Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy 90th Aunt Mae!

90 years, 100 grandbabies

Ok, not that many grandbabies, but when you sit in Aunt Mae's living room, you feel like a grandbaby.

I remember once visiting Mae and AJ with my friend Josh, and I warned him: they'll both hug you, both kiss you on the mouth, and somebody's going to ask about your relationship with Jesus. I was a solid 3 for 3.

The first time Danielle met Aunt Mae, we saw a picture of the two of us on her mantle. We had taken the picture earlier that week, and I still don't know how it got up there so fast.

Aunt Mae is one of the warmest, most prayerful, and dearest people in my life. She has meant a lot to my mom in particular, and that alone has shaped me a lot. What has shaped me the most is how I have always been so welcome in her home, so loved, and so prayed for.

Thanks Aunt Mae, happy birthday.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Facebook philanthropy

Kevin Tordoff, HOPE's marketing director, issued a Facebook fundraising challenge. Some of my friends Facebook more than I – because I don't – so maybe you'd be interested in sharing this with your friends:

"Thanks for joining on in support of HOPE International on our Facebook cause. We're celebrating 10 years of Christ-centered microfinance this year. In ten short years, we've been blessed by God as our work has expanded to 14 countries and reaching more than 220,000 entrepreneurs. If you're not yet familiar with microfinance, in short, it is making available small loans, sometimes as small as $50, to the working poor. These entrepreneurs use the access to our capital to fund their business needs often buying inventory and raw materials. The funds are paid back with interest enabling us to re-loan to more people for larger sums. We do all of this while administering the love of Christ in specific ways.

We can't wait to impact more people in more places, so we came up with a radical idea and that idea involves you. We are asking all of our Facebook friends to make a minimum donation of $10 directly on our Facebook cause page and invite ten of your friends to our cause. Just think, if all 1,700 cause members donated at least $10, we would raise $17,000 for HOPE. What can be done with $17,000? We can open 3 new Bank of HOPE branches in the Dominican Republic. These three banks would provide funding to support the loan requirements of more than 150 new businesses. These businesses would impact the lives of more than 600 family members and in future loan cycles even more people would be affected.

There is one small catch though. We want to fund these new banks this year to bring even greater HOPE to the people of the Dominican Republic this year. This is why we are asking you to make your $10 contribution by December 31, 2008. Don't forget, please invite 10 of your Facebook friends to our cause and share this message of HOPE with them because ten can make a difference."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


A Presbyterian guest house in Kibuye on Lake Kivu, Centre Bethanie is described by Will Kendall as the most beautiful place in the world. I consider it one of the best I've known. I've never seen a place like this, but imagine that it must be what Hawaii looks like, maybe.

Malu was planning a retreat to write up her experiences with the savings-led program here in Rwanda, so Danielle and I were able to tag along. We drove here on Sunday, and we have been doing some reading and planning in order to prepare an agenda over the next few months, and Malu has continued to debrief us on our savings operations.

During our spare time, we look out over the lake and feast on fried bananas and sambaza (minnow-size fish that I eat like popcorn shrimp), which goes nicely with a cheap local beer, Primus. We took a boat tour of the nearby islands, which included some fancy birds and a hilly island with grazing cows. The cowboys swim their cows out to these islands to graze!

Danielle and I have been able to debrief about our new home and soak in some of our new experiences. We have had a whirlwind weekend and no Internet access, so the following blog entries are a barrage of writings accumulated.

Pastor Sam’s savings group

Pastor Sam Mugisha, from St. Etienne, is charged about savings groups. So here is his great idea: Sam invited 46 pastors to join him in a pastors-only savings group. Savings groups often form out of pre-existing groups, but Sam's initiative is pretty special.

First, these are pastors in Kigali who may otherwise never have joined a savings group. Being part of a group is the absolute best way to understand how it works, value what it does, and excite pastors to promote savings in their churches.

Second, this savings program is partnered with the Anglican Church, so many of the implementers are pastors, archdeacons, and ministry leaders. What you don't want, though, is a pastor holding his congregation's money or hunting down loan repayments. Sam's pastors group gets pastors involved but removed: involved in the process of alleviating poverty, removed from handling funds and endangering the church's mission.

Sam gets it, his idea is great, and he is pretty excited. His grace Archbishop Kolini thinks these pastors should be saving to buy a home, so he's pretty excited about this idea, too.

SILC – Savings and Internal Lending Communities

I am getting debriefed on HOPE's savings-led programs every day, but while that picture comes together I am also looking at other models. SILC is a model very similar to ours, and it is outlined clearly and I just read it, so here is the synopsis:

SILC, a soft approach to microfinance, is a Catholic Relief Services (CRS) model of an accumulated savings and credit association (ASCA), developed by Guy Vanmeenen. The notes below are sometimes paraphrased, sometimes direct quotes, of Guy's paper:

Guy Vanmeenen, Savings and Internal Lending Communities, a basis for Integral Human Development, Nairobi, Kenya, Catholic Relief Services, October 2006.

Guy is the Senior Technical Advisor for microfinance in Africa, and he is based in the CRS East Africa Regional Office in Nairobi. He also attended the SEEP conference and was very helpful; I plan to visit their savings-led operations here in Rwanda at his invitation.

So, the guidelines below for SILC are very representative of the ASCA models we use.

Group Formation

  • 10-25 individuals, self-selected: trust, honesty, reliability, punctuality, hard working, savings potential, similar social stratus.
  • If mixed gender, at least 3/5 elected committee members should be female; members who hold some public office outside the group are ineligible for committee leadership but their advice is welcome.
  • Groups that grow larger than 25 are encouraged to split.

Fund Development

  • Members' savings becomes loan capital for group members.
  • Savings-led finance provides access to financial services otherwise limited by high transaction costs or other entry barriers.
  • When savings are sufficient, members can borrow and repay with interest so the fund grows as do members' share values.


  • Groups are owned and managed by their members.
  • Self-reliance is the basis for group operations and long-term sustainability leading to group and financial independence.


  • Members elect 5 governing committee members: chairperson, secretary, treasurer, and 2 money counters.
  • Committee members are reelected annually at the start of a new cycle, or by extraordinary means when necessary.


  • Members agree on a constitution that governs the committee members and provides a framework for dispute resolution.
  • The constitution specifies terms and conditions of savings and lending, and the operations of any special funds.
  • Each group member has one vote.

Transparency and Accountability

  • All transactions are carried out in front of the group during meetings.
  • A lockable cash box holds excess cash and record books.
  • Loan requests are made publicly before the entire group.
  • The group approves loans for consumption, investment, or household expenses, depending on the terms set in the constitution.


  • Savings and lending cycles are time-bound for an agreed upon operating cycle.
  • At the end of each cycle, accumulated savings, interest earnings, and earnings from other economic activities of the group are disbursed to members according to shares.
  • A minimum of a 6-8 month cycle is recommended, and meetings usually occur weekly.
  • Regular meetings and a longer cycle are important for the first cycle, after which groups may graduate to more custom schedules.
  • At the end of a cycle, groups may reorganize and individuals come or go.
  • New cycles may correspond to seasonal needs.


  • Groups are encouraged to create a social fund with some agreed upon regular contribution.
  • Social funds may address emergency assistance, educational costs, funeral expenses, et al.
  • Social funds are not included in end-of-cycle share-outs and not included in lendable funds.


  • Minimum and maximum savings contributions per meeting are set by members and fixed for the entire cycle.
  • The maximum permissible contribution should not exceed 3-5 times the minimum amount.
  • Members may agree to suspend savings during lean periods, though loan or social fund activities may continue.
  • Weekly contributions in Africa tend to be from $0.20 to $0.60.


  • Members' savings and group earnings become funds for internal lending, and members set the loan terms.
  • Loan terms typically span from 1-3 months; agricultural loans may require up to 6 months.
  • Interest on loans falls due every 4 weeks, normally set as a flat rate from 5% to 20% as set by the group.
  • Fines and accrued interest are assessed if the principal is not repaid on time.
  • The amount a group member can borrow is something more than that member's total savings, but less than double or triple (some agreed proportion) of that member's savings.

Rick Harper, mentor

January 1998

The first time I walked into Georgia Tech CCF was 10 years ago. 33 retreats, 12 leadership retreats, 3 campus minister retreats, 1 year of interning, 2 years of seminary, 3 years on staff, 219 Bible studies, 82 runs around campus, 503 meals at no cost to me, 1 wife, countless friends, and 1 life-changing piece of advice later, and here I am with Danielle in Rwanda.

"Give God the glory and anything is possible."

CCF is where I learned to dream and change the world. My marriage, my career, my faith, my relationships are all different because of CCF, because Rick and Beth Harper have used their lives to introduce university students to Jesus.

As Danielle and I studied economics and dreamed about changing poverty, we wondered where and how we might serve, how our gifts would be used. Reflecting now from Rwanda, I praise God a lot for the direction we're going, and I have to thank Rick and Beth for the sacrifices they've made and for believing in someone that must not have seemed worth it at the time.

Hard places

Afghanistan, Burundi, China, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Dominican Republic, Haiti, India, Moldova, Philippines, Republic of Congo - Brazzaville, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Ukraine.

One of my favorite things about HOPE is its commitment to the hard places. Have you been following the violence in Goma or eastern DR Congo? Perhaps you're familiar with the perils of Afghanistan? Sometimes, "hard places" also means there is no microfinance there; how would your life be different if you could never open a bank account of any kind? Those are some of the places HOPE looks to expand.

DR Congo and Rwanda are surrounded by a hard region. We realize it every day when a bishop from South Sudan visits and prays for Darfur, when we visit the Kigali Memorial to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, when a church member returns from Goma because someone from his NGO was killed, when people share stories of poverty and displacement in Central African Republic, Uganda, Congo-Brazzaville, Burundi. The Rwandan genocide and the Sudanese conflicts of the last 30 years ripple throughout the region and place even more constraints on the poor.

The bishop from Sudan came to St. Etienne to ask for prayers and advice because the violence in Sudan will not relent, and he sees people in Rwanda moving past their troubles – while not forgetting – and moving forward. Rwandans may have some advice that we can never give, but we can join the church in prayer.

Bourbon Café

Downtown at the UTC complex, where the Nakumatt is, sits a beautiful café that resembles a Starbucks in its style and atmosphere, but does both better with a wider menu. Here are some prices, and don't forget, 1 hour of Internet with any purchase.

$6.36 = bacon cheeseburger
$6.36 = milkshake
$5.45 = croque monsieur
$4.91 = omelet
$4.18 = beef tenderloin brochette
$4.18 = crepe
$2.73 = slice of apple pie
$2.18 = coffee
$1.82 = french fries
$0.91 = 6 cookies
$0.91 = coke (glass bottle)
$0.73 = chapatti (best of pita and tortilla ~ torpita)
$0.55 = samosas (beef or cheese)

1 hr free internet w/ purchase

State of savings-led programs

Who is doing savings-led finance? During the SEEP conference working group on savings-led financial services, these groups were mentioned (besides the 1,000s of NGOs doing savings-led in India): Pact, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), CARE, Oxfam, Freedom from Hunger, Aga Khan Foundation, CONCERN Worldwide, and of course, HOPE International.

How many savings groups were out there, say, at the beginning of 2007? Here's the representation from these big 3 organizations:

January 2007: CARE, Oxfam, CRS

1,250,000 - India
220,000 - Niger
90,000 - Mali
75,000 - Zimbabwe
75,000 - Uganda
45,000 - Tanzania
30,000 - Mozambique
29,000 - Cambodia
25,000 - Kenya
25,000 - Rwanda
20,000 - Ecuador
17,000 - Malawi
10,000 - Ethiopia
10,000 - Afghanistan
7,000 - Sierra Leone
6,000 - Angola
6,000 - Eritrea
4,000 - Lesotho/South Africa
3,500 - Senegal
1,000 - Zambia
1,948,500 - TOTAL

CARE wants to scale up their savings-led programs – Village Savings & Loan (VSL) – from 1.2 million to 30 million groups through a new grant they've received.

Oxfam/Freedom from Hunger are also growing their "Saving for Change" program with the help of a generous Gates grant, and they are planning for 400% increase in membership over 3 years.

The excitement about savings-led is its reach to the poorest poor as well as its organic growth and replication; also, people are empowered by starting small and keeping their funds in their community.

HOPE has savings-led programs in Rwanda and India, and we are planning to expand to reach the harder places and also further empower the church to participate in addressing poverty and reconciling communities.

Rwandan bank accounts

I have two bank accounts in Rwanda, now: one at the Bank of Kigali (this is where you can wire me money, if you'd like), and the other at Urwego Opportunity Bank (UOB).

Bank of Kigali requires a minimum deposit of 10,000 RWF (Rwandan francs) for a new account, but there is no minimum maintenance amount. My payroll is directly deposited here. My USD becomes RWF and I walk them over to UOB.

Urwego (UOB) requires a minimum deposit of 1,000 RWF, also. At this bank, I can never have less than 1,000 RWF unless I am closing out my account. I am allowed 4 free withdrawals per month. The money I deposit here is used to lend to the poor so that, along with supporting savings groups, I am doubly supporting economic development in Rwanda. Many of Urwego's poorer clients begin with a group account, and their loan officer supports the economic, social, and spiritual transformation of the group members.

Between the two banks, I spent much more time wandering around, waiting, not being spoken to or looked at while I was at the Bank of Kigali. I was handed an information booklet about my account but which I was not permitted to read before I had to sign my contract. They took one signature profile and 1 passport photo. At Urwego, I was greeted warmly; they answered all of my questions, and issued an ID card. Also, they took my fingerprints and two signature profiles.

At Urwego, I met Patrick and Daniel and was greeted by the branch manager who continually checked in on the quality of client care. I think the manager must have been pleased.

Local markets

We had previously decided that Nakumatt, the Kenyan grocery, is too expensive for our daily groceries, so Danielle and I took a guided tour of the local markets and their respective specialties. I think, however, that we are still unsure what we will eat, and from where, and for how much …

BCK (pronounced "behseka")

Another grocery store, closer to a Piglet than a Piggly Wiggly. Similar to Nakumatt on most prices, but this store would contribute more to the local economy. BCK and Nakumatt are close together and close to where we live. It is also right down the street from the Chinese store …

T2000, "the Chinese store"

Cheap chocolate, only Christmas trees in town, maybe a radio; they have everything non-grocery for great prices. You should expect to lay down about $30 for the smallest pre-lit fake Christmas tree, which is quite more substantial than our Charlie Brown Christmas tree at home. Bonus: a friendly Filipino friend gives us free paper bags for our purchases (it usually costs extra).


Great place for vegetables and lots of fruit. I think a lot of foreigners come from the fruit. Here are the Frulep prices:

$6.42 = 1 kg tilapia
$5.50 = 1 cheese wheel
$4.59 = 500 g coffee
$2.94 = 400 g peanut butter
$1.83 = 500 g jam
$1.56 = 50 bags of tea
$1.47 = 1 kg rice
$1.15 = 500 g pasta
$0.73 = 1 kg oranges
$0.73 = 1 kg bananas
$0.64 = 1 kg pineapple
$0.18 = 1 kg avacados

La Gallette

French name, German subtitle: "the German butchery." Good meat and bread. Smaller store, full range of groceries, also quite a package shop, to boot. Close to town, closer to the prison, so we can take the back way home and pass through the Muslim Quarter.


Good place for butter, meat, and fish. It's on the way to the provincial office, on the way to Kimironko Market.

Kimironko Market

Wow. This is what an open-air market should look like: endless piles of bananas and potato with bountiful islands of every green been, onion, fruit and vegetable you could want on your plate. In addition, you can shop for any manner of clothing, cookware, or other normal need.

We drive about 15 minutes to Remera – another Kigali neighborhood, ours is Biryogo – and we pass the Anglican provincial office where the savings program is based, and we pass the best chapatti in Kigali, and there's a sports complex/soccer stadium back there by the office, too, and then you arrive. When we arrive, we are surrounded by 15 young men in yellow vests offering to help us park, watch our car, and/or carry our bags. The market used to be so loud, with vendors talking/yelling over one another, that vendors are now encouraged to pacify themselves with small radios. I can only imagine how loud it was before, but I have to say this strategy is effective – and it's still loud. The market is overwhelming and wonderful.

The prices are better than Nakumatt, as you can see with a couple of comparisons below, but most vendors are definitely skewing prices towards Nakumatt level when they see us coming.

850/kg Tanzanian rice (1744/kg at Nakumatt)

750/kg sugar (790/kg at Nakumatt)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Rose Kabuye Day

November 19, 2008

Do you know what’s happening with Rose Kabuye? Everyone in Rwanda knows.

Not only is she the subject of 4 out of 5 articles on the front page of yesterday’s New Times, but today Rwanda stopped. Our training seminar this week has halted. About 2:30 pm yesterday, word reached our group that the following day would be a national holiday to protest the arrest of Rose Kabuye.

I woke up to the sounds of preparation. You could already hear people in the streets and music in the neighborhood. By 9:30 am, there was a large crowd near our guest house, gathering with banners, loudspeaker announcing and music blasting. They would wait there until receiving word to leave on their march to the city center. Groups like this formed around the city, ready to converge all at the same time at the German Embassy. Every business and every church is closed. If you are in the city, you are participating or staying home.

Rose Kabuye works in President Paul Kagame’s office. She was recently arrested in Germany and extradited to France. Could this have happened if Rose worked for another country?

The rally today is expected to be peaceful and organized. Everyone in Kigali is paying attention, and there may be upwards of a million people converging downtown. As I write (11:07 am) I can hear activity from very far distances, activity which may well continue throughout the afternoon.

[I’m posting this after the day of the rally. The rally was in fact very peaceful and very well organized. I am certainly no expert in the details of Rose Kabuye, her trial, or Rwandan feelings about the events of 1994. Please read more, online or otherwise.]

PEAR/HOPE core team

PEAR = Province Eglise Anglican du Rwanda

HOPE International partners with PEAR to train trainers for the Anglican Church's savings program. Allow me to introduce the core team.

Emmanuel, Danielle (that's my wife), Roger (that's my boss, other than my wife), Marie-Jeanne, Malu, Jairus (Malu's son, not on the team), Rob (me).

Roger is HOPE's regional director over Africa and Europe. He lives in Brussels but visits Africa often. Roger's been in the business world for a while before choosing microfinance, he has wild stories about rabbit mating and chicken killing. He's everyone's best friend.

Malu has been here for one year but is now returning to the Philippines. Her son Jairus has taken some great pictures which I'm putting on my slideshow [top right of blog]. Malu is wonderful and a master trainer, so now everyone in Rwanda is masterly trained. My job is to not mess up what she has done. She has been debriefing us very well, but she is gone in three weeks. We'll miss her. Everyone here will.

Emmanuel and Marie-Jeanne have taken over what Malu has established for this amazing training program. Over one year, their champions have trained about 33,000 trainers and established over 600 new savings groups and converted over 1,600 informal savings groups. I will be very happy to work with them for the next 8 months. Hard working and dedicated, they will have much to teach me about savings, poverty, and development in Rwanda.

So, that's the core team, in essence. We were celebrating Malu as she prepares to leave soon. The name of the restaurant ... Heaven. I have to say, there was a pretty good view up there.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Champions on leadership

The “Champions” – three key leaders per each of 10 dioceses – reflected on leadership qualities during their final savings groups training session this week. These Champions are the ones that go out and train the trainers who train the group leaders who lead the very poor in starting their own savings groups.

Here’s what the Champions describe as most important leadership qualities:

Patience, Telling the truth, Loving the ones you’re leading, Being brave, Putting actions with words, Transparency, Treating all people the same, God-fearing, Taking precautions when necessary, Giving advice, Ignoring rumors, Humility, Having a common goal, Promoting development, Serving the ones you’re leading, Not being corrupt, Knowing how to train

In addition, here are some biblical leaders and the traits the Champions admired:

Moses: Finished well, Prepared his successor, Joshua
Nehemiah: Hurt for his people, Loved repentance
Esther: Redeemed her race
Solomon: Wisdom
Joseph: Hated revenge
Jesus: Sacrifice
David: Hero, Humbled himself before God

Malu added that a leader:
Influences others to use their gifts, not to admire the leader’s gifts.

Church in Kigali

St. Etienne Cathedral
And the Prince of Peace Choir

Our first Sunday, I think we’ve found our new church home. English service starts at 8:30 am, Kinyarwanda service follows afterwards.
This week Pastor Sam Mugisha preached and Pastor Adriaan Verwijs read scriptures and made announcements. They began with some of our favorite contemporary worship songs – Blessed Be Your Name – along with the very lively and young Prince of Peace Choir.
Our friend Diana sings, and I love this guy Eddie who sings and plays the keys (I have another favorite Eddie that played keyboard at Tech, so I like new Eddie all the more). This choir and band is very talented – apparently they travel and do appearances that pay, which makes it possible for them to travel and perform at orphanages and other pro bono concerts.
Between worship songs, Adriaan read scripture as the band played softly, and the scripture connected the meaning of the previous song with that of the next, and it was all rather beautiful. Formal scripture was read from the lectern after the contemporary music and then we sang some hymns.
I think Adriaan and Sam will be friends. Adriaan and his wife Lisette took us to an expatriate Bible study that afternoon, and just yesterday evening Sam dropped by our porch to visit and welcome us again. Sam invited us over to his home with his wife Jackie and 3-year-old Iris.
Sam is 38, Rwandan, and along with marrying about 3 couples a weekend plus funerals and baptisms, he is excited about another degree in business administration. Sam hopes to expand his ministry into something more, something that engages people outside of church walls and enters into a public context: education related, young people, professional people, microfinance maybe.
Adriaan is Dutch, and he and Lisette have served the Anglican Church in Columbia and the last 4 years here in Rwanda (and also in Holland). Adriaan speaks Kinyarwanda very well. They have two boys in school at the Rift Valley Academy in Kenya, and one boy in university in Holland.

One church we look forward to visiting:

Congregation of the Blessed Mango Tree
And the God Help Us Choir
Reverend Nathan Amoti, Administrator for the Kigali Diocese and a very funny man, asked the Archbishop – who is also Bishop of Kigali – for permission to start a new church. Nathan wanted a new church building. His grace, the Archbishop, was more than happy to endorse a new church, but why start with a mortgage. His grace recommended beginning the new church under a mango tree. Rev. Nathan actually liked that suggestion, so that’s what he did. I’m not sure how good the God Help Us Choir is, but I think they have their theology right.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Brief comment on communication ...

Danielle and I are writing when we can, but for the moment our Internet access is limited. I will post a bundle of posts when I can, and soon we may become more regular.

Also, for anyone interested, my cell phone number will never work again. We will get new Pennsylvania numbers when we return. For now, I skype as robertpaulhartley and Danielle skypes as daniellehartley. We have Rwandan cell phones, I don't see us calling America often.

As an aside, we are sitting on the steps of the office for the Kigali diocese of the Anglican church (there is free wifi somewhere inside the building) and at this very moment, there is a wedding marching out of the church. It's pretty much incredible: marching band, soldiers, children's choir, fancy clothes. We're hidden just out of sight, but we're actually right by the procession and can see everything.

This is how we blog.

How can the poor save?

I have heard the question a few times: How can the poor save?
A new microfinance institution was set to open in Lilongwe, Malawi. A huge crowd lined up for the doors to open; at the front of the line, a blind man. The blind man was a beggar, and his son led him by the hand to this new bank. Though everyone was pushing to be first through the doors, no one pushed the blind beggar out of the way. When the doors opened he was first to deposit is 20 cents. Every Friday, his son leads him to the bank, places his hand on the fingerprint reader, and the blind beggar deposits his money.
A quiet gentleman overheard this story at the Mercy House dining room, and he softly noted, "That man knows what it's like to have nothing at all."

Details: Nakumatt grocery prices

Kenyan grocery chain Nakumatt has everything from furniture to pharmacy, cookies to milk. We decided to shop around and see what the prices were and plan a budget. These prices are certainly higher than what we can find at a local market, but this will help later when we are shopping for bargains. Rwandan francs (RWF) and U.S. dollars (USD) exchange around 550 to 1, so a 2 L coke would be 1700 RWF and spinach is only 60. Some of our favorites so far are the bread, pineapple, small bananas, macadamia nuts, and chips (french fries ... best in Africa).

Below is a summary of what groceries cost. By the way, if you asked Danielle after pricing the rice, we can’t afford to live here. I think we’ll find a way to make it work.

Nakumatt grocery store
$19.20 = 6 fruit/nut breakfast bars
$15.85 = 5 kg rice
$9.84 = 500 g ground beef
$9.67 = 1 box of cereal
$9.27 = 200 g bacon
$8.98 = 4 sticks of butter
$8.84 = 900 mL mayonnaise
$7.35 = 2 L corn oil
$6.73 = lg. bag of mixed nuts
$6.44 = 500 g beef sausage
$5.45 = 500 g coffee
$4.82 = 800 g peanut butter
$3.67 = 1 mango
$3.13 = 10 scouring pads
$3.09 = 2 L coke
$2.91 = 12 eggs
$2.87 = 2 kg sugar
$2.73 = sleeve of chocolate chip cookies
$2.62 = 1 kg oranges (green local variety)
$2.55 = 750 mL dish soap
$2.45 = 1 L passion fruit juice (any juice really)
$2.36 = 4 rolls of paper towels
$1.64 = 1 kg cucumbers
$1.45 = 25 tea bags
$1.27 = loaf of bread
$1.18 = 1 kg tomatoes
$1.05 = 1 papaya
$0.96 = 1 L water
$0.91 = 1 pineapple
$0.89 = 2 rolls of toilet paper
$0.84 = 1 kg onions
$0.78 = 1 kg carrots
$0.75 = 1 kg bananas
$0.65 = 1 kg green beans
$0.40 = 1 head of cabbage
$0.35 = 1 kg potatoes
$0.20 = 1 avocado
$0.11 = 1 bundle of spinach

New friends in Kigali

This new friend runs a shop downtown called Objets d’Art (a common name but an out-of-the-way location). Danielle found a red woven bowl that is beautiful, and now it is ours. It cost 4,000 RWF, so about 7.30 USD. We will probably return for jewelry, too – very beautiful jewelry and priced right for a certain anniversary coming up (December 16). Jean-Pierre speaks “petit francais” and “petit, petit English.” Danielle told him goodbye in Kinyarwanda, “murabeho,” and he repeated it back for us with better emphasis. He then taught us “mwakoze cyane” or thank you very much. We then thanked him very much, and said goodbye again. That’s called speaking the language.

Charlie, Adam, Scott, Roger
These guys are filming a travel documentary in Rwanda; we met at Bourbon Café (drinking coffee, not bourbon). They’ve been in Rwanda before and mentioned some favorite dining spots like Republica and India Kazana (sp?). They have shot some film here before with Right to Play, a great NGO that uses sport to invest in children and unite communities. I’m hoping to meet the Right to Play people and maybe volunteer to play on the weekend. I have the right to play, too, right?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mercy House

While we are in Rwanda, our home will be in the Anglican Guest House complex, which includes the Hope House where we will live and the Mercy House where we currently live. Right down the street from us are Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), USAID, UNDP, and President Paul Kagame. The Kigali diocese of the Anglican church is across the street. Both guest houses are fairly humble but lovely with a great garden and great view.

The Hope House is fully furnished, 2 stories, 2 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, living/dining room, and kitchen. There is a guard dog named Lazarus, and he will open the gate for you when you honk. I assume he only opens it when the right car honks, but either way he comes out barking.

Hope House
75 Avenue Paul VI
Biryogo, Kigali

We’re expecting Christmas cards. Better send them now.

The Mercy House is more of a hotel in that guest rooms have a bed and a desk. We can take our meals there if we choose, and I am inclined to choose so because we eat very well there. Incredible pineapple, small bananas, eggs, toast, tea – breakfast. Janet prepares our food, and she speaks Kinyarwanda and English. Another guest at the Mercy House is a young medical student from Ghana – she is doing her overseas residency here for another month.

Here is a short video of Danielle and me on our back porch at the Mercy House; it’s so great there at night.

[I think we're bad at doing videos online and we have poor bandwidth. Something's got to give, so we'll try again to get this right. Sometime later.]

Details: moving to Rwanda

UPDATED: November 13, from Rwanda

72 hr, 27 min = Total time from Fisher House [Lancaster] to Mercy House [Kigali]
34 hr, 5 min = Total time from Philadelphia to Kigali
17 hr, 15 min = Total time flying

We left with 8 bags. I know how Jon & Kate Plus 8 feel when they go to Disney World, you’re always counting. 4 checked bags, 4 carry-ons, 3 laptops, too many books. Everything was the right size and the right weight except the one. One bag was barely overweight (and oversized, but they fixed that by ripping of the handle somewhere in a back room). I suggested to both United and Kenya Airways that we were serving a nonprofit organization helping the poor in Rwanda – each generously offered our overweight and oversized baggage transportato gratis (no extra charge).

From Lancaster, PA to Kigali, Rwanda: here are the details. So far, these are just flights and times, but I'll go back and insert the actual details of traveling for three days as we move to Africa. I'm including real time departures and arrivals, travel time, and costs for two.

Day 1: Trains
Sunday, 9 November 2008

Amtrak: Keystone 664
10:03 am Lancaster
11:10 am Philadelphia (30th St)
1 hr, 7 min

Septa R1 regional rail
11:34 am 30th Street Station
11:50 am Philadelphia Int'l Airport - Terminal B
0 hr, 16 min
$0 ($12 regularly, but we road at the grace of one sympathetic – yet brusque – ticket puncher)

Philadelphia Airport Marriott - connected to Terminal B by sky bridge.
$76.12 ($60 bid on Priceline, 3 stars, regularly $199)

Sunday night update: We caught the Eagles-Giants game at the Linc (a surprise for Danielle). We enjoyed a pre-game concert with ribs and a turkey leg. We also had the great pleasure of meeting three genuine Philadelphia fans (one with a classic Eagles knit cap) Jeff, Ed, and Dr. Rob. (I say Dr. Rob to distinguish him from myself; I usually go by Dr. Bob.) We had the subtle displeasure to experience the spitting of an Eagles fan upon a Giants fan. It is not as fun as it sounds when you’re in between the two. I almost saw two Eagles fans fight each other; it’s known to be a rough crowd. Our experience with Jeff, Ed, and Dr. Rob, however, was redeeming enough to believe in Philadelphia still.

Another Sunday night update: For Tech fans … I met Bill Weaver at the Marriott. You may know him as some very successful CEO, but I have the personal privilege to know him as one of the 1990 Yellow Jacket college football national champions. I thanked him for his service.

Day 2: Planes, part I
Monday, 10 November 2008

United 7218
6:50 pm Philadelphia (PHL)
7:59 pm Washington (IAD)
1 hr, 9 min

United 924
10:04 pm Washington (IAD)
10:15 am London (LHR)
7 hr, 11 min

Day 3: Planes, part II
Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Kenya Airways 101
7:00 pm London (LHR)
6:30 am Nairobi (NBO)
7 hr, 30 min

Day 4: Planes, part III
Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Kenya Airways 472
12:30 pm Nairobi (NBO)
12:55 pm Kigali (KGL) 1 hr, 25 min

Total approximate airfare cost, roundtrip (returning June 2009)

As we finish our travel, I'll update all of the travel times and maybe some more costs of travel. Also, you cannot move to Rwanda without vaccinations and drugs: typhoid, yellow fever, polio, meningitis, (hepatitis we’ve had already), and we’re taking malaria prophylaxis – $1,125
not to mention a serious checklists of what to remember before you leave the country. I should have friends help out with this one . . . Bentleys? McDades? Strykers?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Rwanda Reading List

My problem with a good reading list for Rwanda is the most of what I find is books on the genocide. These are important to read and understand, but Rwanda's story is more than that terrible event. Perhaps after living there for months I can develop a better list, but here I have some genocide-focused books and some other books about gorillas and hills.

Rwandan Genocide
An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography, Paul Rusesabagina (subject of Hotel Rwanda)
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, Philip Gourevitch
As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda, Catherine Claire Larson
Justice on the Grass: Three Rwandan Journalists, Their Trial for War Crimes and a Nation's Quest for Redemption, Dina Temple-Raston
Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, Romeo Dallaire (with Samantha Power)

Other Rwanda Reading (to be expanded later)
Gorillas in the Mist, Dian Fossey
In the Kingdom of Gorillas: Fragile Species in a Dangerous Land, Bill Weber
A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It, Stephen Kinzer
Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda, Rosamond Halsey Carr

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Savings and Credit Association Specialist

Did I mention that my new job title is Savings-Led Specialist? I start work Monday and my job title has changed; it's ok, it still means the same thing. Savings and Credit Association and Savings-Led refers to a type of microfinance service designed for the very poor to build some financial sustainability.

When HOPE launches a new microfinance institution to empower the world's poor, they do so with a technically proficient and economically sustainable model that requires million dollar investment. Great news for the economically active poor who have no access to the financial services necessary to break out of the vicious cycle of poverty! This class of financial clients may range from small business owners to medium sized enterprises, and loan products could be in the $50 to $5,000 range, or for small/medium enterprise (SME) it could be $5,000 to $50,000.

Let's take a step back, then. Yes, the world's poor have resources and income. Why is there a cycle of poverty that keeps these poor vulnerable to famine and illness, oppressive labor, violence? One huge factor is capital. What can a lump sum of money do that small increments cannot? I think my brother - who worked in banking for a while - may have got it best when I said we are going to bring banking services to poor people who have no access to anything like that. He knows, as most of us do when we think about it, the value a bank brings to revitalizing community, building local businesses, supporting families' health and education.

Back to my job:
Ok, so HOPE provides financial services to the world's poor, and does so in an economically sustainable way so that growth can spread. As a missionary organization, HOPE cares for poor people stuck in hard places; my job is to help reach a poorer class of people.

Savings and Credit Associations (SCAs) provide efficient delivery of financial support. SCAs train communities to perform financial services using their own resources through savings groups, thus the "savings-led" title. The typical HOPE financial institution is credit-led using outside investment instead of savings-led using the communities resources. The SCA model empowers smaller, poorer, more rural communities to take steps toward independence and confidence managing financial resources.

Rwanda and India are the main areas where HOPE employs the SCA model, and so Rwanda is where HOPE will soon employ me.

HOPE International Reading List

An abridged resource list for microfinance, missions, and development - provided by HOPE International. There are a couple of overlaps in book recommendations I've made earlier.

World Bank Overview
The Mix Market
Microfinance Gateway
Microcredit Summit

A Billion Bootstraps - Eric Thurman and Phil Smith
Banker to the Poor - Muhammad Yunus
Give Us Credit - Alex Counts
The Poor and Their Money - Stuart Rutherford, Institute for Development Policy and Management
Microfinance: Distant Learning Course - UNCDF (United Nations Capital Development Fund)

White Man's Burden - William Easterly
Myth: Foreign Aid Will End Global Poverty - John Stossel, ABC News

Walking with the Poor - Bryant L. Myers
Good News for the Poor - Tim Chester
Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger - Ron Sider
Perspectives on the World Christian Movement
Chalmers Center for Economic and Community Development

SEEP Conference

SEEP: Small Enterprise Education and Promotion

Danielle and I will be in Washington DC next week to begin to meet micro-finance professionals and get up to speed on field issues we'll be applying in Rwanda. Danielle and I have the advantage of splitting up and doubling the sessions. Here's what's on our agenda:

Savings-Led Financial Services Working Group

Plenary Session:
Poverty Outreach and Microfinance

Business Process Management: A Tool for Increasing MFI (micro-finance institution) Efficiency
Consumer Protection in Practice
Hunger Crisis: How do we help our clients survive and thrive?
How Can Networks Support Their MFI Partners' Quest for Social Performance Management?
Market Development Mitigating Conflict

Breakfast Session:
Youth Enterprise & Financial Services: What's new and how does this affect your work?

Plenary Session:
Marketplace for the Retail Microfinance Investor: What microfinance can learn from eBay

Reducing Missed Opportunities: Capitalizing on microfinance service delivery for improved health
Practitioners as Knowledge Workers

Plenary Session:
Mainstreaming Sustainability: How large corporations change the way we do business

Some of the contributors for this conference:
USAID, Freedom from Hunger, Oxfam America, Accion, Brookings, Grameen, World Relief, Finca, Unitus, MEDA, Mercy Corps, and for the large corporations plenary session: Starbucks, Unilever, and Mars.

Thick descriptions or specific notes may follow after the conference. Then again, we'll be flying to Rwanda.

Details: moving to Lancaster

770 miles, 5 days of U-Haul

[Atlanta, GA] We rented the U-Haul on Thursday, October 23. Art helped a ton with our first day of loading, and Mark Fifield put his knee through some cheap piece of furniture, which also helped a ton because we hated it.

Friday, October 24, we kept loading the U-Haul. 14' truck, interior space of 11'4" x 7'5" x 6'9" (LxWxH) and a mom's attic. This space is the size of our worldly possessions because it all fit exactly. Friday consisted of jigsaw puzzle packing of assorted boxes and bikes and chairs; running to the Post Office to get a book that I ordered and they wouldn't find for me and will now be lost in space; running around to find somewhere to dump extra trash (thank you Washington Mutual); and more packing. Finally we loaded the car onto the tow dolly and set out. The time? 7:20 PM. My goal, my life aspiration at this point: make it to Gwinnett before we stop and get a hotel room.

Did I mention it was raining all day? It rained all night, too, as we drove through the dark to Statesville, NC. The Holiday Inn was so hospitable, especially after their unnamed neighbor hotel tried to sell me an expensive jacuzzi room at 1:00 AM. That lady had a bad attitude.

Saturday, we leisurely advance our U-Haul from Statesville to York. After gassing the truck in the rain, being denied a bathroom, and almost getting hit by a speeding pickup truck burning rubber in the raining parking lot (I literally dodged out of the way), I felt we had traveled enough that day. York, PA is just across the river from Lancaster, PA, but nevertheless, we were done for the day. Quality Inn.

Sunday, we arrive. We are staying with host families, very kind and generous ones, first in Mt. Joy and now in Lititz. Monday we were able to score a storage unit for our belongings while we are in Rwanda.

Monday evening, the U-Haul was returned. Did I fill the gas back to 1/2 tank?

New Beginning

Day 686

Danielle and I got married in Pensacola on 16th December 2006. We lived in East Point [Atlanta] fixing up a house and doing economics grad school together. 686 days of marriage later, we're taking a slow morning in Lancaster, PA. From the beginning, we wanted to use our gifts, passions, and opportunities to serve the poor through international economics. Not exactly sure what that looked like then, but we decided HOPE International was doing a pretty good job serving the poor with micro-finance. We read about HOPE, signed up for the employment update, and I applied for the Savings-Led Specialist position, which I was offered on September 30.

After a day to think about it, we spent 15 hours driving directly to HOPE in Lancaster, PA, and Danielle and I described our excitement and love of HOPE, but also our dreams and plans to work together to do international economics internationally. The job in PA is perfect for me, but I didn't want to sacrifice Danielle's gifts, passions, and opportunities.

Here's the quick run-down. Best I can tell, our prayers to serve met HOPE's prayers for needs, because a week and a half ago we get a phone call asking if the two of us can serve in Rwanda.

Yes we can. Do we mind missing Thanksgiving and Christmas? We'll miss family, but no, we don't mind. Can we go right away? We're already packed.

Rwanda happens to be a perfect place for me to train for my new job, and while there Danielle can help with operations and also pick up some international research projects (currency hedging in Ukraine?). Two Thursdays ago, we knew we'd leave for Rwanda on November 10. That Friday we got vaccinated, Saturday was the yard sale, the next Friday was U-Haul to Lancaster, and since then we've been getting to know our new home (for two weeks) and getting ready to leave. Work officially starts this Monday and Tuesday, then we'll be in DC for a conference Wednesday through Friday, and the following Monday we leave.

I just conferred with Danielle, and this is official, we both rate life a 10 on a scale from 1-10.