The word loan is a bit of a stomach-churner for most Kiwis, but this is not so for the people of Batticaloa in Sri Lanka. It’s a smile. It’s a word that brings hope.
The small loans that ChildFund is providing for families in this area of eastern Sri Lanka don’t come with scary strings attached. They come with the ability to change lives. Put simply, it’s a 3 year project that will give 3,000 vulnerable families access to loans and training to help build a more secure future for themselves and their children.These two women took part in a community workshop to learn about the loan project
At the start of the project, ChildFund staff sat down with community members from Batticaloa, and as they learnt from us, we learnt from them.
It all starts with the Child Wellbeing Committee (or Community Board) in each village. This is a group chosen by the members of the community who have the best interests of children and their future at heart. They meet regularly and make visits to children and families in their homes.ChildFund staff sit with workshop attendees, many of whom are members of their local Community Board
The Child Wellbeing Committee identifies the people who need the loans the most, and they also distribute the loans to families. During the workshop, community members made a list of the types of families who might need a loan the most. They decided loans should go to help the most vulnerable:
- Families who have children with special needs or disabilities
- Those families earning less than 4,000 rupees ($48NZD) a month
- Households whose primary earners are women or youth
- Families with more than 3 school-aged children
Between 2008 and 2011, ChildFund ran a similar project in the area called KOHA. After 3 years, family incomes were raised from NZ$30–$100 each month to NZ$70–$150, the equivalent of the monthly minimum wage. The success of this project led to its expansion, to provide even more loans to more families.
The people who were involved in KOHA had some amazing experiences to share during the workshop. One woman bravely shared the story of her 5 struggling children, who never seemed to be doing well in school. Mrs.Thavamany couldn’t afford to pay for extra classes for them and struggled to provide the basics.Mrs. Thavamany bravely shares how loans have helped her 5 children
Now, after receiving four small loans, she has chickens, goats and cows, and a steady income. Her eldest child has passed all exams at A level, the next child down is sitting O level exams this year, and she’s at the top of her class. Not only that, but for the first time ever, Mrs.Thavamany and her husband can save money each month. It’s so encouraging for everyone involved to hear these stories.
The loans aren’t just financially empowering, they give struggling families the opportunity to choose their own way forward and begin to see hope for their future. We can’t even begin to imagine the effect that this will have on the precious children that we support.ChildFund staff member Sally Angelson asks for feedback from community members to help make this project their own
Not only will they benefit from the loans by having more money for education and proper nutrition, they’ll see their parents taking charge of their circumstances and trusting in their abilities, and we think that’s the kind of example every child needs to see. This is what sustainable development looks like and it’s so exciting. It means empowering people, training them, and celebrating with them as they feed back into their community.