February 8 2018

Small Investments Go a Long Way

How a widowed mother of four learned how to earn a steady income and support her family.

KAYONZA, Rwanda—Ingabire, 49, lives in a rural town in eastern Rwanda. For years Ingabire and her family struggled to make ends meet. “I didn’t have all the skills that would have allowed me to take care of my children in the best way,” she says. “I was economically weak and psychologically depressed. It was difficult to meet basic needs for my household. I couldn’t even feed my family twice a day.”

To sustain the family, Ingabire depended on traditional agriculture, but the production never yielded enough for Ingabire and her children. Without access to loans, she could not afford livestock or even basic household items such as bedding or clothes.

Seizing Opportunities to Learn

Tides began to change for Ingabire and her family once she started attending the SOS Family-Strengthening Program near her home.

She learned how to plant and maintain a kitchen garden that would allow her to include vegetables in every meal, ensuring healthy nutrition for her children. She also received essential material support as an investment in her future, including tools for her garden, vegetable seeds and school supplies for the children. Beyond food and material items, Ingabire attended courses on parenting and child rights.

“I have acquired new skills that have helped me to become more mindful of my children’s needs and my responsibilities as a mother. I now know how to follow the performance of my children at school, how to pay their health insurance on time and how to use the free time to support them to play in a smart way,” Ingabire says.

“All those trainings have changed my mindset, and I now use new skills in my daily life,” Ingabire says.

Through the program, new opportunities also opened up for her 20-year-old daughter. SOS Children’s Villages covered her school fees for a vocational training program on tailoring and she is now earning a living for herself and supports her mother with basic household expenses.

Ingabire says her life has been good since she enrolled in the SOS Family-Strengthening Program two years ago. “The support given to me has changed my life, and I am proud of my family and myself,” she says.

Community-Based Micro-Financing

Joining the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) in her community helped Ingabire turn her farm into a productive agricultural project.

VSLAs are a micro-credit model that allows members, who, like Ingabire, would otherwise not be eligible for loans from other sources, to borrow money. The group members themselves pay money into the association’s funds, making them independent from external borrowers. Members also pay into a social fund that makes loans accessible for members in times of extraordinary financial need.

SOS Children’s Villages Rwanda supports VSLAs with basic supply kits including bookkeeping essentials and safe cashboxes that allow the self-managed groups to organize and run their association.

Ingabire’s main goal was to be able to afford her own animals, and eventually a cow.

With her first loan, she bought three goats and clothes for her family. The following year, she used the loan to buy another goat and kids. She repaid the loan quickly and took out another one so she could start selling beans. With the revenue from selling her goats and the beans, she was eventually able to reach her goal – she was able to buy a cow.

Ingabire and her son take care of the cow that she worked so hard to buy.

“I now have enough manure for farming and I have increased my production. I can also pay for health insurance for six family members, and I am able to pay for school supplies for my grandchildren,” she says. “Many people could not believe that I could achieve all those things only through the VSLA. Now others have decided to join our VSLA too.”

Today, Ingabire is a role model for others in her community and the President of her local 19-member VSLA. Her farm provides enough to sustain her family and she is known locally as a hardworking and determined woman.