Friday 23rd February 2018 marked the end of another financial year for the Lord Howe Central Community Savings group.
The group made another of their share out totalling $168,595.00 Solomon dollars which saw each member receiving over $6,244.00 Solomon dollars, a good start for most members as 2018 began. ‘Share out’ is when a savings group gave out to its members their contributions in return at the end of each year.
Under its Community Economic Development project, World Vision is encouraging the establishment of savings and loan schemes to provide an opportunity for members to have improved financial stability in areas where there is limited access to commercial banks. Low literacy, low self-esteem, lack of financial literacy, banking difficulties and male dominated decision-making are among reasons for having limited access to banking services in rural areas in the country.
However, the saving scheme encouraged communities to establish a local savings group that enables them to safely save money, manage their expenses, invest in their futures and keep money circulating within the group. They can also borrow for essential needs such as school fees, health and special events. The project also provides training and support in financial planning and budgeting.
With a total of 27 members where most are women, the Lord Howe Central Community Savings Group has only one male member. Members as young as 13 and oldest as 70 have also joined the saving scheme.
Chairlady of the group, Mavis, who is also a community CHAT member as part of World Vision’s Community Channels of Hope program, expressed gratitude about the scheme. “It has supported us with our basic needs such as school fees and stationaries for our children especially when the share out is held at the beginning of each year. I will use my share to meet my children’s school fees and stationaries, support my mini fish and chips market stall and also maintain my place in the savings group,” she said with a smile of relief.
Mavis added that the recent sea cucumber harvesting season in the country has attracted most of their members back to the outer islands of Malaita, resulting in less member deposits for 2017. However, she said they are hoping to start off bigger this year when those members return.
“Majority of women in our community are unemployed and so they are finding it easier to access and save money here rather than going through the process of opening accounts at the commercial banks in town,” said another group member, Joycelyn.
“With the savings group, our priority is for the children – to support them with their basic needs like food, clothing and their education. Since the savings scheme started few years back, there has been a lot of changes in our lives especially with financial support,” she added.
Senior money counter and group member, Doris further stated “I have been the longest serving book keeper for the group even through elections of different committees. I have seen members purchase commercial items to start-up businesses such as selling of frozen goods – the scheme is definitely working for the members. Many of us have our aims and goals when we receive our shares. One of the biggest aim we have is to combine our shares and eventually buy a piece of land somewhere in Honiara as our current settlement at Lord Howe is overcrowded. With the total sum we save every year, we are so close to achieving this goal. As long as we reach our target, we are already on our way,” she said.
The group then elected their new committee members for 2018 after the share out and a handover ceremony was held to welcome them. Senior chairlady and money counter of the group, Doris, officiated the ceremony and acknowledged all members for their support and contributions towards the scheme, saying she is looking forward to working together with the new committee members.
Apart from the main savings group, the community also has four other mini groups in the Lord Howe Community. These groups comprise of students, young couples, working men and women and unemployed youth who sell fish and chips and local foods at the market.
Each group manage their own savings with their own committees and sometimes they also have fun competing with each other for the highest annual share outs. “It’s addictive when everyone is serious about it because in the end everybody benefits especially the unemployed youths and women of the community,” said one of the youth members. The groups have even saved enough to provide allowances for their record keepers, key holders, money counters and spokespeople.
The saving scheme was initiated by World Vision Solomon Islands under its Community Economic Development project, supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program, the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme and UN Capital Development Fund.
Source: World Vision Solomon Islands