For women in Rwanda like Fortune, a widow and mother of four children, it can often be difficult to provide for a family. Without the proper skillsets, many local Rwandans do not know how to save money or begin their own businesses to help create a sustainable living and economy in their communities.
That’s where TOMS Giving Partner Global Communities steps in. The organization takes a market-based approach in Rwanda, connecting people to real income-generating opportunities including savings and lending programs, job placement and entrepreneurship promotion. In addition, Global Communities links vulnerable families in Rwanda to local networks of social, health and education services.
New TOMS Shoes are integrated into Global Communities’ Integrated Savings and Lending program. Children whose parents participate in the program and successfully complete it receive new TOMS Shoes. As a result, Global Communities has seen increased sign-ups and completion in the program.
“[Participants are] increasing their resilience to economic shocks,” Juste, Rwanda’s program coordinator, adds.
Participants are grouped in small teams of 20-30 people and they each start saving $1 per week. Within three months, participants have enough to take a loan and buy chickens, which they can raise and then sell for profit to then take out a second loan for larger animals like goats and pigs, in addition to producing vegetables and fruits. From there, they are harvesting their own juices, and some have even learned how to produce their own soymilk.
“The beauty of it is that they see the benefit of working as a cooperative. They are becoming entrepreneurs,” Milton, Global Communities’ Rwanda director, shares. “They are growing and saving.”
Participants in the village now gather at each other’s homes to practice preparing new meals and teaching each other new things they have learned.
“We’ve learned a lot and are now applying it,” Fortune says. “We are really proud of what we have done, but we know we can do more.”