[Sarah, Lending Team Leader, Jean Claude, Lending staff reaching out to Butaro, Clement, Musanze EBU Leader....... Beautiful Lake Burera on the way to Butaro]
On Friday, August 27th, Kristin and I visited our clients in Burera District. Daniel, Transformational Impact Manager came along to interprete for us.
Burera District is north of Musanze bordering Uganda. It has Lake Burera, a beautiful lake that deserves the national attention for tourism as the road conditions improve.
We chose to visit Burera because OI Germany has raised funding from its supporters to help expand our outreach towards the women enterpreneurs in the area. Out of over than 10 sectors in the district, we visited Butaro Sector where our lending staff Jean Claude is serving 5 groups, totaling 170 clients. 93% of them are women.
When we arrived in Ruhengeri, Musanze District's capital, we sat down with the lending staff of Musanze EBU (Entrepreneurial Business Unit) and discussed about the challenges that the bank is facing and how Musanze EBU is doing relative to other EBUs. They made a few requests and asked a few questions. I was able to respond to some immediately and encouraged them to keep up the good work.
[Woman at the kiosk... Woman selling sorghum drinks... Man running bicycle part shop...
Man owning a multiple store... as a barber ...... also charging batteries and cell phones...]
One lady owns a little kiosk by the road selling some agricultural crops and grocery items. She has been working with UOB for the past 6 years. We bought some grocery items from her and I will never forget her big smile.
We also visited a little shop where the owner was conducting multiple lines of business. He was charging cell phones and batteries for others, but he was also cutting hair for others. At the corner, he had a TV that is showing gospel music loudly to share the gospel to those who are visiting the store or passing by.
Another woman was making sorghum drink in a drum barrel and sell it. She said that she was generating RWF20,000 ($38) in revenue on a daily basis. Another man was running a bicycle part retail business together with his wife. He has six children and because of this loan from UOB he is able to feel and raise the children. All wonderful stories of microfinance!
The road to Butaro was quite challenging. From Kigali, we drove two hours to reach Rugengeri, Capital town of Musanze District. From there, we had to drive almost one and half hour pretty much on an unpaved road. Not only unpaved, the road was narrow, bumpy and very winding around the Lake Burera.
When we arrived, more than 60 women gathered and greeted us. After Jean Claude made the introduction, Clemente, the Musanze EBU (Entrepreneurial Business Unit) leader introduced us to them. One of the committee members read their requests and challenges. Five women clients shared their testimonials about how microfinance has helped them improve their lives.
It was my turn to speak. They expected me to respond to their requests and to hear more good news to them. Among the requests, they hoped to have calculators for the Treasurers. I promised to supply them. They also asked for T-shirts and bibles for all members, which we could not promise. But I shared with them our plan to roll out micro leasing, micro insurance, motor cycle loans and agricultural finance, to each of which they responded with applause.
It was greatly encouraging that we were reaching out to them in remote distance, but I felt uneasy about Jean Claude reaching out to them on a motorcycle every week through the challenging road.
On the way back, I prayed that the good Lord would give us discernment and wisdom to address the issue of our lending staff having to carry the cash for loan disbursement and repayment collection. We are still hoping and dreaming to relieve our lending staff from handling cash by the end of this year. Oh Lord, please hear us and grant us your grace. - Jeffrey