What an incredible day! Today we drove two hours from Kigali to a new program that is part of the Mother/Child Development Project. It is a Revolving Fund (Microloans) group of 128 women deep in the mountains of Rwanda about 25 miles from one of the borders with Uganda.
The project is only two months old, but the results are already looking really positive. Our first stop was the home of Vestine who used her loan to add 11 chickens to the two she already had and is now earning almost two dollars a day from the eggs. She plans to use her profits to buy another cow. She can also sell chicks for additional income. Cows are valuable for both the manure, as well as the milk. Protein is an issue with the poor and children with malnutrition is a problem even when food is plentiful. Vestine started by saying that she used to have low self-esteem and didn’t believe she could ever accomplished something like this. She has 6 children is extremely happy and proud of herself now.
Walking down the winding path up the hill from Vestine’s home to our car, we encountered a school letting out for the day. More than 100 children who were very excited to see us suddenly surrounded us. It was quite a scene!
As we exited our car and walked toward the building where the meeting was being held with all 128 women/members, we heard loud singing and clapping and, as we got closer, saw dancing too. It was spectacular! All of those voices and all of those bodies created an incredible energy and so much joy.
I invited women to tell their story to us and learned that the loans were being used for animal husbandry by one half of the women and for businesses for the other half. The businesses were things like acting as a middleman between farmers and markets, selling bananas, selling oil and soap and more. The income these businesses are generating is between 1.50 and 4.80 a day and only two months into the work.
A woman named Donata spontaneously stood up and started the chant that said, “The strength of the woman is the strength of the country, which relies on her for development.” The meeting ended with singing and dancing that was even more spectacular than at the beginning of the meeting!
On our way back to the city, we stopped at one of my favorite roadside places and sat outside eating delicious goat kabobs and grilled potatoes, sharing our meal with a woman and her young daughter. They were travelling back to the village after seeing the doctor, because the girl had surgery on her severely broken arm and they had only one potato to share between them. Meeting them, hearing the woman talk about her family and seeing their smiles was the icing on a truly great day.