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Zambia: Small loans can fuel big dreams

Universe Habeenzu makes change for a customer in her grocery store in a small village in rural Zambia. Photo: World Vision

Universe Habeenzu makes change for a customer in her grocery store in a small village in rural Zambia.
Photo: World Vision

By Alfonsias Haamanjanji, World Vision Zambia

Children love to dream, and they’re good at it. “When I grow up, I want to be a nurse,” said Mestina, a 10‐year‐old with sparkling eyes who lives in a rural village in Zambia. So does her sister Doreen, 8. A cousin, Hitila, 10, wants a career in the military, while another relative, Mudenda, 18, has set her sights on being a teacher.

Parents love to help their children realize those dreams, but that’s hard to do when you’re impoverished and have difficulty providing enough food for your family, much less finding the money to pay for school fees, uniforms and supplies. World Vision, thanks to the generous support from donors, is using Vision Fund, its microfinance institution in Zambia, to help parents realize the dreams of their children.

Universe Habeenzu, Mestina’s mother, is an enterprising woman with a great deal of business acumen. She received her first small loan through Vision Fund in 2010. At that time, she didn’t qualify for a loan on her own but did through a savings group she had joined.

“Vision Fund has taught me how to make profit,” Universe said as she explained some of the business principles she learned in Vision Fund training sessions. “We no longer worry about food like we used to. Our desire now is to grow and diversify our business so that we will be able to take our children to college.”

After realizing that their home was not ideal for her business and livestock, Universe and her husband decided to move to another part of the village. After moving, she noticed that her sales were down, and she struggled to repay her loan because most people in the new area did not know her. “I thought to myself, ‘What ways can I market my new lace so that people can come and buy from my grocery shop,’” she said. She built a grass fence around her property and hired a band to perform on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This had never been done before in the village. People paid a small entry fee, but the big profit came from selling merchandise to people who attended, many of whom became regular customers at her store. “We had to take turns to sell, and the money we made in those two nights is more than what we make in three months,” Universe said.

And today, as Mestina smiles and dreams of becoming a nurse, her parents can smile and enjoy the dream with her, secure in the knowledge that some day it will come true.

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