Monday, November 26, 2012

Rwanda, Inc.

A book titled "Rwanda, Inc." has been published and is now in store.

This book will help you eyewitness how Rwanda has risen from the bottom pit of the genocide and is rising towards becoming an "African lion" country.

For further information, here is the link. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Micro Finance Overview ...

Micro Finance is more than making small loans or micro credit as many understand. Micro finance includes:
  • Credit, 
  • Savings, 
  • Insurance, 
  • Remittances (some people do not include this) and 
  • Training/education.
In recent years, micro finance is now evolving into inclusive finance. Inclusive finance includes financial inclusion that focuses on outreach in terms of breadth (number) and depth (poverty). Inclusive finance may include non-financial services that provide more holistic services for the underprivileged people. These non-financial services may include education, energy, agriculture, health and water sanitation, market connection and even counseling and coaching.

Opportunity International Canada team has captured the explanation that I made in February 2012 in a video clip. Please click the link below to watch a short video. - Jeffrey

Click Here to Watch a Video Clip about Micro Finance

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rwanda in Context ...

Rwanda is on the rise.

Rising from the genocide.
Rising from the chronic poverty.
Rising from the despair and hopelessness.
Rising from one of the poorest countries in Africa.

Rwanda is transforming.
Economically, socially and spiritually.

Rwanda is a country to watch.

Rwanda, Inc. in motion.

Click Here to Watch this Video about Rwanda in Context...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Made in Rwanda Insight Highlights (Feb 2012)

Opportunity International Canada came to Rwanda in a group for an insight trip in February 2012. This group held a Leadership Summit in a joint effort with Wellspring Foundation and Urwego Opportunity Bank. Please refer to the previous post.

A short video has since been produced through interviews with some of the participants.

Click here to watch this video showing highlights of "Made in Rwanda" Insight Trip

The Story of Florence...

Florence is one of UOB's clients. When she first joined UOB's trust groups, she bought milk, pasteurized it and sold it for profit out of her house. She sold five liters before she took the first loan of $30 from UOB. With the loan, she increased the sales volume to 20 liters and more. Her fourth loan was $700. With it, she was able to convert her store to a mini super market. Florence attributes her ability to send her son Johnson to the micro loans she received from UOB.

Micro loans transform many lives. Florence is only one of 44,000 borrowing clients of UOB.

The following link will show you her own explanation in a short video clip. - Jeffrey

Florence's Story

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ngoma Branch Grand Opening Ceremony...

Road Side Sign
On Friday, November 9th, UOB officially opened its ninth branch in Ngoma District, Eastern Province. It was drizzling but the grand opening ceremony was attended by all local officials and many spectators. In Rwanda, it is common to invite Rwandan traditional dancers to celebrate the event after formal speeches, such as opening prayer, welcoming remarks, congratulatory speech, thanksgiving response etc.

Motorcycle Riders
This event was more meaningful because a group of visitors from Opportunity International U.S. also attended the ceremony. They were visiting Rwanda for an insight trip. The team included Chairman of the Opportunity International Network Board, David Simms. He also gave us a congratulatory remark.

The cake was lit and cut by a group of us together with the District official.

After the ceremony, there was a parade in Ngoma town. The parade included UOB's mobile branch, a truck carrying Anita, one of Rwanda's famous and popular radio anchors, 25-30 motorcycle riders wearing UOB T-shirts and a dozen roller blade riders, all wearing UOB T-shirts. It has been UOB's tradition to mobilize these people to let the town people know we are now there to serve the clients. Anita was a young and slim lady and many Rwandans were surprised to find out how young and slim she was. Her radio voice made many people believe she was a middle aged woman.

I had to come back right after the ceremony but I learned that the parade drew a lot of attention from the town people.

May the Lord bless us with His divine wisdom to find out the best ways to serve the Rwandans in the Ngoma area. This branch will also be used as a hub for satellite branches, credit offices and branchless agents in the area and neighboring districts. - Jeffrey

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Opportunity International Network

With Harry Turner, GMO CEO
Opportunity International Network (OIN) is a global Christian micro finance network that comprises more than 50 organizations that are involved in various aspects of micro finance. It serves more than 5,000,000 underprivileged people with the Christian values and mission.

The OIN has 40 some implementing members, including UOB in Rwanda and six supporting members. Supporting members raise funding to support the activities and programs of implementing members. Supporting members are based in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Australia, Canada and Singapore. Implementing members are all over the world with nine members operating in Africa: Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, DR Congo, Mozambique, Malawi and S. Africa. OIN has GMO or Global Microfinance Operations that provides shared services for all implementing members in such areas as IT, Audit, Finance, Risk, H.R. etc.

Dinner with US Ambassador Donald Koran and David Simms
OIN has a global board of which membership consists of chairmen of all supporting members, GMO CEO and some independent directors. OIN's board chairman serves full time while all other board chairmen are volunteers.

David Simms at Ngoma Branch
Ngoma Branch Cake
OIN has a total staff of approximately 13,000 scattered around the world. OIN's unique character is that it focuses on establishing and operating regulated micro finance institutions, wherever and whenever possible. The purpose is to establish the base for collecting deposits from the public so that the institutions may be self-sustainable as far as the funding resources are concerned. For example, UOB is a regulated MFI in Rwanda, the first and largest micro finance bank.

During the week of November 5th, UOB received two of the top executives of OIN. On 5th and 6th, UOB received Harry Turner, OIN GMO's CEO. From 7th, UOB received David Simms, OIN Board Chairman who came as part of OI US Insight Trip team. It was an honor to have them not only come but also share the messages at UOB staff devotions on Monday and Friday, respectively. Moreover, David Simms participated in the Ngoma Branch Grand Open Dedication Service and delivered his remarks. It was a significant week for UOB. They both said that they were encouraged and impressed by the work being done at UOB. Praise the Lord!

It has been my privilege to have been part of Opportunity International in serving the poor. - Jeffrey

Monday, November 12, 2012

Opportunity International CEO Conference, Oct. 2012

Kristin and I attended Opportunity International CEO Conference held in Zanzibar, Tanzania. (October 31-November 1, 2012) Zanzibar is a beautiful island. It used to be an independent state but decided to be part of the union with Tanganika, thus forming Tanzania. But Zanzibar has tried to become independent again for quite some time.
Jetty Lounge, a breath-taking view...

Zanzibar used to be part of Oman, even its capital for decades under 11 Sultans. So its population is predominantly Muslims. But they embrace other religions openly. Its major town is Zanzibar Town, but its old town, called Stone Town, has many historic landmarks. We traveled to the Stone Town about three years ago so we stayed in the east coast where the conference took place.

The CEO Conference is mainly for Africa CEOs but two Eastern Europe CEOs are also invited. Opportunity International has a network shared service organization, called GMO or Global Microfinance Operations. GMO has several support staff, including Chief Risk, Chief Financial, Chief Auditor, Chief Information, Chief Human Resources Officers under the GMO's CEO. All these staff also attend along with African regional directors for all functions. 

This conference was to build upon the Strategic Blue Print that was presented at the Oxford OI Global Leadership Conference in September. I was asked to lead a 2-hour session on Transformation. I presented Holistic Transformational Development with the focus on providing services to meet the holistic needs of clients, primarily non-financial services.

Unfortunately, Kristin and I were not feeling well. So our leisure time was all for resting. The panoramic  and breath-taking views of Zanzibar were sufficient for our enjoyment. We were grateful for the opportunity. - Jeffrey

Sunday, November 11, 2012

First Aid Training for Women in Kanagi...

On November 8, 2012, Thursday, I (Kristin) had an opportunity to provide training on First Aid for Rwandan women at a 3-day seminar for women in a village called Kanagi, Bugesera District, Eastern Province. 

The seminar, organized by a Korean missionary, was mainly for the wives of pastors ministering in the area. The seminar included praise, the Word, prayer, seminars and sharing in order to provide  encouragement. They shared their joy and pain coming from their ministries, thus touching and healing each other.  

In addition to the planned training on First Aid, we had a fellowship session over zucchini chocolate cake that I baked for them. Some of them said that it was their first time to taste something like it. It was great joy to see their smile over a little treat like it. May the Lord bless them with the divine peace! - Kristin

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Opportunity International and Habitat for Humanity

The following article was posted on Opportunity International's blog. The home improvement loan is a great way to help the poor improve their well-being. Rwanda is not included, but UOB plans to offer similar products with its own resources.

Opportunity International and Habitat for Humanity Partner to Improve African Lives through Better Housing

Pretoria, South Africa, Oct. 25, 2012 — Answering the call of a mounting housing crisis in Africa, Habitat for Humanity and Opportunity International have formed a partnership to increase access to better housing for people living in poverty throughout Africa. The two organizations will work together to provide home improvement financing, housing support services and construction technical assistance to impoverished people, beginning in Ghana, followed by Malawi and Uganda.
The joint program will offer the following products and services:
  • Access to a full package of financial services, including access to loans, money transfers, payments, savings, cash, and insurance, to people unserved by conventional banks
  • Short-term loans for land purchase, home improvement and incremental home construction
  • Financial literacy training to include, where appropriate, training on construction quality, efficiency and the benefits of building safely
  • Housing support services (including construction technical assistance) to ensure quality and durability of buildings, plus monitoring/supervision and training
“The collaboration between Opportunity International and Habitat is a natural extension of our financial services work in Africa, and our mission to invest in one to impact many,” said Vicki Escarra, CEO of Opportunity International. “Together with Habitat, Opportunity International will fill the gap to provide a more secure future for impoverished families in this incredibly needy region.”
It is expected that Africa will have the world’s highest urbanization rate, with 50 percent of the population living in cities by 2030. UN Habitat statistics indicate that about 40.3 percent currently live in slums with inadequate and overcrowded dwellings, mostly without clean water, electricity and proper sanitation. Rural families also suffer from a serious lack of these services.
Impoverished and even middle-class households in pursuit of better shelter often turn to financing to improve their situation. However, conventional banks generally fail or ignore the financing of low-cost shelter, as the perceived risks and costs outweigh benefits. Mortgage markets in the region are small, providing access to only an elite segment of the population. This problem is further accentuated by ambiguous property rights and legal precedents that constrain conventional ways of financing shelter. Consequently, impoverished households are often driven into the informal financial sector.
Opportunity International has more than 40 years of experience in serving the unbanked with financial products, including loans, savings, and insurance, as well as services related to transformation and financial literacy. For over 36 years, Habitat for Humanity has been providing construction services, acquiring land, and developing housing, housing support services and home improvement skills for people living in poverty.
Opportunity International currently has operations in nine African countries, including five where Habitat is also active. The on-the-ground teams will combine resources to provide cost-effective, complementary services to families in need.

About Habitat for Humanity International

Habitat for Humanity International is a global nonprofit Christian housing organization that seeks to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope. Since 1976, Habitat has served more than 500,000 families by welcoming people of all races, religions and nationalities to construct, rehabilitate or maintain homes; by advocating for fair and just housing policies; and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions. In Africa and the Middle East, Habitat for Humanity is active in 15 countries. For more information, please visit

About Opportunity International

Opportunity International provides financial services and opportunity for transformation to more than four million people working their way out of poverty in the developing world. Clients in more than 20 countries use Opportunity’s services to reach their God-given potential, bringing change that reverberates through families, villages and entire countries. For more information, visit or join the conversation at

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ministry Updates - October 2012

Praying with clients is a privilege...
Dear family, friends and fellow Kingdom workers

This month, this update is a little late because I was traveling over the month-end with little access to internet. 

October was another month of experiencing God's unceasing and overflowing grace. We praise the Lord for His goodness and faithfulness.

1. I had an opportunity to make a short trip to Korea. The primary reason for the trip was to look after my father whose health was deteriorating rapidly. But I found him to have improved quite a bit and I was able to leave Korea with grateful heart. But I also saw many long time friends in joyous reunion and met many new people who are brothers and sisters in Christ. I had a chance to meet Rev. Dong Ho Kim and Dr. Young Gil Kim, President of Handong Global University. I gave a lecture to 110 students at Handong.

2. We successfully completed our SME lending project in cooperation with Triple Jump. The project included basic research, sector analysis, credit scoring model development, training, operational procedures manual development etc. Particularly this project helped us develop (B-CAT or Business Credit Assessment Tool) that will be operating on the clouds (computing) to expedite the process for clients in remote areas.

3. We have successfully branded our mobile banking solution. It has been named mHose. Hose means "everywhere." Indeed it is our prayer that banking services may be available to all Rwandans wherever they are, even in the rural areas. Moreover, our product will pay interest on their savings and provide life insurance tied to their savings balance. May this product be useful for lifting up may underprivileged people of Rwanda out of chronic poverty.

4. Financially, UOB reported another month of record in monthly revenues, loan portfolio and active clients being served. Loan portfolio increased to Rwf10.7Billion, up 3% from the previous month and the borrowing client number increased substantially to 44,150. PAR>30 remained strong at 1.34%. Glory be to God Almighty!

Children are precious treasure for Rwanda's future
5. God has also provided many resources for UOB. DFID Rwandan approved our initial concept note on Innovation for Education and we successfully submitted our full application for 650,000 sterling pounds. IFC conducted its due diligence and wholehearted agreed to increase its funding for us. Praise the Lord! We were also approved by AFR and also by DFID UK on our concepts.We will submit full proposals to both institutions in November. October was a month of many blessings in resources. God provides! Amen.

6. We conducted focus group meetings with 165 clients on four new products: Premier Credit Life, Home Improvement Loan, Emergency Loan and Secondary Student Loan. The results were encouraging. We will gradually implement these products to help our client transform their economic lives better.

7. UOB signed an MOU with Handong Global University, Korea's Christian university to collaborate on multiple fronts. God is providing a couple of bridges between Rwandan and Korea, along with the MOU with Merry Year International.

8. UOB started issuing UOB Grace Cards (Chip and PIN debit cards) to its clients. We will have issued 50,000 cards by the year-end. Clients then will be able to access to cash service points through 240 ATMs and even 200 additional agents of another bank that is providing banking on POS. I am deeply grateful for all these delivery channels that are being made available to our clients.

9. I continued serving the saints of Christ through preaching at St. Etienne Cathedral, Agape Korean Church and UOB staff devotion, and Shalom Bible Study. SBS continues the study in the epistle to the Colossians. It is a blessing to be able to serve God's people through the Word.

Kristin with Gicumbi pastor
10. Kristin started a church nursery project in Gicumbi. It will cost $15,000 and at this time we have opened the door of support to our friends. The support has been overwhelming. Praise the Lord! Indeed it was an another example of God's promise of providing for His people on His work. 

10.  November will be full of activities. We will receive seven groups of people, including the OI GMO CEO, OI US Insight Trip, OIN Board Chairman, Merry Year International team etc. Besides, we will submit two funding proposals and prepare for the board meeting to take place in early December. We will begin the preliminary external audit from Earnst & Young and work on 2013 budget and 2013-2015 strategic plan. It makes me dizzy to even think about them, but we will move forward with trust in the Lord who provides strengths.

11. We have the request for your prayers for the following:
  • mHose project will be launched successfully in November. There are some time-pressing needs to be addressed.
  • 2013 budget and planning process will move forward smoothly.
  • Premier Credit Life and Secondary Student Loan programs will be successfully launched.
  • UOB Grace Card projects will be progressing without system glitches.
  • Several funding proposals will progress without falling into cracks.
  • Kristin's Gicumbi nursery project will move forward progressively.
  • Our parents will live the rest of their lives peacefully and hopefully.
  • Our children will find strong foundation in Jesus Christ in all they do and plan to do.
  • Our health will remain safe and sound to be able to carry out the responsibilities bestowed upon us.
Thank you all for your faithfully standing with us in a variety of ways for the ministry to Rwandans.

Gratefully in His service,

Jeffrey and Kristin Lee from Kigali, RWANDA