Women can make a lot out of little. They have good ideas on how to improve their lives and those of their families. Earning their own money and becoming more independent through a small shop, a market stall or a small craft business is an often cherished wish. There is almost always a lack of seed capital for implementation. Often a small start-up financing is sufficient to realize this wish.
In most churches there are church savings groups that grant low-interest loans. The system is simple: the members of the savings group work together and grant small loans. The members are trained in how to produce cheaply and sell their goods profitably. Many women quickly put what they have learned into practice and are able to repay their loans and continue to invest after only a short time.
The United Evangelical Mission supports the development of church savings groups.
Pascal* is 17 and has a big goal: He wants to earn his own money as soon as possible. Every morning he sets off early with his bicycle to the vocational school of the Anglican Church. It takes him three hours from his village over the many steep hills. After school he faces the same arduous path. But Pascal holds out, because he knows what he is trying so hard for.
With his training as a bricklayer, he has a good chance of finding a job from which he can make a living and later also feed a family. His role model is a friend who, after this training, works as a foreman in road construction. Pascal's parents live as smallholders from the yields of their fields. The harvests are barely enough to feed the family of seven. On most days there is only one meal on the table. Pascal fights for a better future.
*Name changed by the editors
Small ecclesiastical health centres are often the only contact points for the sick. Doctors or hospitals are hardly accessible for the inhabitants of the rainforest areas, which are difficult to access. For treatment, they have to walk arduously or take long boat trips, as there are only a few roads. People who are unable to do so are often carried over hundreds of kilometres by relatives.
People suffer mainly from malaria, stomach and intestinal diseases and infections. Because of the difficult medical care, simple, avoidable infections or accidents lead to serious illnesses and often to invalidity.
During the recent outbreak of an Ebola epidemic, many people seeking help flocked to church health centres. Many wards lack the essentials. Staff do not even have enough protective gloves and disinfectants to protect themselves. Doctors and medical staff treat the people seeking help as best they can, but their possibilities are often limited. The churches in Congo are strengthening medical care and better equipping their health centres to treat patients appropriately.
Seraphine Uwiragiye is 18 years old and lives in a village on the border with Tanzania. Most of the people in her village live from agriculture, including her family. She tells:
"I dreamed of doing something different as a child, but there are hardly any opportunities in the area. Last year I heard that my church offers courses in hairdressing, tailoring and metalworking. I was very lucky and got a place in the tailoring shop. After a short time I could sew simple skirts and dresses. Already during my training I earned so much that after six months I was able to buy my own sewing machine. With four colleagues from the tailoring course I founded a cooperative. Each has its own style and we enjoy developing new ideas together. We just got the order for school uniforms. That's a good basis for our start. The women from the surrounding villages like to shop with us because we always come up with new cuts".
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