What does it take to save?

How much do you need to save in order to do a home renovation such as putting a tile floor into your house? Or to send your son or daughter to university? To pay for those orthodontic treatments your child needs?

All these were saving goals mentioned by members of the GEMA savings group. This program is sponsored by the Investing Hope Foundation (IHF) and facilitated by the Green Light Education Assistance program.

Members wrote 3 saving goals, each on a separate paper. The savings goals were then categorized. Goal categories were: Home improvements, travel, education of their children, purchases such as a camera, to pay for emergencies, to start a business.

Saving isn’t a habit for these women but nevertheless they have been doing it since June. There are 17 GEMA groups in Santander, most in rural areas. Membership ranges from 13 – 18 members per group. They meet once a month, but are required to save a minimum of 3000 pesos ($1.40 CAD) each week. From June to September they saved a total of 21,600,000 COP or roughly $10,000 CAD.

Rocio teaches them a method to calculate the amount they need to save on a monthly and weekly basis to reach their goal(s) using a spread sheet.

Materials such as a booklet on saving and calculators were provided by the IHF. They also provide training to Rocio who in turn, trains group facilitators. IHF also provides oversight to the program three times per year.

Members from Los Teres GEMA group getting down to work on their savings spread sheet.
This member was clear on her goal. She wanted to save 300,000 pesos ($140) in 6 months to purchase 20 chickens, which meant saving 12,500 ($5.80) per week.

Some members found the spread sheet exercise easy but for others it was a new experience. Many did not have a clear savings goal or know how much their goals would cost. BUT they helped each other and, in the end, everyone was able to do the exercise.

I was very curious to know how people with no saving culture managed to save. The two women above provide examples but the majority of the members save by spending less. I was astonished when they admitted that it was easy to save. However, they had not been saving on a regular basis. Instead they had been scraping money together by one means or the other to meet emergency expenses. Stressful!

It is our hope that the GEMA groups will encourage members to continue to save and to invest their savings in small business ventures. Our goal and their goal? To improve quality of life for themselves and their children.