Esperance Mukasekuru is a successful weaver who lives in Karenge, Rwanda. She buys used bed sheets and bed covers and then skillfully weaves colorful designs into them, increasing their value and thereby allowing her to profit from their resale. Esperance joined HOPE’s Rwandan partner, Urwego Opportunity Bank (UOB), in 2000 and received US$35 as an initial loan. She used this loan to buy threads for making and embroidering these bedcovers, bed sheets, and hand-made tablecloths that she sells to the community.
On account of her good performance in the loan cycle and her business’s success, Esperance received a larger loan during the next loan cycle.
In 2001, just one year after joining one of UOB’s groups, her husband, who worked as a driver, had a car accident and broke his arm. Her husband’s recovery took two years. During that time, Esperance took up all the responsibilities of supporting her family using the revenues from her business. For example, the windows of their house previously had no glass in them, but during this time, Esperance fixed glass into the window frames.
Each successive cycle, Esperance secured a larger loan than the previous one.
UOB teaches its clients to save, and their savings act as an incentive to get a bigger loan the next loan cycle. Consequently, Esperance practiced saving until she was able to get a loan large enough to buy a photocopier and a computer. With these tools, she opened a new business. She makes copies of different documents for community members who need this service. In return, they pay her for her service. Because she lives near university premises, she photocopies handouts for different students who then pay her according to the size of their documents. For those students who do not have computers or time to type their theses, she charges them a fee to type them. From this new business, Esperance makes over US $143 per month.
From her profits, Esperance was able to meet the needs of her six children as well as the seven orphans who stay at her house, such as providing them food and paying school fees. From Esperance’s perspective, she has 13 children under her care. Using her business, she has been able to send all her children to school. Four are studying at university, six are in secondary school, and two are in primary school. The remaining daughter received a scholarship to attend university in South Africa.
Once Esperance realized the success of her business, she decided to more fully and deeply impact her community by training community women in weaving. Therefore, she formed a group of five underprivileged women who had no businesses of their own to generate income and taught them how to knit bed covers, sheets, and tablecloths as well as to make baskets and bags. The veranda of her house served as a classroom. The group turned into an association, and the women are now earning a good amount of money and can provide for their families instead of waiting for a well-wisher to give them relief.
Esperance says that joining UOB helped her not only learn how to work but also gain leadership skills. In 2004, she was elected president of the trust group of which she is a member. Further, when Esperance attended a women’s meeting at the district level, the assembly wanted to elect a president. After learning that she is a president of a trust group, she was almost unanimously elected president of the District Women’s Guarantee Fund.
Esperance says that joining UOB has not only benefited her in terms of economic progress but that being a member of a trust group has enhanced her relationship with God and others. She also says the fellowship with her group members—reading the Bible and praying before each meeting—has changed her life by increasing her love for others. In addition, on account of the time that she and her group members have spent in prayer together, they have cultivated a love for one another. For example, one of Esperance’s fellow trust group members lost her husband to suicide. Because of the love and respect the group members shared, the other group members decided to pay the outstanding balance of her loan. They frequently visited her during this difficult time and supported her in every way possible.
Esperance’s future plan is to buy a printer and further expand her business. The printer costs approximately US$2,143.