Though I have never been a savings group member, perhaps I will be able to describe what life is like from a member’s perspective in Kenya. Imagine that you would have a low, erratic income and with this income you would struggle to feed, clothe and educate your family. Also throughout your lifetime you would not have had teaching on how to be a good steward of your income. Frequently after spending for your most urgent needs, you would have very little money left over to deal with emergencies such as sickness, a death in your family, and other unexpected expenses. You might be forced to beg in order to raise the necessary funds to deal with these issues. You would probably feel ashamed, powerless, and sometimes even hopeless. You would feel like there is no way that your situation would ever improve.
Then imagine you would join a savings group and you would start having a new level of relationship and the support of your brothers and sisters to save a portion of your income. Joyce, a group member of the Upendo Women savings group reports that “you feel like you belong.” You would also regularly hear teaching that would spark new ideas on how to spend your money more wisely. You would hear teaching on how to start and manage a small business. Through the money you worked hard to save in the group or through microloans from the group’s available funds, you would be able to start a small business or inject additional capital into your business to make it more profitable. You would be taught how to budget for emergencies and expenses you may not have otherwise thought about. Joyce went on to say that “you are able to do what you could not have otherwise done.”
In the event of certain types of emergencies, you would receive a gift from the group’s welfare fund. There would also be the opportunity for you to bless the other group members by contributing to their needs. Recently a local group organized a community fundraiser and succeeded in raising a respectable sum to fund one of their member’s school tuition. Being able to give brings joy, dignity and relationship to members.
Being in a savings group is not without its challenges. Joyce also reported that sometimes the group is strained when someone delays in repaying their loan in time. You can imagine how you would need to trust the other group members in order for the group to function properly. However, with the relational support of all group members and through good communication, in most cases these types of challenges are overcome and the groups continue forward.
Although you would not be drawn to this program by any hopes of “getting rich quickly,” you would rather be drawn by the hope of making small steps of progress. You would be drawn by the relational support of the group and the hope of learning new and helpful things that would result in positive change in your life and in the lives of those around you.