Advent 2022 newsletter
Steve and Loyce Veryser, Tanzania
Joy headlines as one of our five core values at Maryknoll Lay Missioners. This is how we explain the importance of joy to mission: “Amidst sin, suffering and death, we rejoice in the hope of the resurrection. We choose to live together creatively, celebrating the beauty and humor of everyday life.”
The Advent season is also a joy-filled time of the year. Christmas is a time of celebration, amidst the darkness and cold of winter!
Loyce and other women teachers from Kitangiri Secondary School started a savings and lending group almost 12 years ago, shortly after our daughter Claire was born. When the 15-or-so members of their “Success” group meet one day after school each month, usually just after pay day, they each make payments on the loans they’ve taken from the group, have the opportunity to take a loan if they’ve cleared previous ones, and contribute to a “social fund.” Over the years, both their collective savings and sizes of loans have grown. When they started, the members were taking loans of around a couple hundred dollars, now members are taking loans into the thousands.
Initially the loans helped members to make small investments; buying a piece of furniture or an appliance. In recent years, they’ve been able to make larger investments. Through taking loans from the group, some of the women have been able to send their children to high-cost, good-quality schools, others have built modest houses, purchased a car or started a small business. The 10% interest on the loans they take is much lower than the 20% APR Tanzanian banks charge, and since the interest is collected in the group’s common “pot,” rather than paid to a bank, they are effectively helping each other save money. How it works is, at the end of a cycle they share-out, and each get part of the profit from the interest they paid in.
What about the ‘social fund’? Each member contributes a few dollars a month to the fund, and if one of them has a personal issue, a death in their family, a serious illness, a wedding or a new baby, the members of the group will be present to support them. They are also granted about $100 from the social fund to help through the difficult time. You might say the social fund works a bit like an informal insurance scheme.
Members support each other through life’s ups-and-downs. Loyce serves as treasurer of the group and is often on the phone with one of the members. Earlier this year, one of the teachers had a new baby, and members of the group went to see her and congratulate her. A couple of days after coming home from the hospital, however, her baby suddenly fell ill. She rushed to the hospital, but there was nothing doctors could do and her baby died. Success members, as well as other Kitangiri teachers, were again there for her in solidarity.
Each year, the group plans an outing around October and uses some of the funds from sharing-out to celebrate together. This year they went to a new place in town called The Breeze. Everyone wore a white outfit. They were all smiles!
This year Loyce taught Form IV students, the equivalent of high school seniors. The school year here aligns with the calendar year, so they’ve just graduated. We are hopeful that some will do well enough on their exams to pursue higher education.
I was able to fit in a few classes with the deaf students I’ve been teaching, between travels and meetings to keep in touch with missioners I support over four countries now. Your financial contributions have helped us to support students at the two schools here with basic needs for 15 of the deaf students, health insurance coverage for five students, 67 desks last year for Loyce’s students, and I’ve been helping with the school fees for a deaf friend who has now completed A-levels and started a bachelors in education program.
We wish you all the joy of a very blessed Christmas. Your generosity enables us to continue to serve here. We look forward to continuing to share our experiences in the coming year. If you’d like to help support our students who are most in need, please follow the link below to donate:
Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Now and through Dec. 31, thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!