SOS Children’s Villages Liberia is empowering families through the Village Savings and Loans (VSLA) initiative. The initiative is part of SOS Children’s Villages care promise commitment 3 which seek to promote family strengthening and strong gatekeeping ensuring the best care option for every child. SOS Children’s Villages believes that no child should grow up alone and that every child should live in a stable and caring family as part of a supportive community.
What is a VSLA?
VSLA is a Village Savings and Loans Association. A VSLA is comprised of 10-25 people who save together and take small loans from those savings. In the process, they also receive basic business skills training that enable them to upscale their economic activities, improve household welfare, start new businesses and educate their children. During the startup, the family create individual business plans based on their local market and choice. They are then assisted to set up the business. They are encouraged to start with their own little amount to do this rather than a a huge loan.
These initiatives are designed to respond to the high levels of poverty in Liberia; approximately 54 percent of the population lives on less than $2.00 a day, according to World Bank Poverty Index. Liberia is also classified as a low-income country and ranks as number 177 out of 188 countries in the 2015 Human Development Index.
SOS Children’s Villages Liberia’s Family Strengthening Program (FSP) seeks to change this reality through it VSLA initiative by walking alongside over 59 families in four different communities as they take significant steps toward self-sustainability. The program not only shifts the narrative, but also it helps keep families together, moving away from the former way of giving food rations to the families. It helps families thrive in their community, but more than that, it improves the family income and the overall well-being of children, which is the ultimate goal.
As more and more families are empowered through the program, the outlook of the entire families improves. The family economy strengthens, which leads to more opportunities for children.
Family economic empowerment is crucial for poverty reduction and children’s social protection. It also facilitates social and economic justice. For these reasons and many more, SOS Children’s Villages Liberia advocates for the FSP to include savings-led approaches, like the VSLA, which invests in the family’s economic potential.
How the VSLS has helped our FSP families:
Case study #1: Beatrice, a 37 year old mother of 7 children.
Recently, while visiting the communities where SOS Liberia FSP is active, we had the opportunity to meet Beatrice, a 37 year old mother of 7 children – who shared her accomplishments since completing cycle 1 of the VSLA program and launching her very own small business. “There is only one word that comes to mind as I reflect on this visit – Smile”. Smiles as she serves her customers. Smiles as she proudly shows us her business that she sells. She says with a smile, “Family empowerment is a powerful thing, everything is going on smoothly through the support of the VSLA”.
Prior to joining the SOS Liberia Family Strengthen Program, Beatrice described her life as “being in a desperate condition that needed desperate solution.” As a breadwinner of 7, she struggled to provide for her family. But since the launch of her business, through the support of SOS Liberia she is able to save some money. Beatrice has also increased her weekly profit. The 37 year-old mother of 7, accumulated forty-nine thousand Liberia Dollars (LRD49,000) from her monthly saving from the VSLA, and expects that number to continue to rise. She is contributing monthly to savings and has started another business, selling of fish in addition to the selling of used clothes. Beatrice has future plans to continue expanding her business and build a home of her own where she can live with her children. When I asked her about her hopes for the future, she responded “to provide a loving home for my children and continue living a better life for me, and for my family.”
Case study #1: Mardea Zangar a caregiver and single mother of five children.
From Rock crusher to food seller: Mardea of GSA community and her children standing on the porch of their new apartment.
Mardea Zangar a caregiver and single mother of five children live in the GSA road, Zinnah Hill community in Paynesville. She used to crush granite rocks and to sell them, a work she has done for over three years with no improvement. She joined the SOS Family strengthen program (FSP) over a year ago. Mardea has changed her business as a result of skills acquired in saving and loan concept.
Currently she sells cooked food – mainly ‘dumboy’, a local food prepared from cassava. Though she has being involved in this business prior to joining VSLA program of SOS Children’s Villages Liberia, she noted that she never knew how to plan for the family. “I never used to manage. Just used to spend my money on anything. But now with the skills acquired, I can manage my income and also make my weekly savings”, she noted.
Mardea was living in a make-shift house made of corrugated iron sheets (zinc). Beside the skills acquired from SOS Liberia, Madea’s children are benefiting from SOS Liberia educational, medical as well as psycho-social support. Because of the support from SOS Children’s Villages Liberia, she can now realize some profit from her business.
Through the help of SOS Liberia, Mardea is now catering to her five children and another child from an extended family. According to Mardea her income has increased from LRD1, 200 to LRD3, 000 weekly, something she attributed to her participation in VSLA program. Mardea also bought a deep freezer in order to freeze water and sell ice blocks to her customers.
She further noted that based on her weekly saving from the sales of the food, she was able to borrow money from the VSLA Saving that enable her to rent an apartment, thus leaving the makeshift structure she and her children used to live in. currently she is constructing a shop where she intend to sell other goods.
Joseph Joboe – Brand and Communications Coordinator, SOS Liberia
@For privacy the names in this article have changed!