Archives For Malawi

Unity Savings Group, Malawi

By Kevin Tordoff, Vice President of Marketing

I recently found myself in Malawi, known colloquially as the Warm Heart of Africa. Driving into a southern community, we stopped by the side of the road by Nixon, a volunteer church facilitator for savings groups. Nixon has been serving in this role for the past four years—almost since HOPE Malawi’s inception. Riding his trusty bicycle, Nixon weaved his way through the dusty dirt roads, guiding us to the home where the savings group meeting was held.

Like many savings groups around the HOPE International network, the Mgwirizano (“unity”) savings group is comprised of 14 multi-generational members. As the meeting began, they enthusiastically shared how the loans from their pooled savings had allowed them to build and repair their homes, how goats had been purchased for breeding and other productive purposes. Their hard work farming small plots of land and selling the produce at market enabled the members to have the funds needed to pay back any loans disbursed from the group’s savings.

Leading HOPE’s marketing department for over a decade, these stories had begun to feel standard—I’d read and heard countless stories like the one the group shared, and I’d even had the opportunity to visit savings groups in the past that looked very similar to this one.

But then, a young man, Samson, from the group arose and directed an unexpected question at me: “Where have you been, HOPE?”

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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 Eckness, this year’s winner of savings group programs!

When Eckness was a teenager, her family could no longer afford to send her to school—a problem many Malawian families face. And like many Malawian youth in her situation, Eckness dropped out of school and got married. Continue Reading…

When I think about some of the most meaningful moments from Christmases past, it occurs to me that most of them involve music. Whether it be putting up garlands to the rich tones of the Robert Shaw Chamber Singers, whispering the melody of “Silent Night” at the end of a Christmas Eve candlelight service, or cajoling my sister into playing duets from our old Christmas piano recitals, there’s something about music that can make even the simplest moment sacred, that can tell a story more powerfully than speech, that can bring splendor and wonder and awe and joy.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that when the Lord wanted people to know about the birth of His son, He sent a choir.

This year, as Christmas nears, I’m expanding my holiday playlist. Friends from across the HOPE network took a moment to share the songs—both reverent and lighthearted—that they most enjoy, and their recommendations helped create this special HOPE Christmas playlist.

Please join me—and HOPE’s partners, clients, and staff around the world—in celebrating the coming of the Newborn King!

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Fanny is taking a leap forward

Suddenly raising seven children

When Fanny’s sister passed away, leaving four children behind, the choice was clear—she had to adopt them. Already a single mother, Fanny suddenly found herself the sole provider for seven school-age children.

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As one of Malawi’s 2 million small-scale farmers, Fanny set her mind to working hard, knowing that her efforts meant nourishment for her children. She managed to meet her family’s basic needs but struggled to find money for school fees or even soap. “Some months, I wouldn’t have money at all,” she says.

When Fanny heard about savings groups forming at her church, she recalls, “I was the first to sign up.” Saving small amounts of money with her group, Fanny no longer needed to sell her own family’s food for extra cash. It was the boost she needed to leap forward.

Refusing to give up

When severe flooding in early 2015 rendered 230,000 Malawians homeless, Fanny’s crops and home were washed away. Despite the devastating loss, Fanny quickly moved in with her sister next door and used her savings to launch a side business selling used clothing. Even though she lost everything, she determinedly began to rebuild her home.

Less than a year after the floods, Fanny did something few in her community have been able to afford: she paid to install a water tap next to her home to help with irrigation and household chores.

“I can say this is my testimony,” Fanny says. “Before the savings group, I had no business of my own, and my children were suffering from hunger. But now, I am rebuilding my own house, and my goal is to see my children educated.”

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A place to belong

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Joining the savings group has not only provided financial stability for Fanny; it has brought her closer to God and to friends in her community.  An active member of her church, Fanny leads worship and visits those who are ill or grieving. Eager to give back, Fanny’s savings enable her to bring offerings to church—something she wasn’t able to do before.

Fanny’s savings group has given her a sense of belonging. “My challenges have grown less because I am supported,” she says. “My fellow group members encourage me and pray for me. … Since I joined the group, I’m a more joyful person.”

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by Alisa Hoober, Recruitment and Retention Manager

I used to think I was generous. Now I know I have a lot to learn.

I recently had an opportunity to visit HOPE’s savings program in Malawi. We traveled a windy dirt road for several hours to visit a savings celebration in a small village. After meeting for a year and a half, today was the day they were to celebrate the end of their latest savings cycle and receive back the money they had saved. Today was a day to celebrate their hard work. And they were ready to celebrate! We were greeted with singing, dancing, and hugs.

I learned a few things about generosity that day.

There is a difference between giving our leftovers and giving our first fruits.
Shortly after we arrived, we were told that the group had prepared a lunch for us. This was unexpected, but we accepted this as an incredible act of hospitality. We were so grateful. We sat down to a feast of rice, beans, nsima, and chicken. We later learned that this village ate chicken every six months. And they chose to share with us—visitors that they didn’t know. We enjoyed the meal and felt so blessed, knowing that this was an incredible gift we had been given.

This group gave from their first fruits, sharing their best with guests they hardly knew.

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by Tyson Presnell, HOPE Field Communications Fellow

A journal entry after visiting a savings group in Lilongwe, Malawi

As I stand up to clear off the table, I carry a strange assortment of foods to the pantry: a pumpkin, peanuts (known here as groundnuts), beans, and eggs. You’d think I had just come from the grocery store or stopped at a roadside stand. No, this food was special. It was from my clients.

I traveled to this savings group on the outskirts of Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital. The group was singing as we arrived. Their group name was fitting: Chimwemwe, which is Chichewa for happiness. After we were introduced to the group, they continued their worship. Following a short message on the importance of prayer, it was time for the savings portion of the meeting. The group chose to worship while turning in their savings because they saw it as a time to celebrate. Continue Reading…