Dreams Coming True
“Acquiring the culture of saving money,” as Robert put it, means moving beyond the endless poverty loop of spending every cent you earn. Village Savings and Lending (VSL) training has allowed 100 agriculture program participants in five groups to start small businesses together and get ahead for the first time in their lives.
While there’s a special focus on empowering women, men also take part in this opportunity. One such group with the name “Wise Men” decided to meet every Saturday, putting $2.50 each in the lockbox plus making a small contribution to a social fund for emergencies. They soon raised $1,943 with which to start a small business and also make loans to members.
Once they submitted their business plan for a soda shop to the program, they received $3,000 to kickstart it. This allowed them to purchase stock and hire a waiter and a guard. In order to ensure proper management, they took inventories twice a week. Despite some challenges like heavy rains making transport of goods expensive on dilapidated roads, they made a 20% profit the first season.
Robert expressed satisfaction and wonder as he recounted the Wise Men’s experience. “I used to use up all my income without saving anything. But now I will actually earn money just by saving it with my group. It’s a good feeling to know that, in an emergency, I could take out a low interest loan. For us, it’s like having a bank to go to.”
Another Wise Men member, Mr. Banza, said, “The group loaned me enough to buy charcoal so I could fire the bricks I made. Even though I had to pay it back with 10% interest, I still made a profit of 30% when I sold the bricks. This helped me supplement my children’s school fees.”
The five VSL groups are still going strong. What they have achieved thus far is something they only dreamed of before, and is a great motivation to keep saving money together.
Democratic Republic of Congo Village Savings Program
Led by United Methodist Committee on Relief