Working with chronic poverty is difficult. One big challenge our SALT instructors face is helping people believe they can do something to improve their lives. It is hard for needy people to believe they can save, especially if they’ve been dependent on others.

To help needy people recognize their potential, our instructors in Bangladesh do a little exercise. This exercise might be good for all of us. Most of us, whether we have much or little, are prone to waste money and need to frequently evaluate how we are using the resources God has placed in our care.

  • An instructor arrives in a community that has expressed interest in a SALT savings group. After people have gathered for an informative meeting, the instructor opens with prayer and then introduces the SALT program and its goals.
  • He then asks the group of people if they are poor. They agree they are indeed very poor. Then the instructor asks if poor people can save money. Usually the crowd responds with a resounding “NO!”
  • So, the instructor asks what they spend each day on necessities like rice, meat, education, and other valid needs. He writes the amounts on a whiteboard.
  • Then he asks about things like tea, cell phones (which are common in even very needy countries), and cosmetics. He also writes these amounts on the board. Eventually, the board also shows the amounts spent on things like jewelry and addictions.
  • Next, the instructor asks the group which of these items are required for life. The group discussion generally gets rather noisy and sprinkled with lots of humor as they discuss valid needs and things they could do without. He circles what the group concludes are valid items.
  • Then, he totals all the items that are not circled (items the group has concluded are not necessary for life), and adds up the daily total that families spend on unnecessary things. The total often shows that even families living in deep poverty can save $1-$2 USD per day.
  • He calculates how much that small amount of savings would add up to in a week, a month, a year, five years, and ten years. Usually they are very surprised!
  • The instructor then asks if they still believe they cannot save money. There is lots of laughing and discussion. But every group, almost without fail, agrees they can save money to benefit their families, pay for their children’s schooling, improve their houses (many times nothing more than mud huts), and pay for medical needs.
  • At this point, the instructor asks if they are interested in starting a SALT savings group in their village. Almost always they say, “Yes!” Finally, the instructor takes questions, leads more discussion, and then works with the group to agree on a weekly meeting day and time. Then he closes the meeting with prayer.

When savings group members attend weekly meetings, they bring a small amount of savings. As the savings accumulate, group members can take out small loans to help them start or expand small businesses. The meetings also include teaching on how to operate a business and what it means to walk with Jesus in everyday life.

If you wish to reach out to people in material poverty through microloans, savings groups, agricultural projects, and Christ-centered teaching, please choose from the options below.

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YES, I would like to give monthly gifts to fund microloans, savings groups, agricultural programs, and Christ-centered teaching.