Dating back to 1924, World Savings Day seeks to raise awareness of the importance of saving money noting that an increase in savings is especially meaningful to build “resilient” generations. However, access to a traditional bank is out of reach for many communities around the world.
Feed the Children believes that people everywhere deserve the right to thrive. One of the organizations’ programs that is focused on helping women, men and teens around the world do exactly that are Village Savings and Loan groups. By pooling money with other members in their community, individuals can take out small loans to pay for school supplies for their children, home improvements, seed money for micro businesses or emergencies. All of these improve the quality of their lives.
The main goal of Feed the Children’s VSL program is to reinforce the critical habit of saving money to improve the economic resiliency of the families. Participation in VSL groups also provides members with economic empowerment, particularly for women who don’t typically manage the household finances. Participants learn basic bookkeeping skills, improved organizational skills and discipline. They also learn to create and manage family budgets. The group members design all the rules and take ownership of the process.
Today, more than 125,000 people in eight countries worldwide take part in Feed the Children’s Village Savings and Loan (VSL) groups.
For Feed the Children VSL members like Doña Gregoria Gatica, a member of the El Bejucal group in Guatemala, the group has been both empowering and life changing. She was able to take out a small loan to purchase green bean seeds and establish a garden. Today, she harvests enough green beans to sell in her community. Not only has she repaid her loan to the VSL group, but she is also generating enough income to pay her household expenses.
Zelifa Dimba, a member of the Chisomo VSL group, said her family was in dire poverty and food insecure for many years before she joined this group. “The reason for joining this group was to improve my life,” she said.
Zelifa said proceeds from the VSL group allowed her to purchase fertilizer for her maize field. She said her life has improved dramatically since joining VSL group.
“I have enough food for my family and this year I expect to harvest not less than 40 bags of maize,” she said. “I was able to buy land and bricks and I am currently building a house” she said. “Our time of sleeping together with snakes is over! It was so scary sleeping in this grass shelter.”
“Not only that, but I have also bought goats and chickens. From my extra earnings, I can now able to pay school fees for my daughter.”
Yamileni Garcia Lara, a four-year member of the VSL group, said the savings program is extremely important because it allows her family to achieve their goals such as finishing her house, starting a small business and even celebrating when her daughter graduated from college.
“Savings and entrepreneurship help us grow as a community, it gives us opportunities and ways to obtain money to carry out projects in the short and medium term in our lives,” she said.