Our first project in Rwanda was in Bugasera District in 2008 and we have been working there ever since. Being there always feels like home. We have two projects Bugasera that we visited today.
Mayange Community Development Organization (MCDO) is set up like our other Village Savings and Loans groups, except there are a few things that give loan recipients an advantage and added value with this project.
There is the advantage of having the supervision and organization of MCDO helping form the loan groups, train them, and manage the seed money for the funds. In addition, having a larger chunk of seed money allows people to borrow at the beginning of the 12-month cycle rather than at the end after saving for 12 months. This allows them to immediately use their loans for increasing their income through their businesses.
Another added value to the MCDO program is that members of loan groups also make interest on their shares and, at the end of the year, the income of the loans is divided among them, too. Interest is very low, 1-2%. Capacity is increased by 10%, because members can save more and take bigger loans.
We heard testimony from several members, including Christine. She told us that she was desperate before becoming part of the group and now has hope for the future. She took a loan for starting a vegetable business. She used the profits to buy a goat. She was earning $2.50 per day before the loan and now is making $5-6.00 per day.
A man named Balthazar stood up to tell us his story of increasing his income from $24.00 to $48.00 per week through his bull breeding business and finished up with a poem he recited with great passion. It was translated for me and the final line was, Together we stand or together we fall. THAT is the root of our work in every project. We are interdependent.
We also visited our Pig Cooperative, which has grown to also include goats, rabbits and cows. It also has a Village Savings and Loans group of 123 people, mostly women. Again, we had the opportunity to hear the personal stories of our beneficiaries in their own words.
One highlight of this meeting was Melanie. She used her first loan to start a business making a local sorghum drink. She used the profits from that to buy 10 goats. From the profits of breeding and selling the goats, she bought land. The land has since increased in value. These loans are really making a difference in so many lives.
I was also very moved to hear from a widow named Petronile that being part of the group got her out of her house and meeting new people who have become her friends and confidantes. She had isolated herself at home before becoming a part of the group.
Tonight we had the Pilot Light/Rwanda family dinner! So grateful for my African family.