Today, I got to meet with another couple from VIP’s impact area in Malawi, Chrissy and George Paundi. Chrissy, a beautiful woman with a wide smile, greets me over the zoom screen in Chichewa, the local language. We exchange the usual formal introductions. I know just enough Chichewa to make it through the first 30 seconds of introductions. Then I have to call on my good friend and VIP staff member, Violet Matimati, to translate! We talk about the success she’s found in saving for her family’s future. Even across the screen and over our language barrier, our smiles help us connect. She reminds me of everything I love and miss about Malawi.
How Chrissy Saves
Chrissy is a member of a Village Savings and Loans group (VSL). She explains that along with the VSL, VIP has built schools, constructed bridges, and also supports a bible study in her village. In addition, VIP is providing school fees for her son who is at Mulunguzi Secondary School in Zomba town. The VSL is a group of women from the same community who meet and pool their money together to make loans to one another. They begin by each depositing an amount of money into a box. Each woman is allowed to take loans from the box which they are expected to return with interest. They continue saving and loaning and in the end, each woman gets a significant payout according to the amount she invested. Through the VSL, people learn how to save and manage money. By taking out loans, they can start small businesses and have some security to pay for necessities in moments of crisis.
Chrissy joined her VSL in 2012. In 2014, she began to see significant life changes. She began by purchasing 2 goats with the money she had saved. Goats provide food and nutrition but can also be a source of additional income if you sell them once they have grown. A few years later, Chrissy and her husband bought iron sheets for her roof, a large improvement from their former roof. They have also been able to send funds to their son at Mulunguzi Secondary School to pay for food and other necessities. In a few short years, saving with the VSL has helped Chrissy and her family improve their economic well-being.
What’s Next for Chrissy and George
Most recently, they bought a motorcycle. In the United States, we think of a motorcycle as being a luxury vehicle. But for Chrissy and George, the motorcycle is a fast, economical way to bring goods to and from the market versus walking or riding a bicycle. George explained that while they have not begun to use it as a bike taxi yet, they plan on beginning this in the future as a means of extra income.
As the conversation closes, I am left reflecting on many things. The way a small group of women can come together and create so many different opportunities by saving funds together. How a simple program like the VSL, allows women to gain financial empowerment and improve their lives. I realize that this program has not only provided material goods for Chrissy and her family, but allowed for their son to stay in school, Chrissy to feel more empowered, and their family to thrive.
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