SIERRA LEONE – Kumba Kamara looked at the cash in her small bag and wondered how the school fees would be paid this term. In addition, planting season was approaching, requiring additional capital for tools and seed.
In addition, planting season was approaching, requiring additional capital for tools and seed. And then, the unexpected — one of her children required treatment for appendicitis, yet another cash need that she simply could not pay on her own. Now Kumba faced a dilemma: how were the farm, medical, and school fees to be paid?
How can people living a subsistence life in a tiny village, hours away from any city by rough dirt roads access capital and credit? This type of cash crunch is a common and critical need that requires a systematic response, allowing people like Kumba the opportunity and support to systematically save as well as have access to credit. In Sierra Leone, our partner Christian Extension Services (CES) is able to take this sustainable approach thanks to donations made to World Renew in Jesus’ name.
In Kumba’s village of Sarakoh, CES worked with the village to develop a village savings and loan group of 48 families. The VSL meets weekly and requires that each person bring with them two deposits – one for the main interest-bearing fund used for business and income-generating needs and the other, smaller deposit for an interest-free “social fund” used for personal needs. The funds deposited by each person are entrusted to an elected leadership team of 3 people who each have a key to the cash box – a large, heavy metal one with 3 locks — ensuring consensus and accountability among the group.
Kumba approached her group with the needs of her family and her farm. The group members listened and were able to provide for these needs, demonstrating a mature capacity to care for each other and to trust each other. Over the next months, Kumba will make payments on her loans, which will then be made available to the next person with cash needs. She says “I thank God for the VSL group in our village! Instead of going to money lenders that charge high interest, I am able to find help in my own village.”
Lansana Jawara, the CES staff person working with the VSL in Sarakoh, travels there regularly on his motorcycle to meet with the group and to review its books and procedures. “The VSL represents sustainable development,” he says “which begins with our help and continues well on its own. Please thank the donors to World Renew for us!”
Daniel Lepp Friesen
World Renew Sierra Leone