This week I was lucky enough to spend my week with these crazy ladies:
These are the trainers for the Anglican Church of Burundi's savings and loans programs throughout the country. They are in charge of training facilitators of savings and loans groups in different parishes and monitoring and evaluating these programs and their facilitators. These groups are found throughout each of the 7 diocese that make up the Anglican Church of Burundi.
These beautiful ladies were here for a week discussing the impact of their programs, the successes and challenges, and their hopes for the future of this program.
I'm so glad that I got to be a part of the conversation with them in this exciting time of growth in their programs. They are doing amazing work that is really making a difference in the communities they are serving, not just in terms of economic development but also in spiritual growth, women's empowerment, community organizing, promoting healthy family dynamics, and increased church membership and participation. They are all wonderful examples of people who are working as the hands and feet. (And their sass and sense of humor made the week not only productive and meaningful but very fun.)
I learned this through conversations with trainers as I helped them develop PowerPoint reports on there programs and impact as well as large group conversations. I also had the opportunity last week to go on a couple field visits up country to see these savings and loans groups in action and to hear testimonies from some of the people whose lives have been impacted through these programs. Here are a few pictures from the savings and loans group meetings I visited:
In order to be a part of these groups, members must participate in literacy programs run by the parishes. Once they have completed the literacy program they join the savings and loans groups and learn how to create small business plans (such as growing and selling tomatoes). Each week members bring their savings to the group and it is recorded. They also bring money for an "emergency fund" which is used to give out as loans to members when needed. For example, one mother in a group that I observed received a loan from the emergency fund in order to buy school uniforms for her children. A lot of the women I heard from in these groups were widows and were left with nothing to support their families. These programs enabled them to create sustainable livelihoods for their families. Some of the men I heard from learned the advantages of saving their money each week instead of drinking it away. The stories that I heard were really powerful and speak to the influence and blessings that the trainers bring to their diocese.
I am so grateful for the chance to have heard these stories and to have shared a week, many meals, and so many good laughs with these wonderful women who are really making an impact in their communities.