Single women head of households in 122 savings and credit groups run by Caritas Rwanda in Mahama camp said that if it was not for these groups, they would not be able to care for their families.
Caritas Rwanda has been helping various people in the camp, which is hosting Burundian refugees since 2015. Women who are single heads of households are among the beneficiaries of Caritas Rwanda, which has helped them join savings and credit groups.
Kayirangwa Emeline, 36, who has eight children, says raising children alone without a husband is very difficult work. She adds that to support such a family in the camp, you are always in debt.
"I was always in debt because the money we receive for food is never enough," she said. I looked at my children hungry and without clothes and I didn't know what to do. But that has changed since I joined the savings groups," says Kayirangwa.
Kayirangwa, who had worked as a vendor in Burundi, requested a loan from her group to continue the profession. She borrowed 50,000 frw and started selling goat meat. Six months later, she owned a successful business. She bought a cow and a motorcycle to help her transport her goods.
She says her life has changed for the best and her children are no longer deprived of food or clothing.
Kayirangwa says that unfortunately because of the crisis period resulting from COVID-19, her business is collapsing and she is afraid to go back into financial trouble.
Mukarutamu Marcelline, 43, also says that if she had not joined the savings groups, she would not be able to feed her seven children. She says that Caritas not only taught her how to save, but also gave her confidence and hope to live since she was constantly feeling lonely. But since she has been talking with other members of her group, she is happy.
"When I arrived in the group, I asked for a loan and started selling the vegetables so that I could take care of my family. Now I have another family that listens to me when I need it thanks to Caritas," she says.
Adia Ntakirutimana, 21, who has a one-year-old son, says that after giving birth, her life became more complicated because she was alone. She didn't have enough means to take care of her baby and she too was starving. The other women invited her to the group, which allowed her to start selling bananas. Today she is able to feed herself and her child.
Ngarambe Vanson, a Caritas Rwanda staff member who works at Mahama camp and also looks after these groups on a daily basis, says there is real change for these women. He said they started with people who have a lot of problems and lacked the knowledge to create small jobs that would help them grow.
"You can see that their lives have changed even their attitudes. They take care of their families without ever being in debt like before, they are clean and smiling, which was not the case before," he said.
What these women are all saying is that this period of VIDOC 19 has turned their business upside down and some of them don't even know how to start over because they don't have any investment money left.
Caritas Rwanda will continue to monitor them very closely and give them advice so that they can continue to work even if the COVID-19 pandemic is still there.