Aminata Conteh is the caregiver of two children enrolled in CRC programs; Samuel B. Kamara and Abu Backrria S. Conteh. Aminata was fortunate enough to qualify for the CRC’s microfinance training program because of her ongoing commitment to the CRC, and her family’s extreme financial vulnerability. She completed the training, was presented with a certificate and given a small loan to launch or revive a business.
Aminata did well in the microfinance training, and has been able to realize her potential upon graduating, receiving her microloan and setting up her small business. She discovered that with the lessons she’d learned, she could be a good business woman, make a profit, save for emergency purposes and better support her children.
Members of the CRC staff recently visited her at her market stall to check on the progress of her business and microloan repayment. Aminata shared that prior to her participation in the microfinance training, her small business had failed as a result of poor management, and lack of understanding of simple budgeting skills. Discouraged, she had given up the business, and sat at home for some time, unsure of how to find success.
The class has taught Aminata how to manage her money much better, and now she is able to budget her money, save, and plan for the future to both grow her business and eventually gain her financial independence. With the small loan of approximately $90, she reestablished her market business, and is now making and even saving money. “Since I have launched my business again, I am doing well as a result of the training, “ Aminata says.
Baindu Simbo is a single mother with four children, three of whom are enrolled as Child Rescue Centre students. Baindu has a disability that has made it difficult to care for her family, but was eager to join the microfinance program to learn business and budgeting skills.
"I really enjoy working with Baindu Simbo," CRC Case Manager Victor Kanu says. "During the training and the followup monitoring visits, she always gives honest information. I am proud of her for paying her loan and sustaining her business."
Baindu has already repaid her initial loan and interest, and her business is doing well. Through her success in the microfinance program, Baindu has gained confidence, and her community admires her for her determination and achievement.
“I give thanks to the CRC for supporting me to launch my business," Baindu shared. "I find pleasure in producing my Africana soap,” she says with pride.
Case manager Victor Kanu visited Baindu at home, where she demonstrated her soap making process. "I find pleasure in producing my African soap," Baindu says.
The Child Rescue Centre (CRC) was proud to celebrate the graduation of the second microfinance class last week. The ceremony opened with prayer offered by one of the microfinance participants, Sallay Mattia, mother to Sallay and Hassan Combay. Education Manager Mabel Mustapha thanked God for the lives of the participants, facilitators, and the donors for organizing such a wonderful capacity building training for the thirty two beneficiaries, at the same time providing a loan for startup capital. She encouraged the graduates to remain committed, and work hard to repay their loans on time.
Child Support Program Manager David Titus Musa reminded the graduates of the importance of time management, which they learned in the training. "Use your time very well," David advised, especially considering that some of the businesses are seasonal.
Ministry of Social Welfare Representative, Sylvanus Conteh, expressed thanks and appreciation to the CRC for their support of the ministry in the areas of child justice, child protection, health, and education. Mr. Conteh encouraged the graduates to work very hard to pay their loans, and use the money for the intended purpose, the care of their children. "There are lots of people out there looking for such opportunity," he told the graduates, adding that the ministry will also be assisting in monitoring their progress.
On behalf of Bishop Yambasu, UMC-SLAC Representative Rev. Francis Charley thanked the staff and participants for their diligence and hard work, adding that the raising of children is the most important business. "A home without a child is not a happy home," Rev. Charley exclaimed. "The Child Rescue Centre is a Christian organization," he told the gathering, "but we are not selective among Christian or Muslim, or whether you are UMC members or not. The organization gives to those who are in need."
Rev. Charley reminded the parents that the CRC is supporting them so that they can take better care of their children. “Whatever you are doing must be in the interest of the child," he concluded.
Mabel Mustapha told the graduates that supporters in the US are really interested in the microfinance program, because they view it as a key to sustainable development and growth, therefore "they should work very hard to repay their loans on time."
Several graduates shared their testimonies. Mariam Filiwon, mother of Vaikuma Fofanah, told the group “I use to mismanage my funds, spend without budgeting, used money just as it comes, no investment. Since I was doing a business I was not saving, but now I do save on a daily basis." Mariam said she is saving 60,000 leones each month.
“I now know how to make a budget and plan for the rainy days," James Kanu, father of Augustine and Christian Kanu, testified, adding that participation in the program had "improved honesty among my family members with regard to finances."
Following a certificate ceremony and disbursement of loans, the graduates enjoyed refreshments. In total, 32 caregivers graduated, including 30 women and two men.
- Victor S. Kanu- CSP/FCP Assistant Coordinator and Lead Facilitator for Microfinance
Mrs. Hannah Fofanah is one of twenty-eight participants in the initial microfinance class, launched in February of 2017. As the grandmother and caregiver of Child Rescue Centre student Lucy Kamara, Hannah was invited to enroll in the first class, which was offered to 30 parents and caregivers who were struggling to make ends meet. The microfinance program was designed to help vulnerable families acquire the tools they need to become financially stable.
Many of the CRC students are in the care of grandparents or other family members, sometimes because they've lost their parents, and sometimes because they have been removed from the home by Sierra Leone social services.
Hannah cares for seven additional grandchildren, supporting them all by selling firewood, charcoal, and now handmade soap. Her granddaughter Lucy attends UMC Njagboima, where she is in Junior Secondary Class 2.
After attending weekly classes at the CRC to learn about saving, budgeting and simple business management, Hannah reflected that she found it “very useful to be part of these classes...my little business used to dwindle since I was not saving, except I borrowed money from my colleague or from close family relatives to make up for my business again. But from the time I started attending classes I now know how to save some profit and never interfere with my capital.”
Hannah’s family noticed the change almost immediately. “My grandchildren feel very happy for such opportunity and even help me with notes sometimes. I don’t have a husband anymore and even though I am getting old it is still important to learn and I am sure this will be put into practice to help me maintain my family.”
Since receiving her small loan of approximately $70 in August, Hannah shared "having a loan I decided to expand my business... my whole family is happy for the loan." Hannah is also proud to report that all 8 of her grandchildren are attending school.
The CRC staff recently visited Hannah at her place of business. Hannah has been steadily paying her loan payments since last fall, though recently that has been a struggle. Reports of incidents of violence related to the recent presidential election have meant that many people are not moving from their homes in order to remain safe, but she is hopeful to get back on track after the run-off scheduled for Saturday, March 31st.
In the early months of 2017, the Child Rescue Centre launched a pilot microfinance program. Specifically focused on the most vulnerable of the families served by CRC programs, 30 parents were invited to enroll in the first Microfinance Class. Participation in an 18 week course on savings, budgeting and money management is required for certification and the award of a small loan in the amount of 500,00 le (approximately $70).
Recently the participants where asked to share the most significant changes they've experienced since taking the class and receiving a loan. Many shared that they are now able to pay their rent, and that their school-aged children now have lunch money for school. Many participants are sharing the financial knowledge they've gained with their spouses and other family members.
Amara Fofanah says that one significant impact is that he "is able to pay for Saturday classes" for his children. These are necessary to help kids do well on national exams, but they often cost more so those who can't pay don't benefit. He also shared that for the first time, his children have lunch money to take to school with them.
Nancy Jusu Sr agrees. Before receiving her small loan, Nancy had to walk around Bo to sell cassava and potato leaves. The loan enabled her to set up a small table stall near her home. Even more importantly, it came in time for her to purchase medications for her very ill daughter, whom she's convinced would not have survived without it.
Graduates of the CRC's Pilot Microfinance Program have begun making payments on their loans. As planned, most participants visit the CRC every Friday to make their payments, though some find other days easier to pay. Each payment is recorded for the CRC's records, and a receipt is given to the participant for their own records. Some pay a small amount toward the repayment of their loan each week, while others find it easier to make larger monthly payments.
Participants are engaged in a variety of different types of businesses. Some used their loans to launch a new venture, while others used the capital to build up existing businesses. CRC staff visit these businesses on site to also monitor their success.