Every two weeks on a Sunday morning, a large group of people from the Chai village farmers’ group – including many who are leprosy-affected – gather under the shade of a large tree to shelter from the sun.
Each member puts 10 Mozambican Meticais (about 10 pence) into an old flag laid out on the ground, before the coins were gathered up and placed in a secure box. This money goes into their community chest, from which anyone can borrow in an emergency.
Next, each household deposits whatever else they can afford into a separate individual savings pot. Security is high, with this secure box placed into another box and then into a third even sturdier box. All three boxes are locked individually with keys held by three different people.
Every two weeks, the farmers’ group get together to do this so they can save up for a very different future for their families.
Farming is the main way of earning a living in this very rural part of northern Mozambique. The majority of the group are mothers like Olencia, who wear their youngest children on their backs while working the land, growing maize, cassava, beans, peanuts and potatoes in small community plots.
Olencia told us that the 500 MT she deposited in the savings box that day was for medical emergencies. The mother of four, whose two older girls are married, has a one-year-old and a five-year-old and wants to do the best she can to ensure a better future for them.
Driven by love, the stories of each of the savings group members were similar. Parents who had never had the opportunity to learn were saving up to give their children a better chance in life through education; others were putting money aside simply to ensure that they could pay for treatment should their children become ill.
With no public transport and the nearest bank many miles away, putting money aside for emergencies wasn’t something the farmers living in Mozambique’s remote villages could do in the past. The knock-on effects of unexpected costs – such as a relative’s funeral – could be longlasting and utterly devastating.
Judy Atoni, Programs Manager with Food for the Hungry Association – The Leprosy Mission’s partner organisation in Mozambique, said “When there was, say, a relative’s funeral, they had to sell their grains to get cash. It left them with little food for the rest of the year and resulted in malnutrition.”
As a result of the Feet First campaign in summer 2015, more than 60 savings groups have now been set up across Cabo Delgado province by The Leprosy Mission in partnership with Food for the Hungry. These life-changing groups have only been made possible by your overwhelming response to Feet First, where every donation was matched pound for pound by the UK Government.
“As word gets around we are finding that more and more people are getting interested in joining the groups,” said Judy.
Adelino, who is leader of the Chai group, told us: “If there is an emergency – for example, someone is sick and needs to go to hospital – they can borrow money from the community savings pot.
“People can also borrow from the individual savings pot for any needs or purchases. If it is less than the amount they have saved then there is no interest to pay.”
Adelino is a father of four boys and said that the money he put into savings that day was to help pay for his two older sons’ education.
“There is no secondary school in this village. The nearest one is 45 kilometres away,” he said. “I want my sons to get good jobs so they can help improve the lives of people in the village.”
Your amazing generosity means families like Olencia’s and Adelino’s can now rest easier, knowing they have financial security, and that they can plan for the future.