As one of the biggest micro-finance companies in the country, VisionFund Rwanda’s approach to the business is quite unique: its first concern is for children.
“Our goal is to help poor people in Rwanda care for their children,” reads a vision statement on its website, inspired by its origins as a micro-finance program of World Vision. “Our microfinance services enable them to build the foundations they need to bring themselves out of poverty.”
A good example of how successful this approach is, can be seen in the Twigire group, an association of 30 people (who among them care for 107 children) living in Kayumbu village in Bugesera district. Most of them had unprofitable subsistence businesses – growing vegetables or fruit, rearing small animals, running a boutique.
That changed when the group’s leader, Francois Xavier, became an agent for the Village Savings scheme run by the NGO Care International, which teaches people how to save and then brings in VisionFund to see how to turn the savings into income-generating businesses.
That was how Twigire was born in July 2014, and how the lives of most of its members changed for the better.
“It changed our members’ mindset,” 37-year-old Francois Xavier explains. “They learned how to generate income from their businesses and not to fear banks.”
45-year-old Marthe Ntamukunzi is one of them. She has four children (one of whom is married) and she also takes care of her granddaughter and mother-in-law. Yet she manages it quite fine, something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago, before Twigire started to work with VisionFund Rwanda.
Back then, she was a simple tomato seller at the market, and had a hard time to get by. Once the group struck a deal with VisionFund in 2014, Ntamukunzi got a first loan of Rwf 70,000 to expand her business, and after that was repaid, she got another Rwf 50,000 in 2016.
Her business thrived, thanks to the training in financial management the Twigire members received from VisionFund. Not only did she expand her business with goats, cows and bananas, she has also bought a plot and can today easily buy food and pay the school fees for her children, as well as medical insurance.
Laurent Sezirahiga has a similar story. The 40-year-old husband and father, who takes care of his own two children and three from relatives, hardly earned a living with his fruit business.
Then came VisionFund, and with just two small loans – Rwf 10,000 in 2014 and Rwf 20,000 last year – Sezirahiga managed to expand his business, buy goats, renovate his house and install electricity, get food on the table every day and educate his children.
The Twigire members are a diverse lot – some sell clothes or other goods, some have a boutique – but they all have the same experience: thanks to VisionFund they learned to better manage their businesses and money, and the small loans gave them the required boost and their children are thriving.
Read this article and more in issue n° 77 of Hope Magazine.