By Petunia Kabongo, in South Africa
Sometime last year, while I was still serving with a local home based care NGO, through conversations with the caregivers, I learned that most of them were borrowing money from local “loan sharks” on a monthly basis to cover some of their living expenses. Anna (our British former intern) and I started conversations on saving money as a way of long-term future planning to improve one’s standard of living rather than borrowing.
In South Africa, people borrow money a lot in December and January. The former is the festive season and the latter is back to school time with needs for school related expenses. The rest of the year, people work off that two-month big debt and get hooked on borrowing money as a way of life. Our conversation led to a money saving social club where some of the caregivers and I started putting away a small amount of money on a monthly basis. This month, those who joined did not have to borrow money, but had their own money to spend. As a group, we are looking to the next year and thinking of dividing up our savings between December and January.
Magdeline, one of the caregivers, was very excited when she received her share of money and exclaimed, “I am going to show my sister and encourage her to join. I will also pay off my debt. And from next year onward I want be more serious about reducing my lending.” Magdeline reminded me of a woman who found a treasure within herself and went around to share it with her neighbors and the whole world.
I did the same group saving in our neighborhood with seven other neighbors. Last week we bought bulk items to share among households and saved a lot. I got the privilege of spending quality time with two neighbors as we went around for two days from place to place buying different items. My prayer is that God would open more network channels for the adults of my neighborhood and me.