Archives For Republic of Congo

At 17 years old in the Republic of Congo, Francoise Koudziomina found herself in a predicament: After discovering she was pregnant, her relationship fell apart, leaving her as a single mother and forcing her to drop out of school.

Just two years later, Francoise’s mother died, leaving her as the caretaker for her younger brother, who was the same age as her son. As 19-year-old Francoise scrambled to provide for two toddlers, she made herself a promise: One day, she’d provide for other young, single mothers in situations like hers.

From a young age, Francoise had loved to knit, and in 1997, she opened a business selling clothing for babies and toddlers. With her natural skill, Francoise worked tenaciously to provide for her brother and son. While Francoise was always able to make ends meet, she lived in a state of constant stress about making enough money to meet their needs.

After taking out a loan with a large microfinance institution to invest in her business, Francoise realized that she required more than just financial backing. To really move her business forward, she needed additional training in finance and business practices. Continue Reading…

An unlikely blend of skills and passions

“Wow, those two majors really don’t make sense together!”

That’s the response Mikhal Szabo came to expect whenever she told new acquaintances she was double majoring in accounting and French. Her interest in languages, culture, anthropology, and international studies didn’t seem to mesh with the risk-averse accountant stereotype, but she followed her passions anyway.

As she went on to earn her MBA in international economic development after a few years in private accounting, Mikhal learned about microfinance and, ultimately, about HOPE International. She was impressed both by HOPE’s holistic approach to poverty alleviation and their openness to learning. As part of her graduate work, she served as a finance intern with HOPE in the French-speaking Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Suddenly, Mikhal’s seemingly unlikely double majors made sense. A lot of sense. In fact, her rare blend of language, finance, and intercultural skills was exactly what HOPE needed. Continue Reading…

Gisele

As a young girl, Gisele spent countless hours in her mother’s tailor shop. Eager to imitate her mother’s skill, Gisele would cut up fabrics and design models of her own. With help from her father, Gisele later enrolled in sewing school and eventually opened a tailoring business in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo. Despite her beautifully elaborate designs, Gisele’s profits weren’t enough to support her family, and she often had to use her business capital for their expenses, jeopardizing her business and stymying progress.

Seeking to diversify her business, Gisele received and repaid seven loans from HOPE Congo over the course of five years to expand her tailoring business by purchasing fabrics, sewing materials, and an electric sewing machine. Ever the entrepreneur, Gisele also used loans to expand into a new business selling smoked fish; small cakes; and foufou, a cassava-based Congolese dish.

Now, she is able to provide for her family using only the profits of her businesses. Reflecting on the impact of her relationship with HOPE Congo, Gisele says:

HOPE is the one who came to give me wings so that I can fly.

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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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by Lori Oberholtzer, Field Communications Manager

Communication Fellows

One year, one camera, and one fiery passion. That’s all it took for Mara, Drake, and Joanne to say “YES!”

At HOPE, we want to capture stories of Christ’s transformative love from the field and share those stories with you. Enter Mara, Drake, and Joanne, HOPE’s first three field communications fellows! Their mission (which they chose to accept) is to listen to, document, and share the stories of the clients we serve—so others can hear about the life-changing, transformative power of Christ-centered microenterprise development.

Before sharing the stories they’ve collected, we want to introduce our fellows. (Fellow is just a fancy word for long-term volunteer.)

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Ghislaine

by Mara Seibert, HOPE fellow in the Republic of Congo, reposted from www.maraseibert.com

This Mother’s Day, HOPE is honoring the creativity, dedication, and love of the women we serve as they work to provide for their families. Join us in honoring the many roles mothers like Ghislaine play through our “We Heart Moms” campaign.

7 a.m. Early enough that clouds still cover the sky and the air is cool. Children in blue and white uniforms walk to school, and Brazzaville is waking up. Breakfast in Brazzaville depends on where you live. Some people prefer bread and eggs, others substitute manioc for the bread, and then you have one of the most bizarrely cross-cultural meals I have witnessed: spaghetti with beans and mayonnaise. Some of my colleagues eat it for breakfast, and the bite I had was surprisingly good.

One of my favorite Congolese breakfast items would have to be beignets—essentially a Congolese doughnut, sweet and fried in oil. Here, beignets and riz-au-lait (sweet rice in milk) are made by Congolese mamas all around Brazzaville early in the morning, and on this particular morning I was finally going to try some of Mama Ghislaine’s beignets.

Ghislaine holding beignets

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