Helping families with savings and loan groups - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Lent 2024 newsletter


Joanne Miya, Tanzania

Left: Agnes’s new charcoal business. Right: Agnes and a friend make briquettes at an Uzima Centre workshop.

I hope and pray that you and your loved ones are doing well. At Uzima Centre we are busier than ever. You may recall that last year we started a support group for the guardians of the children. It became clear that their biggest source of stress is financial insecurity. We try to lighten their burden by covering the cost of the children’s medical care and school supplies, but the guardians still struggle to provide more than one meal a day. Without any savings, a day without work means a day without food. Something more needed to be done.


Richius is all smiles now.

Fortunately, we received a grant enabling us to provide training in savings and loan groups. The guardians are now divided into four groups that meet weekly. Each member contributes what they can. They can borrow from their savings, giving them the capital they need to expand their business. It has been transformational.

Judith is the mother of two children, Richius and Justa. She supported her family by selling local sardines and typically made a weekly profit of $2. After joining the savings and loan group last year, she began saving little by little. A loan of $40 enabled her to expand her business. She has now gone from selling one bucket of sardines per week to selling one large sack. Her weekly profit has increased from $2 to $20. The family is thrilled.

Another inspiration is Agnes. To support her HIV-positive granddaughter, Agnes was a domestic worker. Her daily income was between 40 and 80 cents, when she could find work. She has now borrowed from her group to start a new business selling charcoal. Her weekly income is $15. Agnes is happy that she no longer needs to clean houses and can work close to home. For the first time in her life, she is able to save money.

We hope that Agnes will eventually be able to transition to a more environmentally friendly business, but it is a process. As long as charcoal is still commonly used as a cooking fuel, we wanted to at least minimize waste. Our guardians decided that they wanted to learn how to make briquettes out of charcoal dust, so we held a workshop.

The dust was mixed with powdered clay from termite mounds to form a mixture, which was then molded into round briquettes. The guardians had a lot of fun. Whether they use this as an income-generating activity or to reduce their own use of charcoal, it was certainly worth learning.

briquette making workshop

From dust to briquettes: The guardians had a lot of fun at Uzima Centre’s briquette making workshop.

We hope that by providing such skills training — along with the savings and loan groups — the guardians will be better able to support their families and their stress will be reduced.

Violence within a family is a complicated issue, but financial insecurity never helps. If we can provide the tools needed to improve their income, we are moving things in a positive direction. This will ultimately help the children to have a safer and happier home life.

An important part of our work is conducting home and school visits, as well as visits to the savings and loan groups. These visits by our staff provide valuable information about a family’s living situation. All travel is done by public transportation. We rely on donations to cover the cost. Just $50 per month ensures that the staff gets where they need to go. We are grateful for donors who support us financially, and for those who pray for us.

The season of Lent provides a reminder of Jesus’ commitment to nonviolence. Hate is only overcome by love. In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they might have life and have it to the fullest.” In Swahili, “life to the fullest” translates as “uzima.” Uzima Centre is dedicated to helping each person reach their fullest potential — and know that they are loved.

Thank you for making all that we do possible. You are changing lives. Let us continue to hold one another in prayer.

Peace, deep breaths and gratitude,
Joanne  / or  /

Please consider supporting my mission work at the Uzima Centre with a donation through the link below.

I invite you to walk with me as a “COMPANION IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, visit Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity! 


Joanne Miya
Joanne Miya joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 1983. She is the director of the Uzima Centre in Mwanza, Tanzania, whose mission is to provide hope, healthcare and education to adults and children living with HIV.