Day 3 – Trust Groups

Today, we spent time with one of the Opportunity ‘Trust Groups’. You can read through each entry or click on the person you are most interested to follow…

Dorthe:

The thing donors look forward to most on insight trips is meeting the clients face to face, experiencing a “trust group” meeting and seeing what people are like in that particular country. Today was no exception – it’s what we look forward to most.

(Photo: Anne Grafe-Buckens)

Our day began by visiting a rural trust group. As always, it was fascinating to see the faces, the beautiful dresses & scarves, and not forgetting the many curious children – hanging into you for the chance of a poloroid photo of themselves :-). Knowing only a fraction of the backgrounds many of the clients had, with painful histories and broken lives, they sit shoulder to shoulder, guaranteeing each others loans and working their way to brighter futures.

My impressions are mixed & many. I’m taken with the order & cleanliness. The way people seem quite reserved & quiet, and they follow a culture where community service and following strict laws is the norm. But I miss the energy & vivacity of counties such as Malawi & Ghana. There’s a careful conservatism I’m used to seeing more in northern Europe than central Africa.

Factoid: plastic bags are illegal. As is walking on grass in public spaces. And every 4th sat of each month, everyone, including the president, cleans the streets of their local communities. An interesting day!!

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Anne:

If anyone wants to understand the model in place within Opportunity, a good traditional trust group meeting is what s/he needs. This morning, with the rain bouncing on the corrugated iron roof, we listened to a large group of women.

(Photo: Anne Grafe-Buckens)

They were counting bank notes when we arrived, and the secretary (see Elizabeth’s comments of today) was carefully writing all the accounts with the accountant.

(Photo: Anne Grafe-Buckens)

Each member of the group had a passport-sized book in which s/he writes the amount of their loan and repayment, while the group amounts are kept on a separate sheet. It is carefully done, in a very friendly atmosphere, and yet they really behave with professionalism.

(Photo: Anne Grafe-Buckens)

I guess it is part of the self-respect they underlined as being what makes a good mother (the American ladies of our group asked what it means to them to be a good mum, in view of the US mother day on May 13th). Their businesses were mostly in retail, from salt, and cooking oil to bananas (green, sweet, cooking… There seems to be so many kind of them). Some of them are obviously successful considering the increasing size of the loans they qualify for. We joked, laughed, took pictures of them with the polaroid (a big big hit when the picture comes out!)… They are such a forward-looking group: it is meaningful, considering their recent history.

(Photo: Anne Grafe-Buckens)

My other great moment today was at Sakae restaurant, because of the conversations with key senior staff at UOB (the OI bank in Rwanda), precisely for the same forward looking perspective they have on their country. Rwanda is a little Singapore in Africa! This was a real insight trip day! A demain…

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Elizabeth:

Woke up to a wet and cloudy morning.  We visited a longstanding trust group who were meeting to make their loan repayments outside a local cafe in a rural area outside Kigali.  I was struck by the professionalism of the group and the meeting.

The trust group president, treasurer and secretary (photo: Anne Grafe-Buckens)

They have a president, treasurer and secretary, all of whom receive special training for their roles by the bank.  As it was raining some of the trust group members had not yet arrived to make their repayment so one of us asked what happened if they missed the meeting.  The answer was a very matter of fact, “They receive a fine.” Somehow I don’t think fines are needed often.I then had a very interesting experience of visiting one of the more basic Rwandan “facilities” before our second meeting – one I will remember for some time I’m afraid!

I also had the pleasure of sitting opposite Urwego Opportunity Bank’s CFO at dinner. A lovely Ugandan woman named Sheila who received her accountancy certification and degree from Oxford Brookes University by correspondence. Her husband is currently studying at Loughborough and they have two young children.  We spoke about the struggle of balancing career with family, nanny problems and trying to “juggle lots of crystal balls” desperately hoping not to drop any.  I felt a real connection with her and realised that although we are worlds apart in some ways, we really are not that different in our personal ambitions and hopes for our families.

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Julie:

Today was another one of beautiful Rwanda and beautiful Rwandans. Two in particular struck me. The first was Francine, a lovely, softly spoken woman, wearing a stunning yellow head dress, in the ‘We Trust Each Other’ Trust Group.

(Photo: Anne Grafe-Buckens)

She shared how her first loan had enabled her to buy more salt and sugar and increase her daily sales. From there she added soap to her inventory. Recently she’s purchased a goat, which is now ready to give birth to a kid. With her profits, Francine has put a concrete floor in her home, installed electricity and bought new furniture. She also mentioned her provision for her children and her new ability to buy clothes for herself. Her final comment, delivered with a shy smile, was that she is no longer a burden to her husband. I took that at face value, not assuming she had a domineering spouse who demanded no pressure to provide, but rather a woman who was happy to bless her family through her work.

I didn’t get the name of the other woman who greatly impressed me but she stood boldly at the end of the meeting and told us why she had joined an Opportunity Trust Group. “When I heard about a bank that wanted to work with people because of Jesus’ love for the poor I thought, that’s the type of bank I want to partner with.” She wanted to partner with us. Opportunity International loans and training are not a hand out, but a hand up as women, and some men, recognize the chance at improving their lives through business development. I was so encouraged to hear that directly from a client. Fantastic!

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7 thoughts on “Day 3 – Trust Groups

  1. Thanks so much to all of you for writing so passionately your experience every day. It is really inspiring, moving and touchilng to read you! And thanks to Anne for the beautiful pictures. Everyone seems so happy and serene. I am trully sorry not to be with you but thanks to this blog, it’s almost as if I was there!
    Enjoy!
    Stephanie

  2. All of you continue to inspire us…..put smiles on our faces and lift our spirits! It is cold and rainy back here and, through your words (and wonderful photos!), we are transported to your world of sunshine, hope and warm hearts! Please know that well beyond the couple of comments you can read here, we are all sharing these tales, over dinner, at cocktail parties and in front of interested supporters far and wide! You have a great following, so keep it up!

  3. Hi Julie – the Rwandan ladies are amazing – they are given so little and yet they reap so much. They seem to be such happy people and look so beautiful. Enjoying the photos taken by Anne and all of your stories – thank you . love Mum and Dad.

  4. Hi Elizabeth – how fascinating and interesting your trip sounds. Your blog is really bringing everything to life. I’m looking forward to seeing you at home and hearing all about your adventures. Love Amanda x

  5. Jules it’s great to hear first hand how the process of helping gradually improves the quality of an individual’s life and those connected with them. It’s very inspiring. Well done.

  6. I agree with Truett! Your adventures and wonderful work have brought a ray of sunshine to me during this horrid, London weather. Keep up the good work and safe travels! Ampx

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