A Mother’s Journey Out of Extreme PovertyOthers, Poverty , Women & Girls
Contributed by: Chalmers Center
By Austin Humbles
Every mother wants a chance to provide a better life for her children. But it’s not easy—especially if you’re among the 736 million people worldwide living on less than $1.90 a day. Millions of mothers all over the world are raising families in this kind of extreme poverty.
Djaka Djigbodji is one of these mothers. She lives with her husband and 11 children in Wahala Gotha-Kabiye, a rural village located in the West African nation of Togo. Togo is among the poorest countries in the world, with nearly half the population living in extreme poverty.
Djaka’s children participate in programs at a child development center started at their local church by Compassion Togo, an affiliate of Compassion International. There, they enjoy meals, basic healthcare, Bible studies, and other church-centered programs.
When Djaka’s children joined the child development program, she had the opportunity to earn money for her family by working as a cook. She earned a couple of dollars each week preparing nutritious meals for the children participating in Compassion programs at the church.
A Church-Centered Approach to Poverty
In September of 2018, Djaka got a chance to use her earnings to help her family in a new way. Her church started a savings group ministry to complement the existing Compassion program. A local church facilitator trained by the Chalmers Center helped Djaka and five other women from her church start and run the group using our Restore: Savings curriculum.
Djaka’s group meets every week. Together, they pray, study Scripture, share their lives, and save a small amount of their own money. At each meeting, group members save and lend this money to one another to help with a range of needs, including business capital, school fees for their children, or lifesaving healthcare. Members support one another in times of need and pray for one another through times of hardship.
Savings groups are a powerful way for local churches in the Majority World to serve the poor in their congregations and in their communities. These groups draw members into the life of the church, and they are, by nature, sustainable because they don’t depend on outside money to operate.
Small Steps Toward Hope
Since her group started, Djaka has received two payments of about $8.50. Although that may seem like a small amount, it can make a big difference in the life of a family in a country like Togo, where the average person earns about $400 in an entire year.
“It helped us so much,” says Djaka. “It helped us to come out of extreme poverty.”
The first time Djaka received money from her savings group, she used it to purchase food and other essentials for her children. The second time she received money, she used it to travel to neighboring Ghana and visit her mother, whom she had not seen for 19 years!
“Since I got married, I never visited my mother, so I decided to make the trip,” Djaka says, beaming with joy. “Through the savings group, I made it.”
The savings group has helped Djaka provide for her family and reunite with her mother. But it has also helped her think about her future with renewed hope. When Djaka receives her next distribution from her savings group, she plans to use the money to start a small business selling vegetables at the local market.
“I plan to make a farm of peppers, okra, and tomatoes,” she says. “I can sell them every day and have money to support the children of the family.”
Djaka is just one of the thousands of people who have benefited from savings groups at local churches. Together with partner organizations like Compassion Togo, Chalmers has equipped more than 4,446 churches in the Majority World to start savings groups reaching more than 172,400 people living in poverty.
Transcript from Mawousse’s video:
Before the Compassion project event, I had an argument with my husband. I attended Pentecost Church and we were told to participate in training. It was that time we argued. He said he was informed about the training, but I let him know indeed. As the project started, Compassion took some of our children in the project. He did not mind about my going and coming back home about that issue. Finally, he accepted that children must attend the project. As Compassion took care of the children, he was very happy about the changes. Then the argument is finished and peace came home.
As a cook in the project, it was three months before we were paid. We cooked for the children for three months with no payment. After that, they started payment with 1,000 F CFA (about $1.70). Then they increased it to 1,500 F CFA (about $2.50). Now we got 3,000 CFA in two weeks (about $5).
Concerning the savings group, we started it less than one year ago. The facilitator came in September of 2018. She taught us, and we started the savings group. It has been nearly 7-8 months since we started saving money. We were 5 in a group, and we gave 5,000 F CFA to one member at first (about $8.50) because 1,000 F CFA is not sufficient for one person. So the group collected them and gave to a member. After two weeks, we gave to one another as we finished cooking in the project. It helped us so much. It helped us to come out of extreme poverty. Now is better.
When I collected my first money, I used it for the family’s needs—food and so on. The second one, I traveled with it to visit my mother in Ghana. It was about 19 years, I never see my mother. So I visited her. Since I got married, I never visited my mother, so I decided to make it. Through the savings group, I made it.
The third one, I plan to make a farm of pepper, okra, and tomatoes. I can sell them every day and have money every time to support the children of the family.
A savings group is a good thing. The benefit I got from the group I concluded that it is very important to bring the project to the whole village, to talk to the other women, to share the testimonies, even mine. If they listen to it and decide to be involved, they will see what I am talking about. This is my message to the savings group project leaders.
 Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2018: Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle, World Bank