The Focolare’s United World Project (AMU) and its partner in Burundi, Cadre Associatif des Solidaires (CASOBU), are quite a winning team! This is thanks also to co-financing by several Italian state entities with whom they were able to conclude several microcredit projects on the peripheries of Bujumbura and in the Province of Ruyigi, Burundi.
In all, 80 microcredit groups have been established. The savings accumulated within each group has allowed 406 people to take part in the first project; and 722 people in the second project to begin a production business that enables them to support their families.
Sandrine who is one of the project animators recounts: “At first it wasn’t easy to introduce the project, because the people didn’t respect the schedule of programmes. . . this often required me to go beyond simply executing the tasks that had been entrusted to me.”
Jerome works in the projects department at CASOBU. He is motivated by the desire to come to the aid of his people: “Each time I try to work alongside them, to respect their personality and dignity, to help everyone to put the accent on the human person and to strengthen the social bonds. In one group a person wasn’t able to repay the credit within the set deadline. Another member of the group, seeing what that other group member had done, lost his own records. Knowing that I was in Ruyigi, the previous debtor looked for me in order to report on his situation. I took the opportunity to stress the importance of brotherhood in the group and how it was the most important value for us, which comes before everything else. Meanwhile, we managed to find the second party who, as it turns out, had gone off to search for money to repay his debt. I learned how important it is that the beneficiaries find the ability to solve their own problems, remaining faithful to the rules, but being enlightened by the spirit of brotherhood. This self-confidence also shows them what they’re able to do.”
“In other words,” Sandrine continues, “we at CASOBU would like this Gospel love which guides us as the animators, to also inspire relations within the group, including the decision-making.”
One of many experiences: “One woman, a mother with two children and expecting the third, had taken on a debt so that she could begin a small business, but she had never attended the group meetings. It seemed that she had moved elsewhere. They finally found her. As she recounted her story, they realised she had terrible problems. Her husband had abandoned her and her small children, she wasn’t able to pay the rent and was threatened with being thrown out on the street. The group members found a family who took in her children, and they unanimously agreed to grant her an additonal loan so that she could restart her small business. The woman was then able to pay her debts before the deadline. And the other group members felt pride in having brought this situation to a happy conclusion.”