A special thanks to our Cada Mes Club – Friendship Bridge’s monthly donors – for supporting our clients on their monthly journeys.
Each month the members of every Trust Bank travel, most likely by foot, to their designated meeting places to make payments on their loans and receive a Non-Formal Education lesson in their native languages on one of the four pillars – women, family, business, and health.
April – Getting into a savings habit
We all know that putting a little away for a rainy day is a good idea. In reality, creating a savings habit is hard work. Accordingly, the women start off April’s lesson by listing all the reasons we don’t save. These are the hurdles they will need to overcome if they are going to start saving. Next their Facilitator provides them with a four step plan: 1) Name a specific goal (home, education, health). 2) Estimate how much that goal will cost. 3) Set a date at which the goal is to be achieved. And 4) Calculate how much you will need to save weekly or monthly in order to meet the goal amount. Each woman goes home that day with a liter soda bottle “bank” that has her personal answers to the four steps written on a label on the side of the bottle.
May – Accepting a loan and what that means
In May, the women reviewed the process they underwent to form their Trust Bank: from a single woman’s initial idea, to the sharing of that idea to recruit other women, to the meeting they had with a Facilitator for the first time. The question today is, “Why did you go through so much effort to acquire that first loan?” To answer that question, the women are given four images that represent the stages of plant cultivation and are asked to put them in order: sow, water, sprout, sunshine. Next the women explore the various ways that their loan is like a seed used to grow the fruits of their businesses. The women learn that accepting a loan to finance a cash short-fall does not generate an ability to repay the loan. Using a loan as an investment in a business, however, can.
June – Reviewing the past six months’ lessons
The Facilitator starts the June lesson asking the women to raise their right hands. Lo and behold, they all do. Their actions are the definition of a habit. Changing a habit requires motivation and determination. If the women are going to advance their businesses, discarding old habits is going to be necessary. Accordingly, the women reflect as a group on the goals they have set for themselves since joining their Trust Bank and what might be getting in their way of achieving those goals – it is most likely old habits. The Facilitator asks questions such as: What do you do if someone offers you additional credit? How about when your expenses are greater than your sales? Have you created a budget yet? Or put any money away for an emergency? The women go around the room answering these questions, offering each other advice regarding behavior change.
Here are a few client reactions:
- Maria, age 47, pictured in middle in red
“It is important that every woman has a reserve fund through savings, because our children come first to us for school supplies. Friendship Bridge also makes us realize the value of our own health and to invest in ourselves, so our savings can help us get medical checkups.”
Our Non-Formal Education program is the backbone of our Microcredit Plus program, and one of the Plus services that we feel truly empowers our clients. Thanks again to our Cada Mes Club for helping support this program!