Hello from Bo, the second largest city in Sierra Leone. I've been here for the past few days with World Vision UK, finding out how money donated in the UK has made a difference in a small rural community nearby. We stayed in Freetown on the first night, the largest city in Sierra Leone and the next morning traveled around 150 miles to Bo, the landscape changing from city to lush green palm-tree filled views as we went.
We've been visiting a community Savings Group that founded farms during the Ebola crisis - and received a warm welcome!
The Savings Group is at the heart of this community, and everything we saw and everyone we met during our time here has been affected by the Savings Group in some way. So here's a short introduction to the group.
Mariama explained to us that before the Savings Group started, they would grow and pick cassava leaves, packaging them into sacks to carry to a nearby factory. They would get little money per sack and life was a struggle.
The local factory that bought the sacks of cassava leaves is run by a strong woman, Mariama told us, who we'll come to meet in another post to follow. It is this strong woman who first introduced the community to World Vision. World Vision became involved in the community, providing a savings box, training for the people on how to use it, business skills, money budgeting and management and cassava processing equipment.
The Savings Group is made up of 25 members of the community. All the members put 2,000 leone into the box each week. They then loan out money, with interest rates, to people in the community who apply - the interest going back into the box. Once a year the 25 members split the balance of the box between themselves, and then start afresh for the next year.
We were lucky enough to be at the annual payout this week, I'll be sharing photos and tales of what some of the people will be spending their payout on in a post soon. I'm really looking forward to sharing this as it was a big celebration in the community and a really happy moment to be part of.
One example of how money borrowed from the box is used is buying palm oil or cola nuts at a time of the year when the prices are low and then selling them when the prices rocket later in the year. This gives families much needed income to feed, clothe and school their children.
I'll be sharing lots more, including stories, when I get home. We're heading back tomorrow and I can't wait to share my photos with Kitty and Oz. In the meantime, here's some photos from the first visit to the Savings Group from day 1...
Thank you to those who have sent messages of support and have shared support on social media - it means a lot x