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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 the 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 Rukundo, meaning love, and began saving between $1.50 and $3 a month.
After less than a year, Francoise increased that amount, saving 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 Rukundo 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.
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.
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.
An electric sewing machine enables a talented seamstress to efficiently produce professionally tailored pieces, leading to increased production and income.
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.
Luis has always considered himself an entrepreneur, selling construction materials while also working as a repairman and construction worker. One night, in a dream, his pastor challenged him, “Why don’t you start a business right in front of your house?” With his understanding of the materials needed for construction projects, Luis felt confirmed in his vision to open a hardware store. He would need startup capital, but he knew God would provide—He’d been faithful before.
Luis grew up in a batey—a settlement of predominantly Haitian migrant laborers—working alongside his father in the sugar cane fields around San Pedro, Dominican Republic. When he was 6, his mother left their family. Often neglected by his father, Luis prayed fervently, “God, I need to leave. … Please help me.” At just 11 years old, Luis left to apprentice as a construction worker in a nearby town. He worked hard and learned to survive, but life changed completely when, as a young adult, he became a Christian. As his faith grew, he felt God calling him to find and forgive his father, now blind. Luis attributes this to Christ’s work in his life, saying, “It is God who allows us to forgive."
With experience in construction, plumbing, and carpentry, Luis began to dream about opening a hardware store. A friend told him about Esperanza International, HOPE’s local partner, and he saw the opportunity he needed. Today, after four loan cycles, Luis’ hardware store is a growing business attached to the front of his house. With each loan, Luis expands his inventory, from sand and cement to iron rebar, which he bends into spacers for reinforced concrete building projects. Soon he hopes to buy a freezer to sell ice and ice cream.
Through Esperanza’s training and Bible studies, Luis’ faith has deepened, and he enjoys the fellowship he has with his community bank. He says, “I like Esperanza. … It helps people who feel hopeless.” Seeing how God has provided for him and his family through Esperanza, Luis says assertively, “We have to use everything God gives us. The only thing that is 100 percent good is God.”
In the Dominican Republic, a good hammer and nails are crucial for most construction projects, like attaching metal roofing sheets to wooden trusses over a new home.
God Provides, a six-part video series, equips loan officers to compellingly share the Gospel with clients and their neighbors using rich, relatable storytelling.
Inexpensive and durable, corrugated metal sheets cover many homes across the D.R. $100 can put a new roof on the average home, providing protection during the rainy season.
Using a mixture of sand and cement, a block mold produces the Dominican construction block of choice. Cement, sand, and finished blocks are sold at hardware stores like Luis’.
Living in the rural village of Crasnoarmeiscoe, Moldova, Vera Matveiciuc lost her husband several years ago, leaving her to support their three young daughters on her own. To supplement her $100 monthly salary from her job at a local bank, Vera raised produce and livestock to help feed her family and sell the surplus at market.
In Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, poverty is concentrated in rural areas like Vera’s, where many families live without heat, running water, or nutritious food. Three years ago, Vera didn’t think her family would survive another harsh Moldovan winter without the money needed to insulate and heat their home.
That December, Vera learned about Invest-Credit, HOPE’s local partner, and took out a loan to install insulation and a furnace. “The first loan from Invest- Credit saved my family,” she says. “We could not go through another winter without making changes to our home.”
Vera used the remainder of her first loan to invest in seeds and livestock for the coming season. As she repaid her loans, Vera took out three more, using them to expand the variety of produce and livestock she’s able to sell. She bought ducks; chickens; and a male and female pig, which produce around 15-20 piglets a year. Vera also expanded the produce she grows to include corn, beans, peppers, tomatoes, cabbages, walnuts, and sunflowers.
With her increased income, Vera tithes to her church on a more regular basis. Affectionately called Mother Theresa by her neighbors, Vera gives generously when she sees a need in her village. She has also sent her two oldest daughters to college, and she’s saving to send her third. Vera wants to see her village grow and prosper, and she praises God for Invest-Credit’s role in this dream. So far, she has brought 14 people to Invest-Credit—more than any other client. “Invest-Credit’s loans have opened up opportunities for my family and myself that weren’t there before,” she says. “They gave us new life.”
Approximately 90 percent of Moldova’s livestock is owned and managed by small-scale farmers. Young animals help farmers like Vera expand their herds.
Chicken eggs provide a steady source of protein for families, as well as an additional source of income, as farmers sell excess eggs in the local market.
Sunflower seeds can be pressed into oil and used in a variety of applications, making this one of Moldova’s top exports. $100 is enough to buy 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of seeds.
Livestock is a key component of food security in rural Moldova, providing nutrition and income. Producing 15-20 piglets a year, a pig is a worthy investment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Each year, India produces about 90 million tons of wheat, half of which is still ground in small neighborhood mills like Prerna’s.