Monday, May 4, 2009

Plant With Purpose Profile of Courage: Laurencia

Posted on April 29, 2009 by Doug Satre Plant With Purpose has the privilege of working with some very special and talented people, many of whom also happen to be very poor. They challenge my western middle-class stereotypes of poor people as somehow less intelligent, hard working or entrepreneurial. Laurencia is one such person... Laurencia lives in the village of Siha, Tanzania. Born blind and with no way to earn a living, Laurencia has struggled in extreme poverty. She has three children and providing for their needs has been a constant struggle. In many third world countries, one would expect to find women like her begging by the side of the road. Yet that is not where I met Laurencia. Laurencia is a member of a remarkable group of people in Siha, who participate in the village community savings group (or Vicoba). With coaching from Plant With Purpose trainers, the group meets weekly to pool their savings, learn small business skills, and make loans. When we visited the group we heard many testimonies about how people now have enough money to send their kids to school, or to pay medical bills or to better feed their families. The group has been formed for a serious purpose, but they also have a good time; they joke and laugh and sing and tell stories on each other. This is where we met Laurencia. She was not just a group member, she was one of the leaders, helping to facilitate the meeting and encouraging other group members as they all sought to improve their lives. As a result of her participation, Laurencia has been able to start a resale business, providing much needed income for her family. Her family is less vulnerable to the chronic malnutrition and hunger that affect so may of the world’s poor. But not only that, the group has recently donated $2,000 of their own saving to her to build her a house. They are also donating labor and materials to help keep the costs down. As I heard her story I understood Plant With Purpose's work of empowerment in a new way; not only are poor farmers now able to help themselves, they are also able to help those around them who are in greater need. It's a great example of the cycle of prosperity and hope that Plant With Purpose creates in the lives of poor farmers. What does Laurencia’s story have to do with us? Personally, Laurencia’s courage in the face of very daunting life circumstances is a reminder to me not to give in to discouragement when times are tough. C.S. Lewis wrote that, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at its testing point.” If that’s true, circumstances in our lives that call for courage have valuable lessons to teach us about our character. My prayer is that I could be as brave as Laurencia has been in facing the challenges in her life. Laurencia's story is a also a reminder of the value of community for our lives. What is impossible to achieve alone can be accomplished with the strength- and sometimes prodding!- that like-minded friends can provide. That is especially true when we are trying to make positive changes in our lives- to break bad habits, take risks, heal damaged relationships. We have been created to live in relationship with others- with God, with people and with our environment. When we pursue wholeness in all three areas, wonderful things can happen! Doug Satre is Director of Outreach & Development at Plant With Purpose, an international Christian organization that transforms lives in rural areas where poverty is caused by deforestation. For 25 years, Plant With Purpose has provided lasting solutions to heal the relationship between people and their environment by planting trees, revitalizing farms, and offering loans to create economic opportunity. This article was originally printed on under the title Floresta Profile of courage: Laurencia. Visit Floresta’s new initiative "Plant With Purpose" at!

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