I received the message below from a dusty village in South Sudan. It’s from World Concern President David Eller, who is there visiting the people we serve.
He’s seeing how their lives are changing as they save money, grow businesses, and plan for their futures.
Talk about accountability … it’s fascinating to see how the savings group ensures everyone is playing fairly.
Here’s Dave’s post:
I started the day in Juba, Sudan half way to Wau from Nairobi. The airport was a chaotic crush of people with about four times as many people in the small ticketing area as the space should hold. By pressing through the crowds, Diane Bricker (Africa area director) and I got checked into the 90 minute UN flight to Wau.
When we arrived in Wau, we sat with Peter Macharia, the Sudan country director, and some of the program staff at the office. We reviewed pressing issues and decisions before leaving to visit a project site.
We met a savings group under two trees in an area on the edge of town. The area under the trees was hard packed dirt, as this is a common meeting place. This area is where many people fleeing conflict in their home villages have resettled. The homes are made of mud brick walls with tall grass thatched roofs.
We met outside, as the staff thought that it would be too hot inside the mud walled church where they usually meet. For us outsiders, temperatures in the 90s are hot; here, it is a cool time of year.
The World Concern-guided savings group called Piir Path, which means “Good Life,” was seated on benches and plastic chairs. One group member pulled their metal savings box out of a burlap bag and set it on the ground in the middle of the group. The box had three pad locked latches on it. In front of the whole group, the three key holders unlocked the cash box. This is how the group assures that no one can have access to their money without the whole group being present.
Once the box is open they counted the cash in front of the group to affirm it had not changed since last week’s meeting. This day they collected the one dollar a week agreed on savings from each member. When the collection was done the group secretary did his math calculations drawing in the dirt at his feet. If someone is absent they must send with another or face a 30 cent fine. The group had roughly $200 cash. Twice a month they make decisions about loans to group members from their savings. They make one-month loans of around $35, on average.
A testimony was given about how the savings program seems slow at first but can really make a difference over time. Ahok made the statement: “World Concern has never lied to us. They speak the truth and it leads to good ends.” This was very satisfying to for me to hear.
One of the goals in field visits is to determine how we are caring for the poor. Unsolicited statements such as this tell me the staff is connected and caring for those God has called us to serve.