More stories from the last group we visited (on 6/25)

This day, we visited three first-year groups simultaneously. They’re in the practice of all meeting at the same time at the same place (in a pentecostal church, which made a fine meeting place; I didn’t get the denomination but I guess it doesn’t really matter). Two of the groups are partnered with Woodlands UMC (Texas) and the third group does not (yet) have a partner.

(A note on “partnering” as opposed to “sponsoring”, since it’s an easy mistake to make: There is a two-way relationship between a church (or other organization) and a Zoe working group. It’s not a matter of the church “giving” something to the group because that’s the kind of patrician relationship the empowerment model is trying to avoid. Instead, both the church and the working group exist in relationship — the church helps with micro-funding, and the group uses that funding as a leg up. Hopefully, at some point, members of the church visit the group to offer them encouragement and support and are guests of the group. (The visits we had in Kenya involved the 2nd- and 3rd-year groups feeding us lunch and visits in Rwanda usually resulted in us receiving gifts, so we really were guests.)

Another important way that church and group partner is that they pray for each other. We each need prayer.)

The groups we visited were in an area of Rwanda that was less developed than usual. As we drove past people’s houses or places of business, we saw cassava root set out to dry and sorghum blossoms also set out to dry, both usually on tarps on the ground or (in the case of cassava root) on racks made from sapling trunks, almost like the wooden supports for grapevines we might be used to seeing in this country. The cassava root gets sold or ground into flour (which may also get sold). The dark-red sorghum blossoms are used to make bread (after grinding in flour) or porridge or a soft drink or beer (low-alcohol) or sold for money.

Our first stop was the kitchen garden mentioned in its own post. After that, we drove to a tiny marketplace/storefront occupied by five (I think) of the group members, and we heard their stories.

Triphonie: Before Zoe, Triphonie had had to beg for food for her siblings. She once went for eight days without food because every time she begged, men she begged had asked her to sleep with them, and she wouldn’t do that. She was very proud to report that, starting in April, she has been able to pay for food and is now free from exploitation. She has used the profits from her income-generating activity to buy a goat, and she has also planted a crop of cassava root which she expects to harvest in a year. She has rented the land for the cassava root for two years. (I found that surprisingly long-term planning. I’m pretty sure she would have passed the marshmallow test with flying colors.)

Her dream is to build her own house. She currently rents a single room, and, until recently (this month?) she paid her rent by working one day per week for the landlord/lady. She expects this month to begin paying rent with money, 2800 RWF ($3) per month.

(Sadly, that is all I have time for tonight. I’ll have to continue with more stories tomorrow or the next day.)