Archives For savings and credit associations

by Lydia Koehn, Field Communications Fellow

Last week, I traveled to the Philippine island of Mindoro to join a training of savings group facilitators with the Center for Community Transformation (CCT), HOPE International’s local partner in the Philippines.

download (7)More than half of the 46 trainees were pastors from the Mangyan Tribal Churches Association, a group of indigenous churches using savings groups to address both the material and spiritual needs of their communities. Over the course of three days, I was delighted and encouraged by the expertise and faith of Ate Goldie and Ate Luvin, Ate meaning sister in Filipino, who are the leaders of CCT’s savings and credit association program. As I embraced the warmth of the Filipino culture, I discovered a few steps to inspiring the facilitators of future savings groups for the transformation of their communities.

The following are what I found to be the keys to a successful training:

1. Flexibility

When we arrived for the first day of training at 8 a.m., there was no one to be found at the open-air concrete building of the Mangyan Tribal Churches Association. We soon learned that the representatives of the Mangyan churches from the surrounding areas had understood the first day as an optional arrival and the official start to be the next day. So we transitioned into plans for beginning the next day, using the extra time to get to know the pastors from the nearby neighborhoods. Continue Reading…

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…

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.

Continue Reading…

Mosque

Keeping Christ central

A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration

*For security reasons, the name of the country in this story has been omitted, and names of individuals have been changed to protect their identities.

On a sparkling day in late August, I sat in a dusty African courtyard with HOPE’s new field coordinator, Pastor John. We met to discuss a pilot program that HOPE recently launched in an area of this country that has historically been highly resistant to Christianity.

As Pastor John and I transitioned to the business of the day, an intense looking man dressed in traditional Muslim garb approached our table. Pastor John greeted him warmly and said,

Please meet my friend, Yayah. He’s a sheikh.

I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I knew that the word “sheikh” was a term of honor typically used for senior Muslim leaders. As we greeted one another, Pastor John laughed. “He doesn’t look like a pastor, does he? He was a sheikh, but now he serves as a volunteer in our savings program.”

Yayah broke into a broad smile and shared that his journey toward Christ began years before. Continue Reading…

Janviere_Kamana_002 oversize

Janviere Kamana beams as she stands among waist-high sacks of cassava flour under the strong midday sun. Young men lift heavy sacks of the staple food into the bed of a truck bound for a distant boarding school. Nearby, chalk-white cassava dries in the sun, nearly ready to be ground into flour and sold to customers around Burundi. This is Janviere’s business—buying dried cassava and grinding it into flour for sale—and it’s thriving.

It took several years of perseverance and hard work to achieve this success. Janviere began her business in 2009 with just $30, buying 220 pounds of cassava to grind and sell. She made just enough to get by, but after rent was paid and immediate needs met, Janviere struggled to save any meaningful sum of money. Her business stalled, and she couldn’t afford to pay school fees for her children.

Provision & grief

Janviere’s husband died in 2000 during Burundi’s civil war—a brutal, 12-year conflict that killed hundreds of thousands of people. Her family’s sole provider, Janviere raised six children, often borrowing money from friends to make ends meet. In 2011, two years after starting her cassava flour business, Janviere’s eldest daughter, Mary, died in a car accident. Mary’s young children—Anita, Eli, and Helen—came to live with Janviere, stretching limited resources even further. Continue Reading…

During business training in Malawi, Country Director Douglas Kulaisi was teaching a session on reconciliation.

Douglas Kulaisi

His question to group leaders: “Do Christian couples experience conflict?”

Malawian women

Women: No.
Men: Yes.
Women: It’s men that bring conflict.
Men: No, it’s not. We forgive first.
Women: Men never say “I’m sorry.”

Malawian men group leaders laughing

Some things never change. Whether in the U.S. or rural Malawi, relationships are messy.

Continue Reading…