(thanks to Lorrie Lindgren from Thrive for this guest post)
I had the privilege of visiting a HOPE loan circle in Nigeria during Week 8 of the Basics of Business course. It was surreal to be able to meet the women whose lives were being transformed through HOPE!
Let me share the stories of just four of the women in this HOPE Circle:
- Momma Soy – This woman makes soy milk to sell each day. She gets up at 3 AM to begin peeling the soy beans. By 4:30, she boils the beans so that by 5 AM (when her neighbors are awake), she can run them through the noisy grinder. She produces 800 small bags of soy milk each day. 300 are sold to a hospital for patients and 500 smaller bags are sold to a local school for the children. She must make them all fresh each day because electricity is so sporadic that a refrigerator would be unreliable.
- One of the women has a stand to sell beauty salon products. Before joining the HOPE Business class, she primarily sold wigs and hair extensions (which she tried to sell for approximately $10-20 USD). She usually only made one sale every 2-3 weeks. Through the HOPE class, she learned that she should sell products in a variety of price ranges. She began selling lipstick and eye liners. She now sells a minimum of 500 Naira a day ($3.30 USD)! Her weekly loan payments are 1,595 Naira.
- Mary grew up in a Muslim home. She has a third-grade education. Her parents divorced and her mom remarried. About that time, Mary became a Christian and her mom disowned her. In addition, her mom had the pastor and several leaders of the church arrested and charged with kidnapping Mary. They were jailed. Mary abandoned her faith and fled to northern Nigeria because her life seemed to get harder after becoming a believer in Jesus. A woman befriended her…but enslaved her into a prostitution ring. Mary also began learning tailoring. A Christian woman noticed her strong work ethic and began developing a relationship with her. She discovered Mary’s confusion of faith and offered to purchase a bus ticket to let her escape the prostitution ring and return to southern Nigerian and connect with another church in Ife. The woman leading the HOPE Circle invited her to apply for a loan and take the Business Course. Mary is continuing to learn the tailoring trade as well as marketing a Nigerian beverage made of several grains and sweet potato with a strong ginger flavor. She is delighted to be able to afford 2 meals a day (and not have to beg) and to have shelter to live. This is all before she received her loan funds!
- Another woman sold her goods next to a string of shop owners all selling the identical goods. She learned that she should sell something unique that is not sold in her area. She added puf-pufs (a type of doughnut) and now has a long line of customers each day!
While I was there, the class members were honored in a Matriculation Ceremony. The Key Note speaker was the Minister of Education. His speech affirmed that he had faith that they would succeed in their Business course. It would not only help their families, but the community and nation of Nigeria as well!
The pastor talked about the desire for money vs. knowledge. He reminded them that money does not solve problems. Knowledge will empower them to use it well.
The HOPE Circle leader in Nigeria kept saying, “We are making history today!”
As the event closed in prayer, the class members all prayed out loud simultaneously. Our interpreter explained that they prayed for each other, each other’s businesses, and for the HOPE team. They expressed in their prayers that we were like the trenches around their gardens that water their businesses. They prayed for travel mercies and blessings on our families. They closed their prayer Nigerian style with the words, “Amen! (Pronounced Ah-meen’) Amen! Amen! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
It was humbling to see the impact that our small financial investment and provision of training resources have on their daily lives! Thank you, Jesus!