Village Savings and Loan Program in Thipanana Village, along the Kavango River, Namibia
They proudly waited for our arrival, a small group of women and men gathered in a semi-circle under a tree, clutching their notebooks and pencils. We are honored to witness the meeting of the Thipanana village VSL Group (Village Savings and Loan.)
Welcomed by the Chairman and after proper greetings are exchanged, we pause respectfully while there is a short prayer which is the official start to their meeting. Formalities over, we have the opportunity to speak with several women whose families are mostly subsistence farmers along the banks of the Kavango River.
We are here to learn how this economic strengthening program, developed and implemented by Project HOPE, has made a difference in their lives. This program provides the framework for regular health education and parenting skills training.
We hear how one Mother has learned the importance of washing hands with soap and to regularly wash their bedding to help prevent illness. And another shares that she has learned how to better understand the orphans in her care – and their natural grieving process – for the parents they lost of HIV/Aids. And a third Mother shares how she has learned to recognize the signs and symptoms of tuberculosis, so that she can seek treatment for herself and family members.
Today, the Project HOPE VSL Field Promoter, in his bright yellow t-shirt with the words “STOP TB” is also on hand to share more information about tuberculosis. Bright yellow leaflets that match his shirt are passed out and carefully reviewed. Early identification and treatment of TB will help stop the spread of this terrible disease in the Kavango Region.
With their training complete, the keys are produced and community savings lockbox is opened. Inside are the individual passbooks for each group member. HOPE provides the lockbox, a calculator and passbooks along with the education in the economic strengthening program and guidance for each community group. Carefully, each member of the group comes forward with her precious amount of Namibian dollars that she has put away, waiting for this day where it will be added to the community savings.
There is animated discussion about the use and purpose of the savings. Will a grant be made to community member who needs funds for transport for medical treatment? Will a loan be made to a farmer for livestock and what will the terms of that loan be? Is there an opportunity for the purchase of materials so the group could make baskets to be sold at a regional market?
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