Every idea needs someone to have a vision first, to imagine, to consider the possible. Ideas must be thought into existence, then hope gives them wings. Until I went to Malawi, I thought hope was a type of pious, academic, optimism, but now I realise that hope is a passion for the possible and without it people are indeed hopeless.
The vision was simple: that some of the poorest people should have clean, safe drinking water.
We envisaged using the simplest, low cost pump technology, producing a sustainable long lasting pump that could be repaired by the village women and made from local materials. This realised, with a our pump factory in Mzuzu and the numbers of people with clean water increasing every day to well over 100,000, we are now on an expanded vision.
Wells for Zoe is a tiny organisation, but passionate about what we do, and so thankful to our villagers or volunteers, for having enabled so much to be achieved. To achieve, in Malawi, one needs to be inspiring every day.
“To be inspired means to move forward with purpose and enthusiasm. Purpose denotes a clarity of intention while enthusiasm is derived from the Greek en theos, a God or spirit within. Clarity of intention propelled by a spirit within is the most potent combination for achievement and creativity known to humankind.
With our friends and volunteers, we bring hope to people in despair, not by cursing the darkness, but by lighting a light, and considering challenges as opportunities. All this happens as a result of your support and the energy of our amazing volunteers.
Our latest venture is to support self help groups (SHG). SHG’s are village-based groups of about 20 women. Members make small regular savings contributions over a few months until there is enough capital in the group to begin lending to members who submit proposals. SHGs have been shown to be a powerful means of developing leadership abilities, increasing school enrolments, and improving nutrition among villagers in many developing countries. The success of the 15 groups, I have met with, in the past 8 months has been phenomenal. (One group of very poor women now have a loan book of over €2000, starting with savings of less than 20 cent per week each). All they need now is infrastructural support from us.
The first meeting I sat in on was held in a small enclosure for cows, where 20 women, came on time, as there was a fine for being late, sat on the ground, put out their 3 bowls, one for savings, one for loan payments and one for a social fund. These women started saving and doing little business ventures in February 2011 and are now in full flow. I sat there quietly while 15,000 (€68) was counted out into the first bowl, 31750 (€144) of loan repayments was counted, with every note on clear view, into the second and 3100Kw (€14) went into the social fun. Loans were sought to the value of 51,000Kw (€232), so the woman seeking the largest loan, 25000 agreed to take what was left. They kept 785 in the kitty and this was the end of the financial dealing.
If one considers that the pay for one day may be 200 Kw on a very, very good day, the woman looking for a loan of 25000, was looking for 25 weeks wages up front. This was a huge amount of money and no one batted an eyelid. She was doing business and would have no bother paying it back within the eight weeks while paying the 20% interest before anything else.
When I first heard of this I thought it was the craziest idea ever, but now we are focusing our future on working with 50 groups of these remarkable women over the next three years. I have always read of the huge profitability of micro business, but in Asia, not Africa. Some go 100 km to the lake, buying fish to sell locally, some buy second hand clothes and salt in Tanzania 280 km, while others make bricks. The 20% interest rate is fundamental and applies to any term of loan up to eight weeks, as it builds up funds quickly.
John Coyne. http://www.wellsforzoe.org
Maybe the Strategic!! Plan next week??
© Lucan Newsletter 2003-2009 – Produced and published weekly – St.Marys Parish Centre, Lucan, Co.Dublin, Ireland