Attacking Poverty Through Microfinance – By Zach Vosburg

It was about halfway through my three month stay here at RVCV that I started to see the bigger picture and the broader mission of the Tanzanian Children’s Fund.  I had gotten settled into the daily routine at the Village and started to fall in love with this unique and amazing place.  Obviously, the kids stole my heart.

I was also beginning to learn more about life outside our gates.  On my evening runs and the drives into town on off days, it was impossible not to notice the level of poverty in the areas surrounding RVCV.  The people seem truly happy and laugh and wave with enthusiasm every time we go by, but the picture painted by their living situation is one of immense hardship.  People are living a dire life of subsistence.  I began to wonder what we could do to help these people outside the Village.

Luckily, as I was thinking about these things I was able to sit down with the Grace, the Director of the Microfinance Program, and the fog began to clear.  I knew we had other projects outside of the Children’s Village and now I was seeing how they all fit together.  TCF doesn’t just improve the lives of the marginalized children of Tanzania by bringing them to live at RVCV.  The community health initiatives, Microfinance Program, and educational partnerships with Gyetighi Primary and Oldeani Secondary schools all aim to improve the lives and health of the whole community.  It’s a grassroots effort to reduce the incidence of orphaned and marginalized children by attacking the problem at its roots.

For whatever reason, the mission and work of the Microfinance Program struck a chord with me.  I think the scenes of poverty that I saw running around outside the village left me feeling like I needed to do something and I was wholeheartedly excited during the entire meeting with Grace.  At one point I asked if they had a brochure or something that I could take to tell friends from home about the Program.  When she told me she didn’t I said, “Well, let’s make one!”  Grace was thrilled with the idea and started thinking of other ways to get me involved with the Microfinance Program.

Thankfully, we had a healthy number of volunteers in February to cover all of the classes and other responsibilities with the kids and Grace put me to work.  I started by taking pictures at our Batik dying and soap making classes.  These were multi day training sessions that taught both the respective handcraft skills and the economics associated with starting and running a business in these products.  Also on the training agenda for this year are beading, weaving, and candle making classes as well as a five day entrepreneurship seminar for 100 of the Program participants.

The second project that Grace set up for me was to interview and write profiles on a handful of Microfinance clients.  This was an eye-opening experience.  There were several amazing stories but a few stand out.  Through her efforts beading, Marieta Shauri has been able to move her family from the mud huts they used to live in into a new brick house and is paying for her oldest child to attend secondary school.  Pius John is one of 12 kids and his 3 business, raising pigs, growing vegetables, and running a small shop in Campi Nairobi, allow him to support his aging parents and four younger brothers.  Berta Jacob has become a serial entrepreneur, running a soda and candy shop, a sewing materials shop, a small restaurant, a tailoring business, raising chickens, and acting as a Vodacom M-Pesa agent.  She is also able to employ two local women.  Seeing these people’s homes and businesses and hearing their stories of how the Microfinance Program has changed their lives was enlightening and encouraging.  It also gave me several ideas for the brochure we are working on.

As I prepare to leave RVCV, I can honestly say that my time here has been amazing and truly life changing.  It is an experience I will never forget and I’m already itching to come back!