Microfinance

Empower a Hero: Jocelyn in Rwanda

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“Before I joined the savings groups I was alone. I used to walk alone in the fields every day and I didn’t belong,” said Jocelyn, a business owner and mother from Rwanda. But since joining a Savings for Life group, Jocelyn has grown into a confident entrepreneur and member of a supportive community of women. Now, she goes to the market each day to sell her vegetables. The money she earns allows her to provide her eight children with medical insurance – and lend to other women who want to break free from poverty. In Rwanda, Savings for Life groups grow out of partnerships with the local church. Church leaders and volunteers create opportunities that help the most vulnerable develop economic stability in their families and communities. As pastors discover their church’s role in addressing the root causes of poverty, they are motivated to invite their most vulnerable neighbors into groups like Jocelyn’s.

Seventy-two percent of Rwanda’s 20,530 Savings for Life members are women, who are especially vulnerable to economic hardship. But in each meeting, women grow in independence and confidence as they accumulate savings and expand their financial knowledge. They encourage and celebrate one another with each new success.

Jocelyn’s first success came when she opened a produce shop with a loan from her savings group. Now that she can sustainably support her children, she is working to pay it back while lending money to others. “When we come together, we pray, then we open the box which has the money…and collect the social fund for loans,” Jocelyn said. The social fund protects the members from the shock of emergency costs. Small grants are given to cover unexpected medical procedures or home repairs.

Women in Savings for Life grow in deep friendship with one another. As they come out of isolation, they are welcomed into compassionate communities. “This savings group has united us because we pull together and solve problems as one group,” Jocelyn said. Today, Jocelyn is empowered to not only support her own family, but the economic growth and welfare of her entire community.

Check back with us throughout January to meet more heroes like Jocelyn. They’re leading their families and neighbors in the work of justice in some of the most vulnerable countries on earth. You can join the movement today at EmpowerAHero.org!

Serving the Most Vulnerable in South Sudan: Nama's Story

Nama

Nama is a mother of four and a member of a local savings group in South Sudan. She first attended one of the weekly meetings with some of her friends. “We felt challenged to save our money,” she said. “At the moment, we did not see the money to save.”

Nama first believed that a humanitarian organization would provide loans to members of the group. When she and her friends found out that members actually loaned money to one another from within their own pooled resources, several people declined joining. Nama, however, wanted to learn more.

She was sick at the time but could not afford treatment. “One needs about SSP 100-150 to get proper treatment,” she said. That cost is the equivalent of about $30 USD.

“We started saving our income little by little with the hope that we could give assistance to ourselves.” Said Nama. “By this time, we had given up all the initial thinking that we would get any money from the organization.”

When borrowing began, Nama was the second to receive a loan from the group. Two others applied for loans on that day but declined and agreed to wait in order to protect Nama’s health. She was approved to receive SSP 100 for her treatment. In the same time period, she lost a relative and the group gave her SSP 25 as a form of condolences.

Nama has been repaying her loan since January. She says that the group not only gave her access to the resources she needs, but a group of new friends. “The group members kept on visiting me when I was sick,” she said. “They comfort me and I feel I have brothers and sisters.”

When asked about her future plans, Nama said her health will give her new opportunities. She plans on devoting time and energy to her garden and using her savings in eight months to start a kiosk so she can sell goods after farming.