Archives For poverty

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by Lauren Sheard, HOPE Burundi Program Manager

Two years ago, soon after I first moved to Burundi, I was chatting with another expatriate I’d just met. Explaining what I do, I described the basic premise of HOPE International’s savings group ministry, how rather than giving out money or goods directly like a traditional charity we’re teaching people how to save their own money to make a difference in their families and communities. I was pleased with my elevator speech but was caught off guard when the expatriate and his Burundian friend laughed! “This is Burundi,” they said. “That sort of thing can’t possibly make a difference. People don’t have anything, and you’re trying to teach them to save? Maybe in a few decades when the country is better off.” And at that, the conversation ended with another laugh and a sarcastic “good luck!”

I am not one to be offended easily, but in that moment I felt rather indignant. Not only is it rude to laugh at what I just said I do and believe in, but to so easily brush off even the thought that Burundians could have skills and abilities to help themselves was discouraging to me.

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This savings group in northern Burundi has a shared soap-making business.

Over the last two years, I’ve heard many times: “How can people save when they barely have enough to survive from day to day?” My answer to that question is generally, “That’s exactly WHY they need to save.” If my family is focused simply on today, spending whatever we have whether it’s more or less than usual, we will need to do the same tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.

But if today I have just $1 more than what I need, I could save it. Then another day I have an extra $2. So when the day comes that tragedy strikes and my market stand burns down, I have something to fall back on. When my five children go back to school at the same time, I have money saved for school fees. When the dry season comes and my crops don’t grow, I have something with which to feed my family. When my neighbor struggles with an illness, I can help pay his medical fees.

Furthermore, if I combine my efforts and small amounts of money with others in my community, together we can achieve greater things. I could choose to spend my extra $1 this week on some milk to drink, or I could get 14 of my friends to also contribute $1 and, together, we could buy a goat for $15 that rotates between us and provides milk every day. Or we could each bring $1 a week and take turns receiving the full $15 to start small businesses.

This is the heart behind HOPE’s savings group model—to maximize the efforts and resources of the individual and the collective group in such a way that empowers  them, provides for their family, encourages love and community, and draws them closer to Christ as they discover He cares about every part of their life.

Everything we do at HOPE starts with seeing people as God sees them—full of dreams, talent, and potential. Each Burundian was created with abilities and passions unique to them. When we see people as God sees them and empower them to use what He has already put in their hands, we see true transformation.

IMG_7118Lauren Sheard has worked for HOPE International since 2013, first as programs assistant in Lancaster, PA, before transitioning to her current role as HOPE Burundi technical advisor. When she’s not doing HOPE work, she enjoys spending time with her international group of friends, playing on her church worship team, and exploring the East Africa region.

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“I train lots of people, freely, without asking any money,” Moise said, proudly smiling. “What I have, I give.”

Sitting on white plastic chairs at Moise’s home in the Republic of Congo, I looked out at the fields of newly sprouted cabbages as I mulled over Moise’s words. The grey sky overhead mirrored the heaviness of the conversation as Moise described his considerable challenges—his wife’s deteriorating health, the immense cost of her treatment, losing his loan repayment when a fellow group member left it behind in a taxi. And after this string of hardships, he was still willing to give of his time to train farmers in his community?

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Jeff Galley serves as central group leader for LifeGroups and missions at Life.Church in Oklahoma City, OK. He and a team from Life.Church recently traveled to India to visit HOPE’s local partner, who is helping to equip churches and underserved communities through savings groups, and to visit Tearfund. In this blog excerpt, he shares about the people he met and what he learned from them about human trafficking. Read the full post on his blog.

Observers estimate there are more than 20 million slaves in India and that one new person is trafficked into slavery every 10 minutes. Some slaves are forced to do manual labor as a house servant or doing hard, backbreaking labor. Some are forced into prostitution. Trafficking isn’t just a problem in India. It’s a global issue, even in my own city.

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by Jess Bauer, California Development Intern

Last summer, I spent three months in Haiti learning about poverty in a hands-on and often heart-wrenching way. I listened to the stories of new friends and experienced the heartbreaking reality of material poverty.

One afternoon, I met an elderly man in Leveque, a village where families resettled after their homes were destroyed by the 2010 earthquake. A relief agency had distributed blue tarps to Leveque after the earthquake to be used as a temporary shelter. The tarps were designed for only a few months of inhabitance—any longer and the extreme heat could cause eye damage. After living in his tarp home for five years, this man was completely blind.

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At HOPE International, we believe that true restoration happens as we heed Christ’s call to abide in Him. Through worship, prayer, and studying God’s Word, HOPE-network clients grow in their faith and find strength to tackle challenges in their lives.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

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Jeannette Miburo, HOPE Burundi Savings Member

“My spiritual life has been impacted in such a way that now I feel pushed to pray and work for God more than before. … Before, I was very poor, and I was not able to give offerings or tithes in the church. But when I joined the savings groups things changed. Now, I am able to bring offerings and tithes!” Continue Reading…

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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