Creating Community

A Burundian seamstress finds financial stability and discovers the power of a loving community amid personal loss.

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Full of entrepreneurial spirit, Francoise and her husband of 11 years, Etienne, know the joy of giving back. Francoise owns a thriving business in Burundi where she and her four employees create colorfully patterned clothes. “I know how to sew everything,” she exclaims, “but my favorite things to sew are dresses.”

Etienne, also in the textile business, runs a shop in busy Kamenge Market that sells fabric, thread, and other sewing supplies to the community. Together, they’re raising their five children, aged 2-9, as well as helping care for Francoise’s younger siblings. Six years ago, the couple adopted a sixth child whose parents were unable to care for her.

But even so, Francoise and Etienne didn’t have a safe place to save their money, leaving them few options in the face of unexpected expenses. When Francoise first heard about savings groups in November 2012, she was immediately intrigued by their focus on helping people improve their own lives. She joined the savings group Rakundo, meaning love, and began saving between $1.50 and $3 a month.

The power of love

After less than a year, Francoise now saves between $3.50 and $14 each month. She took out a $200 loan from her group to purchase an electric sewing machine—which produces dresses much more quickly than the foot-powered machines she had been using—and to stock up on fabric, thread, and other supplies.

In addition to financial stability, Francoise appreciates the discipleship and community she has found within her group. “When our group gets together, we fellowship, pray, and share God’s Word,” Francoise explains. “We are able to develop close relationships with each other.”

Members of Rakundo demonstrated the fittingness of their name earlier this year when Francoise’s adopted daughter passed away suddenly for unknown health reasons. Overcome with grief, Francoise says the immense love and support shown by her group was a key part of the healing process.

In the future, Francoise hopes to develop another small business she recently started: renting dishes and cutlery for events. She plans to use a second loan to expand her inventory. For her family, Francoise dreams of finishing the home she and Etienne are building—upgrading their dirt floors to concrete—and of sending all her children to school.

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Gifts that create

Fabric & Thread

Brightly patterned fabrics take the spotlight in the colorful dresses Francoise loves to sew. In Burundi, $20 buys enough fabric and thread to make a traditional dress for a special occasion.

Ironing Supplies

A good seamstress knows presentation is nearly as important as craftsmanship. With a coal iron, ironing blanket, and table, entrepreneurs like Francoise can produce professional finished pieces.

Sewing Machine

An electric sewing machine enables a talented seamstress to efficiently produce professionally tailored pieces, leading to increased production and income.

$ 100

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6 months’ Rent

Even small sewing shops need room to measure, sew, and display their creations. A workshop is key to growth, and $300 can rent a small room for six months.

$ 300

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Replenishing Hope

In the Dominican Republic, a shopkeeper challenges her batey community to rise above social marginalization and embrace the Gospel with hope.

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“Our lives are in God’s hands,” says Francia Colinnes, a statement which reflects her strong faith, even after her small neighborhood store, a colmado in the Dominican Republic (D.R.), was robbed. With 13 years of investment and work wiped out, Francia wondered how she and her husband would support their seven children. Francia could easily have given up hope. But with the support of her community bank, El Progresso, “The Progress” in Spanish, she was able to restock her colmado—even expand it.

Francia joined her community bank through HOPE’s local partner, Esperanza International, four years ago when a friend invited her to attend. She started with a loan of 3,000 pesos ($75) and has since advanced through varying loan cycles of up to 15,000 pesos ($375). With these loans and business training, she has expanded her colmado and now offers her remote community a variety of goods, from charcoal to rice, beans, coffee, and even clothing. Her income helps supplement her husband’s seasonal pay as a worker in the sugar cane fields.

Seeing progress

Like many others in their batey, a small town populated by sugar cane laborers, Francia migrated as a child from neighboring Haiti so her mother could find work. Often marginalized in Dominican society, batey communities lack many basic public services and schools—one reason Francia is so grateful for the preventive health care, dental clinics, and other complementary services Esperanza provides. Despite the challenges of life in a batey, Francia has bold dreams for her children and community.

With income from her business, Francia and her husband have been able to enroll their seven children in school. Their two eldest finished high school and now attend vocational schools, positive steps to securing employment. Taking classes in baking and sewing herself, Francia encourages all her children by example, saying, “My kids can still have a secure future if they are educated.”

Francia is encouraged by the devotionals her community bank discusses, which are a great opportunity to share the Gospel with members who are not yet believers. As the group has grown in solidarity, many have attended church with her. She remarks, “Esperanza has taught us beyond business. We [now] have a greater sense of community.” Change is often a challenging process, but with hope, Francia says, “We feel it coming.”

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Gifts that replenish

10 bags of coffee

Because so many Dominicans start the day brewing strong coffee grown in the country’s mountain regions, stocking this popular item is a must.

God Provides DVD

This six-part video series equips loan officers to compellingly share the Gospel with clients and their neighbors using rich, relatable storytelling.

100 pounds of beans

A beloved ingredient in traditional Dominican dishes, beans are also the primary source of protein for many families who cannot regularly afford meat.

$ 105

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Cooler

For those working in the hot Caribbean sun, few things are more refreshing than a cold drink. A new cooler boosts business by helping colmados offer a range of cold items.

$ 500

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Cultivating Change

Grigore and Nadejda’s hard work to build a successful farm in Moldova now benefits 47 individuals with disabilities.

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Grigore and Nadejda Mamadjanov don’t brag about their accomplishments—but they do get things done. Their ability to see a need and then humbly set to work has helped them build a thriving farm alongside their six grown children. Now they’ve applied that same determination to building a community center where they minister to those with physical or mental disabilities in their village of Crasnoarmeiscoe, Moldova.

In 2009 Grigore and Nadejda first sought a loan from Invest-Credit, HOPE’s partner in Moldova, to increase the efficiency of their farm. With a series of four loans, they have added acreage, fertilized fields, purchased livestock, and obtained machinery.

Today they have 50 rolling acres boasting crops and livestock including cows, pigs, sheep, goats, horses, chickens, roosters, and ducks. They’ve also begun producing their own honey and cheese. In all things, Grigore and Nadejda seek to be wise stewards of God’s gifts, using their business profits to advance God’s Kingdom.

Acting on the Word

As they studied Scripture, Grigore and Nadejda found a calling in Matthew 25:35-36:

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

Those in need in their village included a number of individuals with disabilities, and Grigore and Nadejda began to provide a daily meal for them.

When the government granted them an unused school building, they used the additional space to host the feeding program as well as to conduct regular Bible studies and a summer camp. They currently serve 47 individuals with disabilities. On the wall of the community center, they’ve painted the verses of Matthew 25, a visible reminder of their mission, as their love for God spills over into an abundant love for their neighbors in need.

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Gifts that cultivate

Tomato seeds

Tomatoes are a popular and profitable crop in Moldova, where the average citizen consumes 33 pounds of fresh tomatoes annually.

Goat

Estimates suggest that more than 90 percent of Moldova’s livestock is owned and managed by small-scale farmers. Even one goat can make a significant difference.

Share in a Tractor

A tractor multiplies time for farmers and increases their productivity. In Moldova, $10,000 can buy a used tractor to make farms more efficient.

$ 125

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Cow

Livestock is a key component of food security in rural Moldova, providing nutrition and income. Cows are a versatile choice, enjoyed for their meat, milk, and manure.

$ 500

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Empowering Renewal

From skeptical to a champion of savings, Prerna fulfilled her dream of sending her children to school through her savings group in rural India.

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In rural villages throughout western India, families like Prerna’s* eke out a living as day laborers, farming someone else’s land or doing heavy manual labor. “My husband and I both aren’t educated,” Prerna shares, “so the only job he could get was carrying sacks of grain.” With the irregular availability of work, the couple didn’t always have enough to provide for their family.

But Prerna had bigger dreams for her four daughters and one son. She wanted them to receive the education she and her husband hadn’t—giving them opportunities to create a better future.

When she heard that HOPE’s local partner was training groups of women to save their own money, Prerna was skeptical. In a culture where women traditionally stay at home, Prerna was uncertain whether saving such a small amount would really help her family. But she agreed to join and started setting aside $2 a month.

As Prerna’s group met regularly to save money, they also prayed for each other, studied God’s Word, and fellowshipped. “Whenever we do anything,” Prerna says, “we always pray first and give it to the Lord, and the rest happens according to His plan.” As they witnessed healing and other answered prayers in their own lives, they started praying for their neighbors and sharing the Gospel with them.

Changing outlooks

As they shared their faith, Prerna’s group began to realize their ability to be catalysts of change in their communities. “It’s changed our outlook,” Prerna says. “Women who were normally in the home are now thinking, ‘Hey, I can do something!’”

With this newfound empowerment and an eye for opportunities, Prerna recognized her community’s need for a flour mill. Previously, women had to carry sacks of grain to nearby villages to have their flour milled to make roti and other traditional breads. Through her savings group, Prerna accessed a $2,000 loan from a local bank to purchase a flour mill, equipping her to provide this valuable service in her community.

Now Prerna’s children are attending school, and she’s proud of her family’s newfound ability to save money. She has big dreams and plans to add spice grinding to her business. “I’ve been able to achieve a dream,” she rejoices. “I’m praying that it would expand to further things for us!”

*Name changed for security.

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Gifts that empower

250 Passbooks

For those who’ve lacked a secure place to save, a 10-cent passbook is the first step toward greater financial security—and a record of their growing safety net.

10 Sacks of Wheat

Mills provide an important service in rural India, where women bring sacks of grain to be ground into flour, a key ingredient in traditional breads like roti and naan.

25 Bibles

As members meet to save money and support one another, they also learn of a loving Creator who knows them by name. Bibles help share this Good News with others.

Share in a Flour Mill

Each year, India produces about 90 million tons of wheat, half of which is still ground in small neighborhood mills like Prerna’s.

$ 200

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