Our ALT: Youth Edition team member Rachel, has written a blog on her experiences from the first few days in Malawi! Check it out-
“Today we had the opportunity to observe the Savings & Loans program that World Vision has implemented in the Mposa community. As I plan to attend university in the fall for Commerce, I was intrigued and very excited to learn about this project. I expected to sit in an informational presentation, but what we saw was so much better. We drove about an hour out, through many fields, to a woman’s house. Out front, there was a group of approximately 40 women and children gathered in a circle, singing. Our translator explained to us that the women were in the middle of their weekly meeting. Their songs translated into phrases such as, “saving is good” and “buying shares is good”. We learned that their meeting was actually the process of the women purchasing shares in the bank. They went around the circle, and as each woman got up to buy a share, the group would continue to sing. As each woman handed over their money, the woman who owned the house, the Money Counter, announced how many shares the woman purchased in the bank. A cheer erupted with each announcement, and as each woman turned to sit down once again, the songs would continue. The immense joy of each individual was so early seen.
When I think about buying shares back home, and even conducting regular banking, it can be a very impersonal act. With the use of online banking and mobile apps, one could complete all their banking without speaking to a single person. Business transactions are simply that, business. Here in Mposa, through the Savings & Loans program, banking becomes a celebration for the whole community. It was beautiful to see each woman partake in the meeting and be celebrated for what they offered, whether it be $5 or $15.
Following the meeting, several of the women shared about how the program has helped them. The implementation of the program has eliminated many of their challenges. Before, purchasing basic household items was a problem. With the program, the women have been able to purchase items such as mattresses for their families, food and clothing for their children. They have also been able to buy bicycles so that their children can attend school and a sewing machine to make their own clothing. They were able to start their own businesses such as selling tomatoes, donuts and fish. We learned that these Savings & Loans groups are present in many of the communities, but often are separated into men and women, because the men tend to dominate mixed meetings. This further empowers the women as they are in control of their financial and business decisions.
The pure joy and transformation that I saw and heard about in these women’s lives was so inspiring. At the end, the Money Counter announced the total amount and the number of shares purchased. Once again, the group broke out in song and dance, and even included us in their celebrations!
As we continue to travel to the many villages in Malawi, and meet so many people, I am continually overwhelmed by the sense of community here. These women have taken something as simple as banking and have strengthened their community both relationally and economically. The contrast between our cultures amazes me, and I hope that when I return to Canada, I can begin to model my interactions in my community like those of the people of Malawi.”