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How a struggling widow became a farmer, welder, and seamstress

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After losing her husband, Tinashe Butau of Zimbabwe didn’t know what to do. She was now a single mother with four children to feed, and she needed to find a way to provide.

When a friend told her about a savings group through a local church, Tinashe saw an opportunity.

“I was tired of living from hand to mouth,” she says. “The group provided a means out of poverty and beyond living hand to mouth.”

The savings group, which originated through HOPE International, a Christian microfinance and savings ministry, met routinely to accumulate savings, share funds, and cultivate relationships.

Over at HOPE’s blog, Tinashe shares more about her story:

Tinashe began putting aside $20 each month. In a group made up of mostly widows and single mothers, the group quickly became a source of deep community and growth for Tinashe. “The Lord has really taken care of us,” she says. “He is our husband. And we have each other.”

With a loan from the group, Tinashe was able to grow her peanut butter business by purchasing a peanut processing machine, eliminating the cost of paying others to roast and grind her peanuts. As her business has grown, she’s been able to employ one of her sons and his wife.

Tinashe also used a group loan to purchase a welding machine from South Africa to start a welding and steel fabrication business in partnership with her other son, who was  previously unemployed. She also was able to purchase 10 chickens to produce eggs, as well as a sewing machine to start making children’s clothing and school uniforms. In the future, Tinashe hopes to save enough money to obtain her driver’s license and a delivery car for her peanut butter business.

In areas or circumstances where interests rates are excessively high and living conditions are difficult, community-based savings groups can provide a safe, reliable, and inexpensive way to accumulate funds and gain access to capital.

“For many in the developing world, everything revolves around today,” writes Peter Greer, HOPE’s CEO, in his latest book, Created to Flourish. “What will I eat today? What will I wear today? Where will I find employment today? Beginning to accumulate savings helps shift an individual’s focus from today to tomorrow…The reality is that having a safe place to save small amounts of capital or access a loan is essential if people are to escape poverty and build a better future.”

For Tinashe, shifting her focus toward the future not only made room for a proactive approach to wealth creation and business growth. It also brought the freedom, resources, and capacity to think and focus before and beyond her family’s immediate needs.

In her community, Tinashe now has the ability to offer various discounts on her products for people in need and invests significant time and resources into training others in savings and economic stewardship.

“It doesn’t matter how little you think you have; being in a group makes that seemingly insignificant money multiply and opens your life to limitless possibilities,” she says. “I have peace and joy, thanks to the savings group.”

Photo: HOPE International

Joseph Sunde is an associate editor and writer for the Acton Institute. His work has appeared in venues such as The Federalist, First Things, The City, The Christian Post, The Stream, Charisma News, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.

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