Cambodia (MNN) — God can use anything to change people’s lives and to provide opportunities to share the Gospel. Usually, however, you wouldn’t think He’d use crickets.
According to Food for the Hungry, many families live on less than $2 a day. Even though they might have an income, Beth Allen of FH says, “One of the things that’s tough for many of our families is that the income comes in droops and drabs, especially if you’re in agriculture.”
One idea is for these families to start a business that will fill in the gaps and provide a reliable income. This sounds familiar, but Food for the Hungry uses a program that has a leg up on micro-enterprise loans. They are called savings groups.
Allen says, “A savings group is a group of people that come together–often times they choose the people that they want to be with, 10-12 people usually–for a predetermined amount of time, let’s just say a year, where they take savings out of what they earn and put it into a lock box.”
This acts as a bank from which the members can take out loans for emergencies, school fees, and businesses. These loans have a small interest rate and can be paid back in time once the individual’s business is making money. The group meets once a week to contribute small amounts of money.
“One of the things that the savings group does is to help even out the income during the year so that they have some emergency funds when something comes up when they may not have money coming in on a day-to-day basis.”
While micro-enterprise loans and savings groups may have the same end goal, the beginning of each process is much different.
Micro-enterprise loans depend on the ministry’s operating budget. Savings groups don’t. “The great thing about it is that the capital comes completely from them. And we have found over the years that’s really not been a barrier to having enough money for people to get started. In fact, it’s more sustainable because after we train the people about how to start a savings groups, they’re not dependent on us giving them the capital to start it again,” Allen explains.
These principles teach Biblical financial practices that will help improve lives in the long run. An example is teaching women, where the Bible is allowed, about the Proverbs 31 woman. It is a cultural trend, often times, for women to think their husband should control the money, rather than taking care of their assets in a partnership.
Another Biblical principle stressed is for the parents to take care of their children. “It isn’t just about the finances of saving money: it’s about telling them, ‘OK, you use this to make your children’s life better. Don’t spend 30% of your income on cigarettes or alcohol,'” Allen says.
The program ends up being not only a way to produce reliable income, but also a discipleship opportunity.
FH chooses communities that are living in poverty where the leaders are willing to let them come and assess how they might help. One such community in Cambodia is the Thlat village.
A farmer named Thol and his wife were unable to pay for basic daily needs. After joining a savings group and a training program run by FH, the couple took out a loan to start a business selling fried crickets to help support themselves during the slow farming seasons. They saw an increase in income.
The couple didn’t stop at crickets, and now they raise poultry and run other various projects. The couple’s businesses are growing, giving them the dignity of being able to provide for themselves with the gifts God has given them.
So, why should you care?
Allen says, “When you’re helping to support a child through Food for the Hungry sponsorship programs, in many cases the savings groups are something that is supported with that. We’re not just helping the children directly: we’re helping their parents to be better parents in so many different ways. I mean, it’s not just about the money. We use the opportunity of having people together to do literacy training oftentimes, and training in numeracy.”
These programs help teach basic budgeting for families. “When you talk about money, you’re talking about ‘how do we make decisions about our resources,’ and that’s what you’re helping the families to do.”
You can help support this project with your prayer. Pray for many opportunities to share the love of Christ. Pray also that these projects would help change the lives of those living in poverty. If you’re interested in getting involved with FH projects, click here.