Thursday, September 10, 2009

Village Saving Fund Mentoring Day

Because of the way the community is structured in Munsieville, Village Saving Fund (VSF) groups generally tend not to interact with each other because they are based on language group – i.e. we have a couple of Mozambican groups, a couple of South African groups, a Zimbabwean group etc.

Whilst this makes it easier for us to manage and to teach health education to, the groups lose out on benefiting from learning from one another. Over the past few months we have seen some groups do extremely well and other groups struggle. Some groups have started small businesses selling chickens and baking cakes, whilst other have not.

Even though I have built up the trust of these groups over the past few months it’s still difficult for me as a white person to encourage them to do something “foreign” like starting a small business when all they are used to doing is waiting for the government or a local NGO to give them something. So after thinking about this for a while we decided to hold a mentoring day, where all the groups would get together and share with one another about what their group is doing, about the successes and the struggles that they have faced. This way the groups would learn from their counterparts in the community rather than listening to someone from the outside.

To spice this up a bit a few weeks ago we told each group that there would be a prize for the most successful group (based on weekly attendance, savings & loans portfolio, initiative taken to start up a business).

The day was a great success. The groups shared about what they have been doing – one group started by purchasing 10 chickens a week to sell, and now they are up to 25 a week. Other groups shared frustrations about the lack of unity between group members making it difficult for them to work together.

The highlight of the event was announcing who the winners were – a Mozambican group called “Sizanani” which means “helping each other.” They received certificates and a prize of food and clothing. The video below shows you how excited the room got when the winners were announced!

We are hoping now that this day provided the needed motivation to the groups that are struggling to get on the right track, and our team will be following up with house visits to encourage further the important difference that VSF can make on the health and lives of people living in slums here in South Africa.

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