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We Will Repay You

July 20, 2011

By pwrdf

“We will repay the loans,” was the promise made by Katrine and the other HIV+ people, many of them prostitutes, who joined a micro-credit program funded by PWRDF and the Council of Churches of Burundi.  Katrine has opened a restaurant and sold avocados, using the profits to send her children to school and pay for a telephone.  Katrine and the other members of the self-help group each have a booklet where they record their deposits and withdrawals from the micro-credit savings.  “The self-help group gives me life spiritually as well as physically,” she said.

This group, made up of people on the margins of Burundian society, is unique among micro-credit finance programs administered by the Council of Churches of Burundi.  Prior to the founding of this group, the churches found that they had a 40% delinquency rate on micro-credit loans- far below the 4% that is required to be successful.

Katrine and the other members of the group, who were used to being discriminated against, understood the trust that was being put in them by the churches.  Their promise to repay the loans became a key factor of their group life.  They wanted to honour this gesture of trust, and so they work hard to repay the loans.  They keep each other to their schedule of payments through peer pressure, and even go so far as to pool their own money to help a group member who is about to default on their payment.

Thanks to this program, many of the members have transitioned from being sex-trade workers to vegetable sellers and small business owners.  Stanley, another member of the group who sells rice, avocados, onions, and legumes at the market, has this message for the Canadians who have supported this program through PWRDF:

“Thank you.  Don’t give up.  Please help these people,” as he gestured to the other members of the self-help group seated around him.

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