Monday, December 17, 2012

Merry Christmas You Old Village Savings and Loan

The whole VSLA Group!
Well it will be a much merrier Christmas for 13 Ugandans and their families this holiday season.  As we have posted before Christmas is a huge season to splurge in Uganda, just like America.  Therefore, it has been perfect timing that our VSLA (Village Savings and Loan Association) shared out all their money about a week ago.  For many of them they likely have more money then they have ever had at any one time, so there will be lots of meat on the family table this Christmas.

We started forming the VSLA last October and November.  We just had a random idea to start this association, because we feel that these groups can be such a good thing for Uganda.  They develop a savings culture that, while only in its infancy in Uganda, can lead to so many more doors being opened to ordinary citizens without the help of foreign aid or their government.  Individuals can increase their likelihood to develop new business, send their children to better schools, or just help buy that extra nice pair of shoes.  Now obviously savings is not necessarily something many Americans have mastered either, but at least we have additional avenues to make expensive purchases (Bank loans, credit cards, etc.), which are generally not options in Uganda. 

The VSLA we had the pleasure of forming with the employees and friends of the Bushenyi Honey Co-op was a great success.  When all the books had been figured they mutually saved about 11.5 million shillings (or $4300), and they had interest off of loans totaling about 2.5 million shillings (almost $1000).  The person with the most money saved had 1.65 million shillings (about $620).  They were a stellar group all around, and we loved getting to see them flourish.

They ended their cycle last Sunday with a big share out party.  They used the remainder of their “Emergency Fund” to buy food and drinks for everyone there.  Everyone got to invite one other family member to join in the festivities.  They of course had many speeches, a photographer, a cake cutting, and lots of good food to celebrate the occasion.  Each person came up with their family member to receive their check of their savings plus interest earned on each share.  One of our good Peace Corps friends Marianne served as at the guest of honor (which entailed a lot more then any of us had planned).  Overall the day was a great one, and lots of fun celebrating in true Ugandan fashion!

Marianne handing out the checks.
They started their new cycle yesterday.  So after all that hoopla they are starting again the next week.  This year they are hoping to increase the amount of shares they can buy from 5 (25,000 shillings) to 10 (50,000 shillings).  They are also increasing their group by three people, now up to 16.  Other community members have shown interest but the group decided they would rather help start other groups then have them join theirs (how is that for sustainable)!  We are sad we won’t be there for much of their next cycle, more out of selfish interest in their progress rather then necessity of our presence.  They have done so well and no Mr. Potters have stopped this savings and loan from having a Merry Christmas!

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