On Thursday, we were given our first work assignment. We went with Kelly and Roman (employee of Invest-Credit) to interview a client who was wanting to take out another loan. Invest-Credit is the official name CAMED in Moldova, who we're working for. Interns for Invest-Credit write up "case studies," which are profiles of clients and their businesses to give donors an idea of how the ministry affects people's faith as well as their businesses.
I was told "So, you'll ask this guy questions in Russian and then you can write the case study." Given a list of questions and some help from Roman on the tough ones, I began to learn about the business of Vladimir, a local cobbler.
Dream fulfilled: "Go converse with this guy in Russian about how his business affects his life, church, and community."
Sure thing! I think I did pretty well, by God's grace of course (Phil. 4:13).
Vladimir started making shoes around 2002, about the same time he started attending a local church. He got radically saved and left his life of sin while realizing that a relationship with Christ and honest work was the way to go in life. With no other professional training and few funds, Vladimir and a friend began learning how to make shoes just as Vladimir was beginning to study Scripture. Working in his at-home workshop, Vladimir learned about styles and sizes and trying new methods. After about a month, Vladimir began to sell his shoes at the central outdoor market. However, this was difficult because a customer's size has to match exactly what you've already made and brought to the market.
Vladimir realized that there was a market in his own neighborhood for his shoes. He began to take custom orders from people, realizing that people with special needs and requests couldn't find what they needed at the local bazaar. As he became more experienced, he branched out into new styles.
He is currently active in the local church as an usher. He tithes faithfully and gives money to missionaries and others who need it. God provided him a believing wife about a year ago, and his mother also lives with him. His business helps feed his family (his wife sells cosmetics, like Avon).1 year ago, "Vova" (as friends call him) took out a $400 loan from Invest-Credit, which he'd heard about at church. This helped him buy enough material for 4 pairs of shoes, and allowed him to make extra profit during a lean time of his business, which sees seasonal fluctuations. He paid off the loan in the course of a year, and is now eligible for an $800 loan.
Vladimir hopes to expand his business to include purses, wallets, and Bible covers (which he showed us prototypes of, quite nice). He also hopes to earn more money to start a ministry to needy children and hungry people. As he expands his business, he'll hopefully be able to bring on employees and create income for more people.
"My friends that I was once in sin with see my life now and want what I have. They come to church with me, and one even accepted Christ. Microcredit is important because it helps grow my business to feed my family and support my church."