African Relief Ministries
|On April 17th-May 1st of 2009, African Relief Ministries journeyed to Malakal, Southern Sudan in partnership with the Omega Foundation. The purpose of this trip was to plant 2 micro-credit banks with the widows in Malakal and conduct interdenominational pastoral training including reconciliation, dealing with trauma, tribalism, dealing with poverty as well as several other subjects. This team included Dr. Wilson Hickam- Founder and President of The Omega Foundation, Hazel Seavey- President of African Relief Ministries, and Pastor Michael Gatkek- Pastor of the Southern Sudanese Mission church of the Nazarene in Portland, Maine and Vice President/Founder of African Relief Ministries.
Dr. Hickam, Hazel & Pastor Michael with
the cooks for the Pastoral Conference
The Micro-credit banking loans have shown to be one of the single best ways in which to help the many destitute widows returning to Southern Sudan from the refugee camps in the surrounding countries. These banks offer the opportunity to help the widows not only build a business for themselves, but gives them the tools help support their families on a long term basis.
Each bank consists of a bank coordinator, bank president and treasurer/secretary and 30 widows. The widows selected are to work together as a group not only for business purposes, but also for support and commitment to each other. Before the bank is actually set up, training was conducted by our team to help the women understand the expectations and functions of the bank organization. Then each woman was given a loan of approximately $125 U.S dollars or $300 Sudanese pounds to start their business. The funds to set up the bank are a gift, then each woman is given the loan to begin the banking process.
A.R.M President- Hazel Seavey with Pastors in Conference
Each bank is operated and overseen by people living in Southern Sudan and progress reports are communicated back to African Relief Ministries for support, encouragement and prayer. The Bank Coordinator oversees the set-up, training and overall work of the bank. The President of the bank oversees the day-to-day operation of the bank as well as gathering the women together for support and fellowship. The bank Treasurer/Secretary is responsible for the record/payment keeping process. After the first payment cycle is completed, the widows may take out a second loan for the continuation of their businesses. At the second cycle, more women may also be brought into the bank as well. Thus the bank grows and more widows are helped within the communities. The cycle then continues until the widows no longer need to have the loans and their businesses are self-supporting. There is generally a 97% payback rate with these micro-loans.
Pastor Michael Gatkek and children from the Dolib Village
During the training, the women were asked to break up into small groups to brainstorm about business ideas as well as how to coordinate their businesses together to the benefit and growth of the bank.