Like most of us, I’ve been thinking about the holidays and what they might look like this year. For many of us, this year has sometimes felt devoid of hope. No family gatherings to look forward to. No big trips to plan. Nothing to change up our days spent in a quiet routine.
But if we look closely, hope is all around us. From teachers finding creative ways to keep kids learning, to local businesses adjusting to changing restrictions, to millions of people staying home to protect their neighbours, I am constantly inspired by the resilience of the human spirit.
This resilient spirit I see in Canada this year is the same spirit we have seen year after year, decade after decade in the developing world. Our global neighbours are facing the same challenges and fears we are through this pandemic, but with fewer safety nets in place to help them. Their resilience and ability to overcome adversity are incredible, serving as another reminder that there is boundless hope for our collective future.
It made me think of Eugénie Kabeya. Eugénie is an entrepreneur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and she perfectly embodies this resilience.
Eugénie invested nearly twenty years of hard work into building a thriving dressmaking business in her hometown. FINCA micro-loans allowed her to invest in her business by purchasing supplies and even a sewing machine. Soon she made enough income to feed her family and pay school fees for the nieces she dotes on, all while living confined to a wheelchair.
As sales climbed over the years, she hired twelve of her neighbours as tailors, sending ripples of prosperity throughout her community. And after bringing her business through two decades of violent political upheaval and sharp economic ups and downs in the DRC, she thought she was ready for anything.
But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With people confined in their homes and the economy in collapse, her income plummeted by 70 percent almost immediately and she had to lay off more than half of her tailors.
Eugénie was understandably worried, so she spoke with the manager at her local FINCA branch about her business prospects. That conversation changed her outlook completely. In fact, it gave her hope. This is what she told us:
She reminded me: I am a tailor! I could easily put that to use to make masks and help my business by selling them to compensate for the losses I was experiencing because of COVID-19.
And that’s exactly what she did. She designed an attractive pattern for her masks, bought the materials she needed, and jumped right into production. She started off selling individual masks on the street, but then larger orders started coming in from local organizations.
As sales continued to increase, she was soon able to call some of her employees back to work. For her, that was one of the best moments.
It helped bring my life back to normal. I’m doing business and helping people protect themselves from the pandemic. And my prices are very affordable to low-income people in my town.
Thanks to her hard work and FINCA’s generous donors, Eugénie is making it through this difficult time and helping others to do the same. But there are so many other hardworking FINCA clients, entrepreneurs, and social business leaders who urgently need a hand up to weather this crisis and sustain the momentum they’ve worked so hard to build.
We know that investing in micro-entrepreneurs and social enterprises yield big dividends, and we’re hearing from our colleagues in the field that the industrious women and men who run these businesses are more than ready to recover from the shock of COVID-19. They just need a little support to get going.
And isn’t that what we all need?
This year as you start to plan your holiday festivities, I ask that you consider how lucky you to be in Canada to have support available.
May Eugénie’s story remind you that there is hope all around us, even in hard times like these, and that you and I have the good fortune to be able to spread that hope to the farthest corners of the globe.
I wish you good health, joy, and, of course, hope as we head into the holiday season.
Executive Director, FINCA Canada
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