Francoise, Esperance, Anastasie ... These are just some of the many beneficiaries of the 43 local AVEC groups (Association Villageoise d’Epargne et Crédit - Association for Savings and Credit) accompanied by the Don Bosco Center of Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Thanks to this institution, many women are able to obtain support in the event of happy events (a wedding or a birth) or fatal events (a bereavement, an accident, or an illness). Thanks to micro-credit, AVEC groups promote solidarity, teach how to manage money and savings and give the possibility to apply for a loan to start a small business.

The daily reality of millions of people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been worsening since the beginning of the pandemic and many women members of the AVEC groups are unable to pay their dues necessary for the proper functioning of the deposit and loan fund.

"For this reason, the social workers Nicole and Gisèle have distributed start-up aid, from 50 to 150 dollars approximately, to over 120 very poor mothers who were unable to start a small Income Generating Business and participate fully in the AVEC group," says Fr Piero Gavioli, a Salesian missionary, Director of the “Don Bosco Center” in Bukavu.

The testimonies presented here give an idea of the advantages of this creative form of charity - which develops the individual talents of the people helped - as well as difficulties encountered.

The extra money from the Don Bosco Center allowed Francoise to change buisnesses to maintain an steady income

Francoise received a sum of $80 to boost her small spice and shoe shop. Her business now continues on, allowing her respond to the needs of her family. As the supply of spices from Rwanda became scarce with the pandemic, she began selling underwear. She is a member of the "AVEC Tuamke" group of Camp TV, and is very grateful to the Salesians for the help received.

Anastasie received a 120-dollar sewing machine from the Don Bosco center. Prior to this, her AVEC group (which she is the president of) all used 3 rather old machines, taking in turn. Now, these mothers have the opportunity to use a good quality machine and sew clothes at a much more efficient rate, allowing them to boost their business significantly.

Lockdown regulations particulary hurt Esperance and her husband, but they are back at work once more!

Esperance and her husband received 150 dollars in aid which enabled them to restart their businesses. Esperance sells bananas at the market of Muhanzi and her husband sells sundries in the larger market of Kadut. The lockdown due to the pandemic had interrupted their activity a bit, but now they are moving forward once more.

"Mothers Courage thank the Don Bosco Center for the help received. Their thanks goes above all to the generous donors who give us the means to help them. May the Lord bless them," concludes Fr Gavioli.

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This story originally appeared in ANS