Meet Bienvenue, Charcoal Trader: A Women’s Savings Group Profile

By CKC Project Manager Cat Knarr

Bienvenue and bike

In front of a local women’s savings group gathering, Bienvenue rides the bicycle she bought in a circle, while the other women cheer for her. When she brings the green bike to a stop, the crowd erupts in applause. Bienvenue stands proudly and rings the bell on her bike.

Bienvenue bought this bike with money she saved up through this women’s savings group. Now, she uses the bike to travel 11 to 15 miles to buy charcoal and bring it back to sell in the market. Her bike makes the job much easier.

“I myself pushed the bicycle and rode it all the way back to our house,” Bienvenue said. “I used to go out and buy charcoal out in the village and carry it in on my head to bring it in to sell. Now I use my bicycle, and I carry the charcoal on my bicycle back into town to sell.”

Before the savings group, Bienvenue said that it was very hard for her to save money. She and others used to pool their salaries together and take turns sharing, but sometimes an individual wouldn’t follow through, leaving the others with less.

The women’s savings group that Bienvenue has joined is based in the local Covenant church, known as the Covenant Church of Congo (CEUM). This group and many others have formed in the past few years through the Covenant Kids Congo powered by World Vision program. The group trains women on how to earn and save funds, while also serving as a microfinance entity that distributes small loans.

Bienvenue deposits her weekly savings into the group’s cash box. When it was her turn to open up the box for the first time and make a withdrawal, she used the money to buy a pig, which gave birth to seven other pigs. The next time, she bought an item she had been yearning for: the bicycle. She said she also gives a tithe of her savings to the church.

“I’m very grateful for this training and the initiative that brought it here,” Bienvenue said. “We get repeated training and it’s very helpful. God is helping me very much through this.”

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