One of the communities Spark MicroGrants has been working with in southern Rwanda is an HIV Association of over 100 people. The group explained barriers to their development: “It is very hard for us to generate income and meet basic needs due to the poverty and HIV stigma in our region. People don’t think we are a good investment and they wont hire us or loan us money because they think we may die soon.” The group wants to dispel this belief and prove that HIV+ people can make money and be self-sustainable. Since January they have been developing proposals for a cooperative business and education project. Their idea is to fight stigma through proving that HIV+ people can start and run a successful business.
The president of the association would sometimes approach us on the road when we were at other community meetings to give us new proposals. The association wrote over ten project proposals.
Last week the US Ambassador’s PEPFAR Self Help Fund voted to award the cooperative with over $10,000 of funding to start their honey business, based on the proposal designed through the MicroGrant process. This is a massive grant for a group that is food insecure, unable to pay for their own health insurance and just formed a few months ago. The group will be able to purchase housing and land for the bee hives, jarring facilities and a shop for their sales. The association members are thrilled to have this opportunity for starting a business and changing their community. We’re looking forward to seeing the project begin and how the association manages it!