..and the good news keeps on coming. Thank you!!

Wow, you just cannot believe it, but as of July our 126 groups have 1,407 members (we added 2 new groups last month) and their cumulative savings is (are you ready for this?) R 2 060 590 from this year ALONE! Retained earnings R 628 438, return on savings 30%! Now I ask you, where else in the world can you see those kinda numbers?? Helpless, hopeless township residents? I THINK NOT!!

More good news…….Today we had a welcome visitor, Martin Muller from Beier Safety Footwear. He came to deliver boots for the training officers. I sent out a request to several SA companies asking them to donate boots and Martin came through for us. This winter has hit township areas hard and the mud the officers have to slog through is relentless. These boots will make a huge difference. Thank you, thank you, thank you Martin and Beier Safety!!

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June 2012

Siphumelele group meets in a shack in Gulfin informal settlement. The walls are painted cardboard!

It’s been awhile since I last posted, but our groups continue to astound. We now have 124 groups with 1,373 members. Savings total so far this year…R 1,716,300!! This beats what members saved all of last year, and we are only half way through 2012! On top of that, our members’ combined ‘profit’ is R 510 543, which is a 30% return on their savings. Just amazing….

In spite of the muddy conditions, the training officers’ dedication keeps them moving on. Huge respect must go to them!

We also notice that, because of the close relationship the training officers develop with savings group members, we are often in a position to go beyond the routine of savings coaching and business training to address difficult social issues. For example, we recently learned of the potential exploitation of one of our members who is a pensioner (senior citizen). She received a significant pension from her previous employe, which she deposited in a local bank. Now, however, it appears that all of the money has disappeared. She was treated horribly by the bank’s tellers and we brought this to the attention of the bank manager so she could get better service. We also arranged for her to speak to the police to investigate the alleged theft of her pension money. Finally, we linked her to a community organization that provides family counseling, so that she can get help dealing with her difficult family situation.

Well, that’s all for now. I leave you with some pictures taken of some of June’s meetings in Humansdorp (Gulfin settlement) and Loerie, a rural township area.

As always…..stay tuned!!

Shukushukuma group inLoerie

Shukushukuma group in Loerie

Shukushukuma's record keeper showing off her perfect savings book!

View of Gulfin informal shack settlement in Humansdorp

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The end of an AMAZING year!

Well, another year has flown by! It’s hard to believe that 2011 is winding down and 2012 is looming just ahead of us. Incredible….

Our groups have grown from strength to strength. All of our graduated groups (20) successfully navigated the year completely on their own. The training officers only visited them once a quarter to gather data on savings. We also kept in touch regarding training and other opportunities.

I’d like to highlight two of our graduated groups in particular. One is Luncedo, a group of 10 members who decided to go all out this year and chose a R200 ($25) minimum share value. At their share out meeting, they had accumulated a whopping R95,151 ($12,686)! Of this, R 62,800 ($8,373) was savings, the rest was interest collected on loans they gave out to each other. That means they had a 52% return on their savings.

Nompumelelo's R 93,421!! At the SAPS building in Thornhill

The other group is Nompumelelo, located in a very poor community near Jeffreys Bay. This is a group of 12 members who, in October, opened a stokvel account at Standard Bank because they were nervous about how much money they had accumulated. They even asked the local police if they could conduct their share out at the station! The group was ecstatic when they counted all their money and it added up to R 93,421 ($12,456)! Of this, R 54,200 ($7,227) was savings, giving them an amazing 72% return on their savings!

A third group that I would like to mention will be a graduate next year. And this is Atlantic Stars. They are special because at the end of 2010, the training officer and I were ready to kick them out of the project. There were only 2 members left and they never really got started last year. However, the two begged us to give them another try and we did. Their determination and discipline was a joy to watch and they ended the year with 14 solid members! We are so proud of them!

So—well done to all our groups and we wish you an even more fabulous 2012!

A satisfied Luncedo group member

As always, stay tuned……..

Atlantic Stars - the group that almost wasn't!

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Mid year!

Hard to believe we are nearly half way through 2011! Our biggest hurdle right now is to find funding for 2012, so whoever is reading this, please go to our Donate Now page and make whatever contribution you can afford. Every little bit helps!

We are also in the midst of organizing chairperson meetings, especially in Jeffreys Bay, Humansdorp and Thornhill. Next year, we plan on handing over group formation and monitoring to community mobilizers in JBay. After 2012, we will do the same for Humansdorp and Thornhill. We want to engage with our membership to get their input on how best to go about this transition. We feel that the community mobilizers could charge a small fee for their service to new groups. What that fee should be and how it is paid are topics we want to discuss.

We touched base with our 20 graduated groups in the last month to collect data from them. We found that not only are all the groups still functioning, but also they experienced an 18% growth in new members! The 20 groups have saved a total of R 332,169 and enjoy a return on savings of 31%! We are very proud of them….and they are proud of themselves!

As always, stay tuned for more news!

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Creative group mobilization

We are always on the lookout for new and innovative ways of marketing Mpendulo to prospective group members, and as my last post illustrated, word of mouth has been highly effective. However, several of our new groups include people with full time jobs. Though we welcome all those interested in saving, we do want to maintain our focus on those in the lower income range.

It is challenging to attract the lowest income earner for several reasons, but the most stubborn obstacle is mindset. Many poorer people do not believe that they can save unless they have a steady job. Others feel that it isn’t worth it to save unless they can put away a substantial sum for each meeting. Yet others are simply apathetic and just don’t believe in themselves.

For these reasons, we decided to target particularly poor areas of the townships we operate in. One such area in Humansdorp is populated by shack dwellers and has no formal RDP (government) housing, though the local municipality has put in infrastructure for electricity. The place is called Golfin because it used to be part of an old golf course.

We wanted to do something different that would grab everyone’s attention and curiosity. Our prayers were answered when Thembekile, the training officer for the area remembered that one of his existing group members, Mr. Mabanga, mentors youth gospel choirs. When we explained what we had in mind, he enthusiastically agreed to get a gospel group together to perform in our targeted area.

On the appointed day, we picked up Mr Mabanga, his sound equipment and the “Mabanga Youth Choir”. We drove into Golfin, parked in a central spot and asked one of the shack dwellers if we could plug the sound equipment into their electricity. They agreed and once all was set up, the girls started to dance and sing—drawing a nice crowd of happy people.

Our “Gospel” mobilization scheme worked! One group of women signed up for training right then and there and another 2 later on. We are still receiving calls from people who heard the gospel group and want to know more!

You can visit our Face Book page (Mpendulo Project or Jill Thompson) to see photos and a video of the girls signing and dancing.

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Starting the year with a bang!

The first three months of 2011 have been a bit breathless for all of us here at Mpendulo Savings. In just over two months, we have more than DOUBLED our membership! Our oldest site, Ocean View and Tokyo Sexwale in Jeffreys Bay, demand has exploded and Training Officers are hard pressed to keep up. Humansdorp is also booming, with many traditional stokvel clamoring to convert to the Mpendulo ‘modernized’ version of the time-honored tradition.

Someone asked me to what I attributed the surge in interest. Personally, since most of our project sites are urban townships, I believe that people were very wary of us at first. And for good reason, many have been burned by scams and it is difficult to know who to trust. Added to that is the low level of social capital present in the urban set up. Quite a number of the Kouga municipal area population has migrated here from more remote, rural places in search of work. Hence neighbors know very little of each other….not a good basis upon which to trust someone with your savings!

This sentiment was echoed by many of our groups members last year when we conducted focus group discussions with them. When we asked members to tell us what was the most important element of the Mpendulo ‘package’ for them, the answer was – resoundingly – “Group Unit/Solidarity”. We were surprised. We thought they would say “savings”, or “loans” or the “lump sum at share out”. No, it was unity, for without this, no one would follow the rules – though they are set out in writing; no one would bother to bring the money back – though they signed their loan book to say they would; and their money wouldn’t be safe – though it was locked in a metal box with three locks.

And so we continue to learn……

As always, stay tuned!

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What impact can we see so far?

2010 was a year of learning for us and for our group members. One main comment made by many members was that, when they started meeting at the beginning of the year, they were really only interested in the money. However, over the course of the year, they received moral support, advice, sympathy and shared joy and laughter as well. Mpendulo became much more than ‘just money’.

One woman said, with quiet pride, “We call each other ‘sister’ now.” Another woman said, “When we meet, we talk and we laugh, I could do that all day. I look so forward to our meetings very month, it helps me to forget that my family is waiting for me at home to cook dinner and clean for them. Our [group] meetings are just for me.”

In December, our groups ‘shared out’ (liquidated) their savings and the interest they charged each other on loans. In total our 50 supervised groups with their 407 members saved R 546,195 (~$78,027). Their retained earnings (interest charged on loans and fines) amounted to R 298,541 (~$42,648). Total equity equaled R 845,276 (~$120,753). Their rate of return on savings came to 53.9%!!

In terms of impact, in 2010 our members have:
- more than doubled the amount they saved in 2009 (from an average of R 623 to R 1,342)
- increased their rate of return from 47.8% to 53.9%
- decreased the number of credit accounts at department stores by 25%
- decreased debt from money lenders (from 13.7% of members in 2009 to 6.9%)
- decreased credit owed to small neighbor shops and taverns (from 14.7% of members to 3.4%).

In addition, over 52% of our members were able to buy household assets and nearly 30% now operate some type of micro-business (typically related to petty trading).

All of the above will strengthen our members’ economic resilience.

We believe that our members will do even more in 2011. In our first week of operation after the festive season, we have trained 10 new groups! We have also added 2 new Training Officers.

As always, stay tuned for our next update!

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New Update

We now have 51 groups (1 is still in training) with over 450 members in four townships areas; Jeffreys Bay; Thornhill, Humansdorp and Hankey. Three of the groups have graduated and operate on their own.As of April, members’ equity (savings plus interest charged on loans) reached R 266,077. Return on savings is 22%. The potential level of loan taking may seem limited given the average amount of savings per member to date (R 409); but the true picture is revealed by looking at capital turnover (cumulative value of loans disbursed in relation to savings). For example, though cumulative savings is R 217,070 as of April 2010, the total value of loans disbursed to date amounts to R 363,035. (read more)

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2010/09/08 | Posted in: 2010 | Comments Closed

New stories from the Training Officers

Read a few stories written by the project Training Officers….enjoy…read more

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| Posted in: 2009 | Comments Closed
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