Saturday, February 20, 2010

Three Grenades Detonated in Kigali...

This is a little disturbing news, but our Kigali life goes on. Regardless, Kigali is one of the safest cities in Africa. The following is from the Reuters Africa news:

Grenade attacks kill 1, injure 18 in Rwanda capital
Sat Feb 20, 2010 9:32am GMT

By Hereward Holland

KIGALI (Reuters) - Three grenade attacks hit the Rwandan capital Kigali on Friday night, killing one person and wounding 18, police said on Saturday.

The police said it was not yet clear who was behind the attacks nor whether they were coordinated. "There was one death and 18 injuries," police spokesman Eric Kayiranga said.
Two grenades exploded in the town centre and a third went off at the international bus staion, all within half an hour.

Many grenades were left over from lengthy conflicts in the Great Lakes region and are sometimes used to settle scores.

At a university hospital on Friday night, relatives told Reuters four of the wounded men were in a critical state. One man had shrapnel wounds to his ear and nose. A dead man lay in a pool of blood on the hospital floor.

"There is a possibility of it being FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), or criminals, or an accident. It can be any of that. We can't confirm that for now," Kayiranga said.
The FDLR is a ethnic-Hutu rebel group based in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It includes people responsible for carrying out the 1994 genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

While there has generally been little crime in recent years in the central African country -- where 800,000 were killed in the genocide in 100 days -- there are occasional bombings.
A string of grenade attacks have killed four people in the last two months, including witnesses in a genocide court case.

Last year Rwanda destroyed 30,248 small arms and 70 tonnes of ordinance, including 1,332 hand grenades, according to the Web site of the Mines Advisory Group, an international demining organisation.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Teaching Women How to Bead ...

The Lord has led me (Kristin) to start ministering to a group of poor women including many women who live with the HIV positive. They all attend a local church in Kininya, outside Kigali (Pentecostal Evangelical Fellowship Assembly). Along with a missionary from Korea, Bohye Kim, we started teaching them how to make beads. The first attempt was to make bracelets. Many showed great interest, but little showed good talent. Well.... we will have to lower the expectation.

We held the first lesson on Feb. 9th and the second on 16th. We plan to give them equal opportunities to learn first. After several lessons, we will pick some who show talent and/or potential to develop more, and train them more intensively to be able to make sellable merchandise. This will help them improve their economic lives themselves. It is a developmental work.

Providing them with market access is another challenge, but we will have to train them first to be commercially good enough. Once they become good and we trust some will, we trust that the Lord will prepare the way for the next step.

It will be a long journey, but didn't someone say this? "Beginning is a half way done."

Prayer warriors, we will need your prayer support for the beginning steps of the long journey.
- Kristin

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Opensky", a Creative Tehnology Solution to Outreach

The sky is wide open for possibilities. The sky is the limit!

That is where the name "Opensky" was originated. It is UOB's proprietary product!

It is a NetBook computer with a 3G GPRS communication device, webcamera, biometrics device and a mobile printer. It will cost less than $1,000, but its potentials are wide open like the sky. It enables us to conduct banking transactions even under a mango tree where no power and no internet access is available. Nope! We do not use the internet.

Well.... I cannot disclose too much in writing, but I can describe what it can do now and in the future.

1. It enables us to conduct banking operations (deposit, withdrawal and loan payment) in real time at the mobile branch without power and internet access. It is now working! (See another blogpost on this mobile branch.)
2. It enables the field staff to send and receive e-mails anywhere the cell phone signal is available.
3. It enables the field staff to process loan payment at the group meeting and send the data to the home office for processing.
4. It enables the field staff to answer all inquires from their clients at the group meeting.
5. It enables us to disburse loan proceeds almost anywhere cash is available.
6. It enables us to trace where our field staff has gone during the day through GPS tracking.
7. It enables us to process and issue an insurance binder on site in communication with the home office system.
8. It enables us to get an instant answer to a credit scoring inquiry.
9. It enables us to implement agent banking or "branchless banking" anywhere in the country for cash withdrawal and possibly deposit taking, if the regulatory agency allows.
10. It enables us to open the branch pretty much anywhere in the country as long as the business feasibility makes sense.
What an innovative solution it is! It is indeed a gift of God for us to be able to accelerate the client outreach through this technologically innovative solution. Praise the Lord! - Jeffrey

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The First Mobile Branch at UOB !!!

[At the Kiramuruzi Market on Feb. 6th, 2010 ........... From inside the mobile branch ....................]
Finally, UOB has launched its first mobile branch!

It has been produced in Rwanda for the first time. So there was some learning curve. Normally, such mobile branches are built and imported from either Kenya or South Africa.

The first mobile branch has been in the works for several months, built on the Toyota Land Cruiser hard body model. As we added weight to the vehicle, the frame had to be fortified, tires had to be strengthened and weight had to be balanced. After a few test drives for the cornering and weight balancing, we finally felt that it may be deployed even in challenging terrains of Rwanda a few weeks ago.

When we were about to launch it, however, the inverter issue was revealed. The inverter is the vehicle engine charging system for the batteries to support computers and printers. We had to make it self-sustainable, not depending on unreliable and inconsistent land power. The issue that was revealed at the last minute was that the inverter was functioning irregularly. We had to find a replacement for it after searching for a week in Kigali City. We had to run another round of test drive to see how long the battery lasts and how long it will take to recharge it. We even test operated at Home Office serving the Kigali clients.
So far, so good. So it will be officially launched this coming Saturday. It was launched last Saturday for a few hours, but it was a test operationg. This coming Saturday, it will be officially launched with a soft-opening, meaning that we will not have a formal opening ceremony or a reception. (By the time this is posted, it has actually launched on Saturday February 6th and its photos are included herein.)

The first mobile brach will operate with three banking staff, a driver with customer service training and an armed guard. It will be equipped with "Opensky" and mobile printer. (Please see a separate blogpost on "Opensky.") With the "Opensky" we could conduct banking transactions under a mango tree where no power and no internet connection is available! That is, it is possible even in Rwanda!

The first mobile branch will be stationed at Rwamagana Branch in the Eastern Province and its first operation site will be Kiramuruzi, a village approximately 30 km away from the Rwamagana Branch. The mobile branch will be open for business on Saturdays and Mondays, the village's market days when all farmers around the area come for their trades. We will employ a couple of village mobilizers who will recruit the potential clients and get them ready for transactions on the market days.

Once this operation goes smoothly, then we will add other villages. Also, we will begin the fabrication of the second mobile branch. It is an expensive delivery channel, but we would like to have at least two mobile branches and run them for a year before we make a decision on any additional launching. It is wonderful that we may be able to reach out to the under- or unserved farmers in the villages with credits and deposit services.

I thank God for His faithfulness in bringing the project to this point. - Jeffrey

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Midnight Flood...

February 1st was the first anniversary date for our arrival in Kigali, Rwanda. It is also Hero's Day in Rwanda and a holiday.

On this special day, we had a special experience: a midnight flood.

Kristin was sick and was in bed around 10PM. I was working on computer. I heard a sound like shower, but I thought Kristin was taking shower and ignored it. After a while, I turned off the computer and headed to the bedroom. As soon as I started walking in the living room, I realized something was terribly wrong. I was walking in the water... all over the house. Living room, kitchen, hallway, bedroom, bathroom.

It did not take me very long to find the source of the noise. A flexible tube connecting water pipe to toilet was broken and water was gushing out of the tube, flooding the bathroom, spreading to all over the places in the house. There was no place in the house which was spared from the flood. It was a diaster.

The water stopped immediately when I turned off the water switch. But we had to labor for two and half hours to sweep and mop the water out of the house. The night guard for the apartment compound helped us out. It was a 50% increase in our labor force. Moreover, he was faster and harder working than we were.

By the time we laid ourselves down on the bed, we were exhausted. It was 30 minutes past the midnight. But we held our hands together and prayed. There were at least four reasons for us to be thankful for.

1) The flood happened while I was still awake. It would have been a greater disaster if it happened while both of us were sleeping. 2) Despite the flood, all electrical devices and outlets that were lying on the floor were kept from damage. Water got into a surge protector, but it did not create a short-circuit. Whew... 3) The night guard helped us out willingly and gladly. We were talking about God's presence even in the midst of such a mess, while working. and 4) The floor of the house is of tiles. So it was easier for us to sweep and wipe the water.

So we thanked God for the interesting experience we had on the first anniversary date of our Kigali life and laughed about it. It did not take us very long before we fell asleep. - Jeffrey