I’m sat in a dimly-lit venue with about four hundred hard-working and dignified rural folk as they strain to hear the voice of the trainer at the front due to the rain pelting down on the tin roof above. The odour of the man next to me is thick in my nostrils. Some have walked for several hours to get here. These are poor industrious people who are trying their best to provide for their loved-ones, and they know being part of this savings group is their best chance of making it work.
The methodology is beautiful. First, it involves helping people realise how rich they are. Well, not rich, but not as poor as they think. They are asked what they eat each month from their own produce, and this is monetised. They are amazed to find that this adds up to $50 for a family of four. $50 is the monthly salary of the esteemed primary school teacher, so how come he is dressed so much better than they are, that he seems to eat better? Hmm… Maybe I’m not as poor as I thought. So then they are taught to put some food produce aside, to save a little each month, and this is monetised and depending on how much, they get shares in the savings group. At the start, they could take out a micro-finance loan of three times their savings, something they could never have hoped for before, so now the motivation to save, get a loan, and repay that loan, is much higher, with them being held to account to repay 10% of the loan per month by the other 24 people in their grouping.
A lady stands to tell us that she’s been able to start a hair-salon ‘de haut standing’, and that rich folks come to her to get their hair done. She says her salon is beautiful and wouldn’t be out of place in the capital. You can hear the pride and satisfaction oozing out of her. Another says that she couldn’t even afford a chicken, but now owns a healthy cow and is looking forward to fully repaying the loan so she can take out more and ramp things up. A mother tears up as she talks of her two teenage girls who formerly had to risk being raped each night in the dark as there had been no electricity at home to do their homework by. They had had to go a mile away to where there was light in a building, and then walk back alone once done. Now, with a small solar panel, the girls work safely at home.
After the meeting, a man called Boniface takes us along muddy roads to show us his bull. He’s rightfully proud of it, and looking to repay in the next few months, full of hope for the future, which has seemed so bleak before.
Maison Lueur d’Espoir is doing a terrific job creating community solidarity, raising standards of living, empowering people to stop begging by working hard, and more. It’s beautiful to witness. I’m proud that we get to support them in this stunning work. If anyone wants to help them expand into other communities, do contact me.