Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Antoinette Aisha Uwimana Story...

Antoinette at her bridal store

UOB has many client transformation stories.

Antoinette is one of many, but her story is worth reading because she won the Thruman Award Honorable Mention for Africa. Thurman Award is given by Hope International, one of the largest Christian micro finance networks in the worlds, to clients whose lives have transformed through micro finance.

Below is the story that has been prepared and submitted by Agaba Bisengo, UOB's Transformation Advance Officer. You will find out how much she has transformed over just 10 years. - Jeffrey

Antoinette and her husband, Kwizera, have transformed their lives since joining UOB in 2002.  Prior to utilizing UOB’s many different services, Antoinette had to feed and support four children on her husband’s meager salary as a driver for tour groups.  After struggling to make ends meet, she garnered up the courage and put faith in the Lord to guide her to economic and spiritual transformation.

With an initial loan of twenty-thousand Rwandan Francs (equivalent to $40 at that time) as a part of a trust group, Antoinette was able to begin renting a saloon and market herself as a full-fledged businesswoman.  As her saloon blossomed and became a focal point of business in Muhoza, Musanze District in Northern Province, she expanded her saloon into a cloth/accessories store, a dry cleaner, and a wedding dress rental center.  Her loan has grown proportionally to her success, which currently sits at a cool ten million Rwanda Francs (equivalent to $16,000). 
Antoinette at her dry cleaner

Although many people laud Antoinette’s material accomplishment, which includes three separate businesses, a house worth thirty-million Francs, a plot of land, and a car, Antoinette claims that it is all thanks to the Lord and UOB for easing her into a business model and plan which, coupled with hard work, came to fruition.

When asked why Antoinette chose UOB over other MFIs, she responded that UOB was the first bank she had witnessed which prayed and spent time to help her build a solid foundation based on Christ-centered goals instead of focusing on sheer capital gain.  Uwimana joyously exclaimed that her family has come to know and understand God’s ways in a meaningful way and that her profits are all a part of God’s providence.

Furthermore, UOB provides HLI (Holistic Life Improvement) modules to train its clients on different aspects of business management, including how to use loans properly, the importance of saving, and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.  Antoinette credits the HLI modules as being critical for her success as it helped her save money and time.
Antoinette's home

Being involved in a UOB Trust Group has also provided increasing benefits for Antoinette and her family.  She recounts that the trust group introduced her to the many different entrepreneurs in her village and witnessing so many individuals come together to defeat poverty fortified her resolve to make her business successful. Today, Antoinette has hired four workers and pays for the school fees of her sister’s children in addition to paying for her own. She provides monetary support to her parents and is still churning out new ideas to make her business better.  (By Agaba Besingo)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

mVISA Roadshows in Rwanda...

VISA is a well known brand for global e-payment service provider. It connects all VISA card issuers and merchants as a network, and clears all e-payments globally. In this context, VISA is for the rich in the developed countries. VISA also has presence in developing countries, but only for the select few.

VISA has been aiming to expand its outreach to the underserved people in the world. Thus, it created a division just for this purpose. It is called Emerging Market Solutions. As part of this effort, VISA took the initiative of developing a mobile banking solutions for payments and aptly named it mVISA.

mVISA wanted to test its product in a country. After survey on several countries in various aspects, mVISA chose Rwanda as the pilot country. mVISA also wanted to partner with a micro finance bank in developing the product solution. mVISA chose Urwego Opportunity Bank or UOB. For the past 18 months, mVISA and UOB have worked tirelessly together to develop its prototype product. This product provides not only mobile banking solutions but also agent banking solutions. For the agent banking solution, mVISA has also signed up Bank of Kigali, the largest commercial bank in Rwanda.

UOB developed and further expanded mVISA product to mHose. mHose includes all mVISA procudes plus interest on savings balances and free life insurance tied to the savings balances. As of September 20th, UOB has signed up 8,000 clients and 80 agents.

mVISA has launched a marketing campaign to establish its brand in the market. For this purpose, it has launched an intensive roadshows in September. Almost everyday, a team appeared in one of the target areas to introduce the products primarily through entertainment shows. UOB and BK followed the mVISA roadshows and signed up clients. Some people came through tough pathways. Here are some photos that show these activities.

 It is exciting to see people start realizing how mVISA can help them in accessing financial services. - Jeffrey

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rwanda in Context...

Rwanda is a very unusual and unique country in many aspects. It had a genocide that progressed the fasted in the human history, by killing one million people over 100 days. That is 10,000 people per day. But Rwanda's story does not end there. Rwanda has since 1994 transformed tremendously in many ways.

The following 3:15 minute video clip shows what I was explaining about Rwanda. To watch the video, click here

Enjoy the video! - Jeffrey

Florence Story...

UOB has many stories of clients... stories that exhibit transformation in their lives. Some are economic and others are holistic, meaning in all aspects of their lives.

Opportunity International Canada has captured a story of Florence, one of UOB clients, in a video clip. Florence used to sell milk from home. She joined UOB's trust group and started building up her business first with the milk business and later grow the business to a super market.

With the micro loan, she was able to build up her business and to send her child to one of the best schools in town. Micro finance works for the good of many lives in Rwanda. To watch this 4:23 video clip about Florence's life transformation, click here . Enjoy? - Jeffrey

Micro Finance Overview...

Many people think micro finance is equal to micro credit. Micro credit is making small loans to the poor and is an important part of micro finance, but micro finance is bigger than micro credit.

Opportunity International Canada captured a video clip where I was explaining what micro finance is in September 2012 and here it is.

To watch the less than three-minute video, click here

Enjoy! - Jeffrey

Friday, September 20, 2013

Trip to Korea... (September 2013)

Kristin and I made a trip to Korea in September 2013.

The primary purpose of the trip was to attend a week-long BAM Consultation. For more details, click here The scenery at Mt. Seorak was spectacular particular with the white clouds. For more photos of Mt. Seorak, click here

We also made an overnight trip to Pohang to speak to a group of people at Pohang Joy Church, the largest congregation in the city. I talked about why I went to Rwanda and BAM. God blessed us all through this session. I was also encouraged and challenged by the warm response from the attendees.

But it was rejoicing to see our families and friends over various occasions, usually over meals. Talking about the past and the present carry a little different context, but they are fun and exciting, nonetheless. Even in Pohang, we saw some old friends, including SBS (Shalom Bible Study) alumni who traveled from Busan: Minjung and Eunyoung. In Seoul, we had a reunion with Jooheum, Saangkeub, Ji-Hye, Yurim and Sungeun. It is always joyous to see them with whom I spent time and energy to help shape and mold solid Christian faith during their stay in Rwanda. It was also joyous to see fellow Kingdom workers, Min-Young Jung and his wife Jae-Jin Lee. They are always inspirational to me. Seeing our college friends, high school friends and other friends always brings to us fond memories of the past and exciting developments of the present.

Also it was fun to eat a variety of Korean foods. The most enjoyed food was Shaved Ice with Red Beans and Ice Cream. At different places, I had it six times. Wow...

Although we did not spend much time looking around the places tourists visit, but we were able to capture some photos that all Koreans would know. Namsan, Gwanghwamun, King Sejong etc.

I ended up coming back with a cold that causes me a runny nose and sneezing, but I shall overcome soon. Now I will be back to work with my routines to regain the normal life in Rwanda, but only until the next travel comes around the corner... which is just two weeks away. - Jeffrey

Beautiful Mt. Seorak, Korea...

Mt. Seorak is a national park in Korea.

 It is not too tall, but has many pinnacles that draw clouds and people year around.

It is not rocky enough to compare to Rocky Mountains in the U.S. but rocky enough to attract photographers. 

From one spot, I was able to take great photo shots of part of the mountains and they are panoramic and fascinating. One of the reasons for the variety of shots is that the clouds continue to pass by the pinnacles, thus changing the scenery. They are marvelous and just beautiful. They look just like oriental painting to me.

I share some of the photos here below:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

BAM Consultation at Seorak, KOREA...

Jeffrey and Kristin participated in the BAM Consultation that took place at Kensington Stars Hotel inside Mt. Seorak National Park, Sokcho, Korea, from September 9-13, 2013.

BAM stands for Business As Mission. It is related to but different from a few concepts.

BAM is related to but different from Business For Mission (BFM). BFM focuses on dedicating part of all of profit that is generated from a business for the mission purpose. So there is a chance that the process of doing business in a godly way may be compromised with the worldly practices. Also it may cause a dualistic thinking and approach between business and mission. This has been around for a long time, but it is not BAM.

BAM is related to but different from Business And Mission (B and M). The business in B and M focuses on making a living to carry out traditional mission activities, such as church planting, bible translation, establishing bible college, medical mission etc. B and M, thus, clearly separates business from mission. Frequently people refer to this as a tent-making, like Paul did. But, if you understand what the "skole" meant during the first century like the hall of Tyrannus, you know that the business and evangelism/mission were all integrated. Anyway, B and M is not BAM.

BAM is NOT related to and thus completely different from Business as a cover-up or BAC. BAC is a fake business without honesty and integrity. Some people used business to enter into a country hostile to Christianity, but did not carry out any genuine business. Thus it is not a business, neither BAM.

BAM necessitates the business to be identified as a mission. Business equates the mission, in other words. They are alter ego. Business is mission. BAM thus is a genuine business that is sustainable on its own operations, providing quality products and/or services of excellence in a way that reflects the love and values of Jesus Christ. BAM may or may not be involved in any explicit Christian or evangeltical or missional activities, but the purpose and mission of the business centers around the Great Commission and the ultimate transformation of the people whom the business serves. The owners, the board and the top management all are aligned with the same purpose and most, if not all, of the staff should also be aligned with the godly purposes. BAM focuses on not only the outcome of the business but also the process of business operations; not only the interest of shareholders and staff, but also the interest of clients and other stakeholders.

To be successful and effective, BAM requires two qualities of excellence: business and mission. To run a business effectively, he or she needs to know and apply sound business management principles on top of the knowledge about the products/services the business provides. Also, he or she needs to clearly understand and pursues intentionally Christian values based on godly Kingdom principles. It is not easy, therefore, to establish and run an effective BAM.

Even the world that is hostile to Christianity welcomes genuine businesses because they create jobs and employment. The business missionary also can relate well to people in the target country through the business that deals with day to day issues of life. BAM also provides self-sustainability if it is genuinely sustainable, thus not requiring on-going support. Normally, it also takes care of the visa requirement.

BAM is not a new concept, but a redefined and rediscovered concept for mission. The Lausanne Movement has adopted BAM as an official way of mission in 2004. There is Global Think-tank and Global Congress where strategic directions are discussed and decided. There was a Global Congress in Thailand in 2013.

Centering around this topic of BAM, a group of 42 people gathered together and shared their BAM cases and insights into a number of issues of life in the marketplace. The schedule was tight running from 7AM till 10PM, sometimes beyond 10PM, but the spirit was high among all participants and people were encouraged and inspired. I was one of the speakers and lectured on three topics. [Unfortunately, I am unable to put a photo of the participants due to the sensitivity of some participants.]

May the Lord continue to bless those who are involved in BAM as a creative mission strategy so that the gospel of love and hope may be shared with those who are still living in darkness. It is appropriate to quote this:

"Evangelize always, and use the Word if necessary."

It requires us to live out like Christ to be called Christians. It is lifestyle evangelism. BAM is a way of life to live the mission mandate. - Jeffrey

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ministry Updates - August 2013...

Dear family, friends and fellow Kingdom workers,

Warm greetings from Kigali, Rwanda to you all who are scattered all over the world. Momentarily, I was thinking of the countries where this e-mail will reach: USA, Korea, Senegal, UK, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, UAE, Ghana, Germany, India, Philippines, Myanmar, China, Ethiopia ... just off the top of head. I trust all is well with you all despite some challenges that may come your way from time to time.

The following were highlights of the ministries during August:

With Nick, Director of mHose mVISA project
1. mHose mVISA launch was scaled up in August. Now 5,000 clients and 50 agents have signed up and enjoy the convenient service. We held a press conference and Rwandan media gave us prominent coverage. From September, mVISA begins roadshows and UOB will participate in the roadshows that will take place throughout the country.

2. UOB began a 4-month long radio campaign on Holistic Life Improvement (HLI) training that covers financial and business literacy. This radio campaign will be made through two radio stations one of which specifically target agricultural farmers. UOB sponsors prominent programs and as part of the programs, HLI training is aired. At the same time, mHose mVISA is also promoted in the middle of 5-7 minute long HLI training. May this radio training campaign bear many fruits!

3. UOB will be the first bank within Opportunity International implementing members, which will migrate into T24 R12 model bank. T24 is a world class core banking system and R12 is the most recent release to which UOB will migrate from the current R05 (2005 release). This migration, upon completion, would help us improve the operating efficiency significantly. This migration project had a kick-off meeting with global project manager and UOB's own task force. This project is one of five big rock projects of UOB for 2013.

4. The project to distribute  UOB Grace cards to borrowing clients have been completed in August. Now our focus will be on distributing these chip-based debit cards to deposit clients so that they may benefit from using 270 ATMs and other POS-based merchants or agents.

5. Rwanda's central bank held its semi-annual Monetary Policy Statement meeting in August. As of June 30th, 2013, Rwanda continued its stable but steadily improving economy. The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance acknowledged the volatility buried in the six month statistics, due mainly to the macroeconomic fiscal challenges associated with disrupted inflow of foreign development aid. For more details, click here

6. UOB scaled up its agricultural finance and education finance programs in August. To date, we have provided input/production loans for more than 4,000 farmers. For more details about Education Finance, click here

Yaramba Nursery
7. Kristin's Yaramba (Gicumbi) Nursery construction project has been completed in August. VBS was held with the assistance of two short temr mission teams, making the preparatory foundation strong. Please click here to see the blog post related to this.

8. Kristin and I made a quick travel to Burundi with a couple of lady pastors. For more details, click here

9. Jeffrey attended the Opportunity Kenya board meeting in Nairobi, Kenya and continued serving the Kingdom of God through preaching at UOB staff devotion and Agape Korean Church, and teaching/disciple making through Shalom Bible Study.

10. Please pray with us for the following subjects:

  • UOB regained a momentum in its key operational performance indicators to the levels of April 2013. The struggle continues and we pray for quick recovery to stabilize the operations as the macroeconomic situation is improving.
  • T24 R12 model bank migration project is significant for 2013. Please pray for thorough preparation and smooth migration that will begin in September.
  • HLI training and 5W for standardized group meeting are important for UOB's holistic transformation efforts. Please pray for all staff's strong buy-in and wholehearted implementation for effective impact on clients.
  • Kristin and I will be traveling to Korea in September to attend a week-long BAM (Business As Mission) consultation. Jeffrey has to deliver three lectures and another one at a church in Pohang. Also, we will see the SBS alumni in Seoul and Pohang. Please pray for travel mercy and fruitful meetings.
  • Our parents are stable without much improvement or worsening. Please join us in praying for their graceful finish of their lives on earth in hopes for the life to come. Amanda is in transition as she follows her husband James who is undergoing the training at several locations, to be able to fly special operations aircraft. Joyce continues her Peace Corps responsibility in Senegal. Please pray for their spiritual health to grow strong with solid foundation of faith in Christ.   
Thank you for standing with us in our ministries through prayer and support. You are an integral part of our ministries for our Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.

Warmly and gratefully IN CHRIST,

Jeffrey and Kristin Lee from Kigali, RWANDA