One Journey from Poverty Towards Possibility

JEREMIAH YONGO & ELLIE HUTCHISON | March 7, 2018 | Client Stories, Featured, Local Institutions

Omar is a loving father and driven entrepreneur in Cote d’Ivoire. He lives with his family in the rural village of Ira, about two hours outside the economic center of Abidjan.

Despite recent progress, nearly half of Cote d’Ivoire’s population still lives in poverty. For Omar, this has meant a life of striving, hoping, and tirelessly working towards a better future for himself and his family—a future that always felt just beyond reach.

However, after years of planning, Omar was able to open his first business in 2012.

He inherited from his father an old hulling and milling machine, which enabled him to produce corn and millet flour.

Despite the machine’s frequent breakdowns, Omar’s business was steadily growing—until the unthinkable happened. The milling machine completely broke in June 2017, and his operations were brought to a grinding halt. The business was paralyzed as he did not have savings to tap into to fix the machine.

Without a safety net, Omar didn’t know how he’d be able to get the business up and running again—or get food on the table that night.

While struggling with how to move forward, Omar met INSHEV.

INSHEV (the Institute for Holistic Health, Hope, and Life) is our local partner in Cote d’Ivoire. They recently began working in Ira where Omar lives, providing business training and creating Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) groups.

VSLAs are used worldwide—especially in rural communities facing extreme poverty—as an informal, collaborative way to save and loan money.

INSHEV held two presentations to spread the word about the new VSLA groups. When he heard about the groups, Omar was convinced he needed to join and became a member of the first VSLA group in Ira.

This was a turning point in his life. “In the VSLA, I learned how to save. And through our group savings, I was able to obtain a loan which allowed me to repair my milling machine—and it’s working well to this day!”

Omar also participated in five weeks of business training through INSHEV, which affirmed his passion for business while refining his management skills.

With his milling business back on track, his savings growing in the VSLA, and a renewed sense of confidence, Omar opened a second business: a cell phone service.

In reflecting on his participation in the VSLA, Omar shares: “I feel the VSLA has been very helpful. It teaches us to manage our businesses well to become successful entrepreneurs.”

Omar is always planning for what’s ahead and hopes to use his next business loan from the VSLA to modernize his milling machinery. This upgrade will increase his profits, positively impacting his business, family, and community.

With the help of INSHEV, the future Omar always dreamed of is now in reach.

He and his wife are able to support their children and send them to school. They understand the importance of having savings and are protected from future emergencies. They can now meet the needs of today, while planning and dreaming for what’s ahead.



West Africa Regional Partnership Manager | Communications Specialist

Jos, Nigeria | Grand Rapids, MI

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