In Togo in West Africa, the small community of Ahossouhoe has a population of 70 people, including 37 women. The village has no running water, so the residents retrieve water from a pond. Women must often travel long distances to buy food, and the majority of houses are made of mud and straw.
In 2013, Plan International USA’s Women & Youth Saving for Empowerment (WYSE) project helped to establish a Savings Group called “Lébénè,’’ with 18 members from 10 households, including 11 women.
With help from the group’s loans, one member, Keshi, developed a small business selling condiments and convenience items. The savings and interest she earned in the Savings Group allowed her to build two rooms for her house with metal sheets, where she now lives with her daughter.
In January 2016, a fire, aggravated by the community’s dry wind, destroyed almost all the huts in Ahossouhoe except Keshi’s, as hers was built using metal sheets. Almost everything was burned in the homes, including motorcycles, clothing, and food. Although there were no injuries, the Savings Group’s box, containing more than $1,000, was burned.
The district’s project management committee created a delegation to provide support to Ahossouhoe. Also moved by the situation, nearby Savings Groups mobilized money through their solidarity funds, to purchase three 100 kg bags of corn and a lot of clothes.
“After the fire swept away all our property, we received donations from other communities,” said Ahossouhoe’s chief. “The gestures went straight to our heart in addition to allowing us to survive for a longer period. We lost everything in that fire. But, thanks to these aids and encouragement, we have been very comforted. Our kids have some clothing. The other communities’ Savings Groups visits greatly affected us.”
Keshi was also grateful that her house was spared and set out to support others in the community.
“After the fire, I had my two bedrooms spared because they were built of clay and covered with sheet metal,” she said. “All the other huts were swept away by the flames. With the help of the kit from project management committee, we took over the activities and decided to have each house covered by metal sheets to prevent such situations in the future. Our Savings Group recorded new members. They say it is thanks to this little group that the village is known and supported in these painful moments.”
Today, thanks to project management committee and Savings Group members from other communities, the village of Ahossouhoe was gradually rebuilt. Huts are being reconstructed, and now they are covered with metal sheets.
WYSE has strengthened the bonds of solidarity that existed between the surrounding communities, as they had the opportunity to support one another.