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Starting a New Branch in Kyenjojo, Uganda: Building Community Relationships

By Christa Countryman

Microfinance is more than just loans and savings and business—it’s a way forward for many families with few resources and little hope. Wherever we work, we strive to understand the local communities and to get to know the families who use our resources. This is my fourth in a six-part blog series that explores how we serve the families of Kyenjojo, Uganda.

Kyenjojo branch, March 2012.In communities where formal banking is uncommon or nonexistent, community education is key to building trust and engagement in the services and resources offered at Opportunity International branches.

Informal methods of saving money and taking out loans are common and can be costly, even fiscally dangerous, to people with few resources or recourse in the event that things go wrong. Some people in poverty may distrust banks, in part because they assume they will not be welcomed. Because Opportunity provides tools, resources and training to help clients and communities build up financial stability, we also work hard to help them understand that we want to offer them a hand up, not a handout, which will help them build a strong future.

Opportunity’s Kyenjojo branch staff.Understanding this, and building on the success of our branch in nearby Mubende, Opportunity Uganda has established a new community bank branch in Kyenjojo, which officially opened on March 20, 2012, with 18 new clients. The branch disbursed its first loans in May, and is preparing to launch important new initiatives designed to strengthen the entire community.

Prior to the opening of the Kyenjojo branch, Opportunity Uganda met with local leaders, including the Kyenjojo district local government, the town council and the resident district commissioner. Meetings such as these are critical to helping community leadership understand both Opportunity Uganda’s mission in Kyenjojo and its banking services throughout the region. Meeting with these leaders is also paramount in expanding the bank’s growing understanding of the community’s needs. The development of these new relationships encourages us and gives us hope in the future success of this strategic branch.

Stay tuned for Part 5: Equipping the Kyenjojo Community for Transformation.

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