Archives For Urwego

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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by Christine Baingana, CEO of Urwego Bank

As the CEO of Urwego Bank, the largest microfinance institution in the HOPE network—and in the country of Rwanda—Christine Baingana shares what she’s learning about leadership while leading a team of over 300 staff.

I first learned of HOPE International after reconnecting with Peter Greer, HOPE’s president and CEO, while I was in graduate school. I had met Peter in the early 2000s while I was working for a large commercial bank in my home country of Rwanda and he was serving as the managing director of Urwego Bank. As we reconnected, Peter shared about the work he was doing through HOPE International—and asked if I wanted to join him.

In 2010, I joined the HOPE International team as the savings and credit association (SCA) specialist, later going on to serve as the Africa SCA regional director. When HOPE became a majority stakeholder in Urwego Bank in 2016, I was asked to step into the role of CEO. Having been on the board for several years, I knew that this would be a challenging time to lead the organization. I felt unqualified to lead such a large team through such a major transition.

But as I sought counsel from others, they reminded me to think of those Urwego could serve, men and women who have not had many of the privileges and advantages that I have. As I took my eyes off of myself and focused on them, I chose to say yes to this opportunity. It’s exciting to know we are changing lives for the Kingdom, that men and women who come to Urwego for a small loan, or to find a safe place to save, will have the opportunity to overcome poverty and experience a closer relationship with the Lord and their community members.

Here are five of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned on this leadership journey:

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Each year, HOPE celebrates clients who demonstrate HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing the Thurman Award. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, 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 Jean Marie, this year’s winner!

A role model in his community, Jean Marie Habyarimana owns the only restaurant in his small town in southern Rwanda, and he’s been recognized by the leaders of his district for exemplary farming practices. But in all his success, Jean Marie points first to his deepening relationship with God: “I was a Christian before joining Urwego, but being surrounded by other Christians in my everyday life, learning together how to do business, assisted me in understanding that in all we do, we must involve God.”

Enriching the soil

Though Jean Marie is passionate about farming, the soil in his community makes it hard to grow anything but coffee. To improve its fertility, Jean Marie used loans from Urwego Opportunity Bank, HOPE’s local partner, to buy two cows, two pigs, and eight chickens. By using their manure to improve the soil, Jean Marie has seen his fields produce abundant crops of beans, potatoes, cassava, bananas, and sweet potatoes.

Jean Marie

Jean Marie is also a model of sustainability. Before using manure as fertilizer, he first puts it through a biogas processor, which turns the gas into cooking fuel for his family. Even Jean Marie’s businesses flow into one another, as crops and milk from his farm supply the restaurant, while scraps from the restaurant feed his livestock.

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Each year, HOPE celebrates a client who demonstrates HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity with the Thurman Award. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the stories of this year’s winner and four honorable mentions to the blog. Today we celebrate Antoinette Aisha Uwimana, honorable mention from Rwanda. Antoinette Aisha Uwimana of Musanze, Rwanda, wakes every morning to the responsibility of supporting 10 people—among them three orphans and her widowed sister—and to do so, she runs not one business but three. The proud owner of a retail store, dry cleaner, and bridal clothes and wedding decoration rental store, Antoinette models entrepreneurship and determination, having built her business from a small, home-based operation selling tomato sauce. She recalls how she got her start traveling across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo to buy two bags of tomato sauce at a time—all she could afford with her limited capital. Continue Reading...