Nobody Gave Her a Dollar: Leya’s Story
Editor’s note: As we’ve been sharing about the importance of walking well with churches in the majority world, we’ve made mention several times of Chalmers’ partners in this work. This story is from our partners at HOPE International, who have faithfully expanded church-based savings groups in multiple countries over the past several years.
Just before COVID turned all of our worlds upside-down in 2020, I had the privilege of spending a few days near Chitipa, Malawi. While I was there, I met Leya. Her story inspired me so deeply, I still think about it often. I’d like to share a small part of it with you.
Leya and her husband live in a remote village, too far from centers of population and infrastructure to be reached by very many traditional development groups. But as we so often see, the local church is there, and God is very much at work in the most remote places. Five years ago, a friend invited Leya to join a savings group that started in her church. Leya’s church is starting savings groups using Chalmers’ Restore: Savings curriculum.
Savings groups like this one operate on pretty basic principles. A person commits to saving a little bit of money each week. The group’s savings are pooled together. After the savings accumulate for a few months, any group member can borrow money, use it to do something valuable, then pay the amount back into the fund. After a year, the savings are shared out equally to the group and the process starts all over again.
Leya told me that, at first, she was reluctant to join the savings group because she simply had no money to add to the fund. Almost every penny was earmarked for her family’s survival. They could barely scrape by as it was—they didn’t have money to educate their kids or make repairs to their leaking roof.
And yet, Leya said that she felt God calling her to try. So she started by borrowing a small amount from the group’s savings pool to buy sugarcane, which she sold at a profit and quickly paid back her loan to the group. That’s when Leya realized, “I can do this.”
Leya borrowed again from the savings group to attend a two-month sewing class, buy a sewing machine, and realize her lifelong goal of making clothing to sell to others. With a little more money coming in, she bought fabric in bulk, purchased more sewing machines, and began training women to sew—all the while pouring back into her savings group and the local church.
Now, six years later, Leya now owns livestock. She has bought a bicycle which her husband uses to run a local taxi service. Her savings and earnings have literally put a new roof over her family’s head. It’s tin, an upgrade from the thatched roof they had relied on. This is remarkable—but the story gets even better.
Clean, accessible water can be hard to come by in her part of Malawi. Her family walked for hours each day to get just a few gallons. So Leya used her personal funds to drill a well in her own backyard—not just for her family to use, but for her entire village of over 100 people!
Leya didn’t wait for someone else to change her whole community. She followed the example that her local church set, and she relied on the talents, passions, resources, and people God has given her. Nobody gave her a dollar. I love her confidence!
I’m really inspired by the thread of partnership that runs through Leya’s story. Leya’s church is starting savings groups using the Chalmers Center’s Restore: Savings curriculum, which they learned to use from a small NGO that serves churches in northern Malawi. That NGO receives its training and support from HOPE International, one of Chalmers’ trusted partners. Truly remarkable things happen through these layers of trusted relationships. I’m grateful that God has allowed me to also play a small part in the process!