More stories from June 25th

These are the folks we heard from that day. This is what I referred to earlier as the “tiny marketplace”, but I guess it’s really a kiosk/store they’re renting together.

Left to right: Triphonie, Francine, Marie Goreth, Margaret (Margaritte?), Japhet (not pictured: Dieu Donne, Francois)

Francine had the same life experience as her friend. (I think she was referring to Triphonie.) She is 18, with no adult parents at all (so, a total orphan) and has two siblings, aged 12 and 8.

One of the things she does is to buy beans (dried, I think) wholesale, and sells them retail in the market. With the profits from her income-generating activities, she has been able to buy a dress for herself, and it’s the first dress she ever bought for herself. She is now able to eat every day, and her siblings are back in school. Her dream is to buy a cow (my notes say “buy a moo”, but I’m pretty sure I meant cow).

Marie Goreth, in the center, was a total orphan, and isolated from the community. She has two siblings and also a nine-month-old baby (she started the program pregnant). Her IGA (income-generating activity) is to buy a plot of cassava, harvest and process it and sell it. She makes a good profit, from which she is able to feed her family and has bought a goat. She has also bought rabbits for her siblings to take care of. They will eventually sell the rabbits for school supplies.

She was sad when her siblings could not attend school, and, when they did, they were stigmatized because they were homeless (which meant they slept in the bush, on the ground) or hungry. She is now able to rent a room but she still has a struggle to make enough money. She does keep the profits from her work and has bought clothes for her siblings and her baby.

Her dreams (dreams are important) are to build her own house (this is her plan for next year) from her profit savings plus a loan (from the group, probably, so the interest from the loan will be counted as group income).

On house-building: The houses the kids build, for themselves and for each other, are pretty simple. They make their own bricks out of mud and straw (I saw several piles of these bricks as we drove down the road — they’re about the size of cinderblocks), make walls of the bricks and cover them them with more mud (or adobe?). The roofs are corrugated “iron” that Zoe supplies. There might be a translation problem here; I’m pretty sure they’re galvanized steel (or maybe iron, who knows?) that they use the word “iron” for. Zoe also supplies doors and windows. Here is a new-built example, the house Salomoni’s group built for him when he re-joined the group:

After Marie Goreth spoke, Margaritte spoke. Her story made such an impact on all of us that I blogged it that day, here.

Then, Japhet spoke. He is 20 years old and has a 12-year-old brother. His biggest challenge is that he is currently homeless. He had a house (I guess inherited from his parents), but the roof collapsed. Now he lives with a neighbor and works one day per week to pay the rent. He has received seeds from Zoe (I guess for his kitchen garden) and a small grant for his business. His business is that he buys cabbage wholesale and sells them retail, for a small profit. (I think it’s kind of neat that the Zoe kids don’t all do the same thing, so they don’t flood the market with one thing. I’m guessing that’s part of their small-business training: market research and planing.) He also planted cabbage in March, and, as of June 25th, was planning to harvest and sell them, also. He is now able to buy soap (the hygiene and sanitation thing, again) and food for his family (which I guess is himself and his brother). He plans to add cassava flour to his inventory. He has rented a plot of land to plant cassava (to sell) and sweet potatoes to eat.

Next, Dieu Donne. He is 20 and has two siblings. He makes charcoal. Before he joined the working group, he was hopeless, and he complained to God (in an accusatory way). However, after he joined the working group and started to see some results, he confessed to God and apologized for his earlier complaints.

He told us the story of a character named Rachel. (I think it was just a didactic story, not based on actual fact.) Rachel had many problems and wasn’t very smart. She decided she would make charcoal to sell. However, she had neither skill nor knowledge, and, when she burned her wood to make charcoal, she just wound up with ashes. The lesson Dieu Donne takes from this story is: be smart. Make a plan and have some knowledge. So, now he knows how to make charcoal and he is making a profit. With his Zoe grant, he has bought some trees, cut them and made charcoal from them. (Charcoal is an important energy source for cooking.) He started with one sack, about four feet tall. Now he is able to make four to five sacks (in a week? my notes are unclear). He knows his area (his market) and can sell well. He emphasizes this “trick”: know your market. (I’m sure this will sound familiar to some readers.) The fact that he has learned the importance of hygiene helps him stay healthy and smart-looking, which means he has better luck selling. (Honestly, I bet these kids would do just fine if they found themselves in this country.) In addition to his charcoal business, he also breeds goats and chickens.

His dream is to own his own house. He is currently renting, on terms similar to what the other kids have already described.

And, finally, Francois. Francois is 20 years old, and has two siblings, aged 17 and 15. With his Zoe grant, he buys and sells chickens (again, wholesale to retail). From ten chickens, he can make 10-20,000 Rwandan francs in profit, but he usually sells five to seven chicken (in a week, presumably). Before Zoe, he was hungry and sick, and he could not afford medical treatment. He had no home and he slept outside (as in: on the ground and maybe in the bush). He dropped out of school. When he exchanged labor for food, he was exploited (which, for boys, means being egregiously underpaid from what was negotiated, for example, by a factor of five).

Now that he’s been with the Zoe working group (for six months), he no longer goes more than a day without eating. He is now able to rent a room. For him, his Zoe working group represents a big family, and he feels inexpressible joy and thankfulness.

After we heard from these kids, we bought a little of what each was selling. Vegetables, mangos, cassava flour, charcoal and a live chicken.

What did we do with all that, you might well ask. The charcoal went to the seamstresses at a workshop we had visited, for them to heat the irons they use for the clothes they make. The chicken was gifted to a working group that didn’t have a partner (at least, they didn’t have a partner at the time; since then, UUMC has partnered with them; it’s the Twitezimbere Progress group).

And the food went to the hotel kitchen for them to prepare for us. (It lowers their costs, since they can feed us with free food.) I must say: fresh mango professionally prepared is delicious.