Makina learned to value relationships

I have learned the value of being in relationships with others and valuing them in the relationships.

Makina

Gogo Mutandiko now views herself as a steward

Gogo (grandma) Mutandiko says her group taught her not only the value of saving money but also that everything we have comes from the Lord. She saw that the land around her house was lying idle, so she used the space to plant vegetables.

I have planted a garden at my place. I now relate with creation as a steward, and it has helped me a great deal because I save money I used to spend on veggies. And I sometimes earn from the sales of the produce.

Gogo Mutandiko

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Burundi has changed. And perhaps I’ve changed, now seeing this country and its people through different, older eyes. But perceptions aside, the people of Burundi now approach uncharted territory, collectively gathering their breath for a series of tests to the country’s democracy. And as the powers that be move and countermove in these weeks prior to national elections, I’m reminded of the proverb: When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

From the air, Burundi is an undulating patchwork of greens and browns—that much hasn’t changed. On the ground, the changes are a bit more evident—and it feels different from six years ago. The capital city, Bujumbura, is still its tropical, charming self, but with even more cars, moto-taxis, bicycles, and people navigating the clogged, albeit newly paved, roads. Signs of increased commerce are everywhere, with more air conditioned restaurants and swanky cafes—not to mention internet speeds that no longer rob users of their youth and sanity. These mostly urban developments impact only a small percent of Burundians, but something deeper is taking place throughout the country.

When I lived in Burundi from 2008 – 2009, I spoke with many families just returning from refugee camps and other camps for internally displaced peoples. They were starting their lives again after Burundi’s long civil war, and while many expressed hope for the future despite their present reality, others feared for their survival without employment or land to cultivate. Today, traveling outside of Bujumbura with my HOPE Burundi coworkers, I’ve met some of the people—church partners, pastors, field coordinators, and participating groups and individuals—that are part of HOPE’s savings and credit association program. And I’m hearing a different, more hopeful narrative.

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Francoise

Join HOPE in celebrating the clients featured in this year’s gift catalog, men and women using the gifts God has placed in their hands—talents, dreams, and hard work—to provide for their families and give back to their communities.

Full of entrepreneurial spirit, Francoise and her husband of 11 years, Etienne, know the joy of giving back. Francoise owns a thriving business in Burundi, where she and her four employees create colorfully patterned clothes. “I know how to sew everything,” she exclaims, “but my favorite things to sew are dresses.”

Etienne, also in the textile business, runs a shop in the busy Kamenge Market that sells fabric, thread, and other sewing supplies to the community. Together, they’re raising their five children, aged 2-9, as well as helping care for Francoise’s younger siblings. Six years ago, the couple adopted a sixth child whose parents were unable to care for her.

But even so, Francoise and Etienne didn’t have a safe place to save their money, leaving them few options in the face of unexpected expenses. When Francoise first heard about savings groups in November 2012, she was immediately intrigued by their focus on helping people improve their own lives. She joined the savings group Rukundo, meaning love, and began saving between $1.50 and $3 a month.

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By Annie Rose Ansley, Field Communications Fellow in the Dominican Republic

A fundamental component of Dominican life, whether in the middle of bustling city streets or tucked away in the most remote, rural community, is the colmado. A colmado is a small corner store, or the Dominican equivalent of a mini-mart. And they truly are on almost every corner; the stores are as ubiquitous as Starbucks in New York City.

Two of the three clients with Esperanza (HOPE’s partner in the Dominican Republic) that I’ve interviewed thus far were, incidentally, colmado owners. People in their neighborhoods can stop by for fresh bread, a bag of chips, a soda, seasoning mix, eggs, candy. . .  Some colmado workers also have bikes and deliver–for free!–to your door, which is especially convenient when you need another 5-gallon water jug. However, colmados aren’t mainly about convenience; they’re mainly about community.

In the U.S., the goal is “get in, get out”; in the D.R., it’s more of a “come in, hang out” mentality. I have been shocked at the number of customers I’ve seen at several tiny colmados; they seem to arrive from nowhere, gathering in front of the store, in no rush to leave.

colmadoAt times they share a just-purchased snack or drink, or perhaps they start a game of dominoes or chess (can you imagine a chess match going on inside your local 7-Eleven?). Many colmados keep these games behind the counter and let you borrow them, along with a few plastic chairs; a game will often draw a crowd of spectators.

Then there are the “colmadones”—same concept, but a little larger and with much louder music, allowing them to transform into natural party spots at night. Locals gather there to spend their evenings together. When Hamilton and I had just arrived in Santo Domingo, we were searching for bottled water downtown and were afraid to enter the extremely noisy and crowded colmadón near our hotel. (Wait, what? I’m supposed to be able to pick up groceries here right now?)

There is definitely a beauty to this colmado culture. The stores meet even more of a social need than a physical one; they are a nucleus of community activity. Dominicans are very outgoing people (I particularly love their custom of greeting everyone when they get on the bus!), and they clearly see the importance of human connection and fellowship. For them, a tiny grocery store is a perfect place to hang out, laugh, and catch up with neighbors. And unlike many of us, they feel like they have time to spare.

On my recent trip to Peru, I met a woman who was struggling with a deep hurt. As I sat in her business, Luz (pictured on the right) shared with me and a few others how disappointed she was that she had never married or had children. Tears welled in her eyes as a friend held her close. Luz owns a costume shop in Lima, Peru, where she sells and rents costumes of all kinds, from recognizable Disney characters to traditional Peruvian icons. Her customers come to her shop to celebrate, but while she serves them, she’s filled with a sadness that struck at her core as a woman in Peruvian society.

Luz with Michelle, the program coordinator

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Danius

Perhaps the Bible speaks so much about money not only because God cares how we spend it but also because of its undeniable effect on relationships. In Ouanaminthe, Haiti, where money is in relatively short supply, Danius Joseph shares how a $200 loan from HOPE’s partner Esperanza International revolutionized his business and gave him “the means to live in a community.”

For years, Danius had to carefully balance the funds to feed his wife and three children, aged 2-5, against the funds he would save to buy produce for resale on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays when a bustling market opened just across the Haitian border in the Dominican Republic. All too often, he found himself with too little to do either. “My children got used to going to bed hungry,” Danius says, and he frequently borrowed from neighbors to finance his small business. His requests for money were met with resentment by those who had little to spare, straining relationships, branding him a beggar, and placing Danius under the stress of having debts to settle at the end of each working day.

Danius wanted to give to his community, not take from it, so when he wasn’t working, he was volunteering. He taught Sunday school, joined the local church choir, and was introduced to Esperanza when he served as an instructor in a community-based literacy program they funded and initiated. Yet within his community, Danius’ pleas for money overshadowed his volunteerism. He wasn’t respected by others, and he says he couldn’t respect himself.

In January 2011, a $200 loan from Esperanza gave Danius a fresh start. He was already resourceful, entrepreneurial, and ambitious, and he knew his business well. With this lump sum, each trip to the border would be increasingly productive. He was accustomed to working with loans of only $25 that had to be repaid after just one day, so with six months and a much larger sum, Danius knew he could turn a profit. He also recognized the cost of idle time and now had the means to address it. With the market open only three days per week, Danius registered as a vendor for pre-paid cell phone credit, a popular product in his community, enabling him to work close to home and generate additional income when the market was closed.

Danius at his phone stand

When his community bank needed to elect a president, again Danius stepped up to serve. As president, he coordinates repayment meetings for his group and helps to teach and lead the meetings alongside his loan officer. Since his first loan, Danius has received additional loans of $250 and $300. Neighbors have noticed his wise money management and the ways in which his life has changed, and though they once looked down on him as a beggar, they now admire him as an insightful advisor.

When others seek advice, Danius is eager to share of Esperanza, where he received not only loans but also dignity and respect as well as biblically based training. He’s inspired others in Ouanaminthe to work hard and persevere in providing for their families. Heeding his counsel, so many community members wanted to join Esperanza that a second community bank was formed. Though Danius is not required to attend the meetings of this second bank, he faithfully takes part so that he can encourage these members as they pursue the path that has brought such transformation to his own life. He smiles confidently as he points to the bicycle he now rides to meetings, which he purchased with his profits.

When people see you riding on a bicycle, they know that you are going somewhere to do work … and that you are able to provide for your family.