“Positive change is most effective and long lasting when it is owned by those seeking it”
Communities for Development was created when engineers Iñigo Ruiz Apilánez and Sandra Díaz returned from a stint volunteering in Uganda in September 2014.
While working on projects to improve access to water and sanitation in a rural village in Eastern Uganda, Bulambuli, they had learned about another challenge the local people faced – saving money.
Members of the remote, rural community had no access to financial services of any kind, making it very difficult to manage their money and cover even basic costs such as food and education, never mind saving or investing for the future.
After some research, Iñigo and Sandra discovered the simple but effective Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) – an approach used by many international NGOs to provide training and support to set up locally-run groups where people can save and borrow together.
While still there they organised for a VSLA trainer to come to the village and successfully kicked off the community’s first two saving groups.
Seeing the immediate impact of this simple and uncostly approach, as soon as they returned to London they started to think how they could continue to work with the people of Bulambuli to create more groups and reach more people – and with good friends Cristina Caballero and Pilar Tejón also on board, Communities for Development was born.
Where we are today
Three years on, with the generous support of its donors and volunteers, CfD has gone from strength to strength, creating a further 12 saving groups in Bulambuli, providing training and support for the creation of new businesses and reaching over 1800 people, a large majority women.
Over this time, CfD has been able to see its method develop and its benefits reach increasing numbers of people in the region. No two groups are the same and with the creation of each new group we encounter diverse circumstances and learn to overcome new challenges.
What is common however is the positive effect we see on individuals and their communities. Much more than providing a financial tool, through training, collaboration and knowledge sharing, the savings groups empower, inspire and open up new possibilities for their members.
What we’ve seen is that positive change is most effective and long lasting when it is owned by those seeking it. Through gaining skills and knowledge, savings group members can save their own money, develop ways to earn their own income, and ultimately be empowered to make a better future for themselves and their families.