I am a little late with this update on the savings and loan groups, I wish I had sent it to you earlier.
A quick recap: from 2010 to present, 13 new Methodist Churches have been born in Northern Tanzania. Most of these were in areas of extreme poverty, and we wanted to help these new churches to meet the physical needs of their congregations. “Pamoja” is a curriculum for doing savings and loan groups together with asset-based community development. It had a pretty good track record with other churches in this part of Tanzania, so we started helping these new Methodist Churches to start Pamoja groups.
A group normally has between 15 and 25 members. Most are church members, but they invite neighbors from outside of the church as well. The groups go through a series of Bible studies about being created in God’s image, the fall, how poverty came out of this, the poverty trap, how God can redeem us and how part of that is redeeming the part of us that keeps us in the poverty trap. Then, the groups start meeting each week and saving small amounts of money, normally between 50 cents and $5. This builds up, and after awhile, the group can make loans to group members from these savings.
These communities generally do not have any good options for safe places to save or places to access loans from. This financial flexibility is the reason that the groups are so helpful to them. I wrote a much longer post about this 3 years ago, you can click here to read it.
I appreciate that so many of you trusted us, that you invested in this work at the beginning by donating to pay my travel, living, and work expenses.
The work was pretty difficult for awhile there. We were able to get 4 groups going though, and a few Tanzanian folks started to take leadership roles and improve their lives. UMCOR took notice and invited us to apply for a grant.
With this grant, we trained and hired those Tanzanian folks who had been taking leadership roles, and we entrusted them with the work that we had been doing. We also bought 4 motorcycles for these new Tanzanian staff members. Here they are:
I failed to get a good picture of Pastor Stefano Mulungu, Dodoma Regional Coordinator. He has done great work though.
All 4 of these guys have. They were far more successful than I or Eric (the missionary I volunteer for) ever was at starting these Pamoja groups. They explained the idea in terms that the churches could understand, and soon, we had many churches wanting to start more than one group. Methodist Churches beyond the 13 that we had originally been working with wanted to start groups.
This grant also enabled us to do more rigorous monitoring and evaluation of our results. On February 15th, 2019, our program manager, Miliary Parmao, sent us a detailed statistical report. Some highlights:
39 Pamoja groups are operating now, based out of 23 United Methodist Churches
807 total members within these groups
$21,229.91 saved within these groups. That goes a long way in Tanzania (For comparison, I can eat for $1/day in Tanzania)
You can view the report on Google Sheets here: Pamoja Results Google Sheets
Or as an Excel file here: Pamoja Results Excel
These stars represent (roughly) where these new groups are located.
And here are some of the folks whose lives have improved:
It’s been exciting to see new Methodist Churches meeting the material needs of their impoverished communities. About a month ago, UMCOR awarded us a second grant to extend the program and to expand it even further.
The title is the Pamoja motto. It means, “Let’s raise our incomes, let’s improve our lives.”