Archives For dignity

Since launching in July of this year, HOPE’s newest savings program in Malawi has grown to serve over 500 members. Anna Haggard, executive writing assistant, is in Malawi gathering stories from the new program. For more from Anna, follow the @HOPEstaff Twitter account.

Mary Moses

“Without education, no one goes far.” -Mary Moses, group member who saved to send her nine children to school

Marita John

“I have learned to take life as it comes. I am guided and protected by God.” -Marita John, member of the savings group “Love”

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Erin and Nirmitee

As a writer on HOPE’s communications staff, I came to India searching for one particular story. It went something like this: Lower-caste woman grows up feeling worthless, with no hope for a better future. Through our partner, she learns she is created in God’s image and comes to know Christ. With her newfound hope, she saves money in a group, starts a small business, and is freed from the usurious interest rates of moneylenders.

Now, all those things are happening in BIG ways here in India. In every group we visited, women said they feel free because they have options besides moneylenders. I witnessed joy and laughter and dignity. One woman I met (am I allowed to have favorites?) told me that now their group wants to “win the world.” She then told me they would come to the U.S. to show me how it’s done.

But I was here to help script a video, and I wanted to find that perfect story in quotable sound bites. I needed a simple, uncomplicated narrative of change that would fit into the 3-4 minutes we were allotted to grab attention from busy viewers.

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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.