11 January 2012

lending groups

Yesterday we went out to visit a repayment appointment for one of Turame's lending groups. We pulled up in our vehicles, past the mechanic's garages, past the seamstress district, past the small local outdoor factories where people sat grinding dried cassava tubers into flour. We pulled up to a modest concrete home belonging to one of the members of the group as they gathered to sing a song of welcome to our international guest, Peter Greer of Hope International. Peter has a long history with micro finance and is a co-author of the book "The Poor Will Be Glad - Joining the revolution to lift the world out of poverty" a book that really explains micro finance in understandable terms.

This particular lending group has been together for 4 years, continuing cycles of borrowing and repayment lasting for 6 months. They entire group gathers every two weeks to make their payments toward the balance of their collective loan, divided out between the individuals.

At one point, Peter asked what the best part about their Turame experience has been and one lady explained how good it has been to have the funds available for her to borrow, pay back and borrow more the next time. There is satisfaction in that and a feeling of accomplishment as each cycle is complete and they are once again trusted to borrow more money to further grow their businesses.
There were stories of fixing a home that had been crumbling, of sending children to school, of having more capital for their business making it easier to bring in a profit.
But after we left, I kept remembering the look on the woman's face as she spoke of the trust a bank had in her to borrow and repay. And how much she honored that responsibility because of the value behind it.
That statement just reemphasized that so often the issues of poverty are not steeped so deeply in material wealth as we tend to believe, but in self dignity.
Turame is working hard to not only feed into the financial needs of the vulnerable in Burundi, but also teaching spiritual, business and community values. They recognize that micro finance is a great tool, but can only take a person so far in their journey - because the root of humanity is woven together with something of such deeper value than just resources.

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