By Gordon Olson, LPGM Founding Director
Twenty women and one man gathered in a tiny thatched roof mud hut with a dirt floor, going through their weekly ritual that has become commonplace in several remote villages. This meeting of a village saviangs group has been in existence for only a few months. Just two years before, a band of Seleka fighters ravaged their town, burning homes and stealling anything of value. Villagers fled for their lives. Now, a semblance of peace has come to the area, many houses have been rebuilt, and many, but not all, have returned to resume “normal” life.
In this group, every member is expected to save a minimum of 500CFA each week – the equivalent of ~90 cents. But some have worked hard and saved two or three times or even 5 times that much. Each member is expected to also contribute a small amount – perhaps 18 cents – to a “solidarity” fund reserved for helping members of the group who h ave a special medical or personal need. The group looks out for each other.
I thought of the recent conflict and its devastating impacts on whole communities. But then I saw the strength of this group and how they support one another. We are here to find ways to promote peacae. But these groups have already been promoting peace and have done so for some time. I am convinced that the functioning of these savings groups, with the bond and discipline they promote, have been very influential in bringing life back to some normalcy. yes, there are wounds. Yes, there are still scars. But healing is taking place. Some healing will take a long time. But these small, cohesive village groups are speeding up the process.
We may think we are contributing to peace by being present. But our presence only encourages a natural and lasting method for peace and reconciliation that is already taking place.
Gordon Olson and Llewellyn Hille represented LPGM in CAR in April 2016. After more than 2 years of conflict, peace is finally settling in and life for the population is getting back to normal. The LPGM-supported Village Savings program, under the direction of the Lutheran Church of CAR, now has over 12,000 members. You can help us by donating to LPGM today.