Read the Open Hands newsletter from June 2014.
Our purpose: Open Hands exists for the purpose of providing Christ-centered economic development opportunities for the poor. Our mission statement: As Anabaptist followers of Christ, we desire to keep the commands of Scripture to “bear ye one another’s burdens” and to “consider the cause of the poor” through the development of self-supporting, micro-lending and micro-enterprise programs that teach Biblical financial concepts and present the Gospel of Jesus Christ for a “witness to the nations.” Our theme verse: If there be among you a poor man…thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need. Deuteronomy 15:7-8 What we do: Open Hands operates savings and credit associations in countries where Anabaptist missions are working with people who are experiencing the effects of poverty. We hire and train national Christian individuals to form and supervise savings groups in association with local churches. Our objective is to assist the local churches by helping people grow in Christ, and by teaching them to save funds in order to operate micro-businesses. The Open Hands program will increase their income and will result in stronger, more self-sufficient churches. We assist people in forming one of three types of savings groups:
- Rotating Savings and Credit Association: In this type of savings group each participant saves the same amount of money each week. The funds collected are each week are given to one participant. The payout is rotated around the group until each participant has received a payout. This gives the participants a larger sum of money at one time. With these funds they can start a small business, do home repairs, or pay other expenses they may have.
- Straight Savings: In a straight savings group the participants are saving weekly for a specific need. Many participants in this type of group are saving for their children’s school tuition, home repairs, or funds to purchase larger animals such as pigs, goats, or cows. This type of group has a six month savings cycle. Each person saves what they can each week. At the end of six months each participant gets back the amount they have saved.
- Accumulating Savings and Credit Association: In this type of savings group the participants deposit their savings each week into a common pool of funds that is then available to be loaned out to participants of their own savings group. Participants make an application to the group for a loan. Those receiving loans are charged interest on the outstanding balance of their loan until it is repaid. Many participants use the loans from the savings group to start a small business. These groups generally have a six month savings cycle. At the end of the savings cycle each participant gets their funds back. They can then withdraw their funds or place them back into the loan pool.
What Open Hands does differs from micro-lending in that Open Hands does not provide outside investor funds to be loaned out. All the funds that are being loaned out belong to the savings group participants. Open Hands provides the accountability, encouragement, and Biblical teaching that is needed for the savings groups to be successful. We offer a hand up and not a hand out. The method of using only the funds of the participants is powerful partly because it does not place people in debt. It is also powerful because it demonstrates that change does not depend on someone, or money, from outside the community. The satisfaction of seeing things change without the use of outside money is a tremendous confidence booster, and validates their own sense of dignity. In many groups, as their incomes rose, participants have been able to increase their own giving to their church or other needy people in their community. Pastors are reporting that church offerings are increasing where savings groups are functioning. When a people who have been living in poverty are transformed from seeing themselves as recipients of charity to being givers, this is a powerful transformational change.