Indiana University business students in Rwanda

A delegation consisting of students of the Microfinance Club and the Institute for Social Impact at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business visited Rwanda in May to work with the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of Kabwende Primary school in Kinigi, half-way up Rwanda’s volcanoes in the north-west of the country. Kabwende is a large school with approximately 2,000 children in grades 1 to 6. It benefits from a long-term partnership with Indiana University through the annual Books and Beyond Project that takes place on an annual basis each July.

The goal of the visit was to establish a second long-term partnership with Kabwende that will focus on ongoing support of the newly formed PTA. At the beginning of the year, 36 teachers and parents decided to set up a joint cooperative that would enable them to save money, provide loans and fund income-generating projects. The PTA created a strong vision and plan, but the members are lacking a variety of skills and knowledge to manage the fund confidently. It is here where the Kelley delegation saw a great opportunity to step in with various capacity building measures.

Equipped with a lot of theoretical background knowledge, the students arrived in Kigali, aware that they first needed to gain further practical information. We hence organized several meetings with leading microfinance institutions and banks that allowed them to deepen their knowledge of the sector. Among others, they particularly learned about very practical topics such as registration, internal organization, member meetings and loan requirements.

After their arrival in Kinigi, they conducted initial needs assessments and conversations with the PTA members who were eager to benefit from their guests. As a result, the team decided to focus their attention on trainings in 4 key areas: financial management, microfinance management, business plan training and income-generating projects. Furthermore, they had a variety of conversations to explore how to best continue to provide support on distance, a suggestion that was gladly embraced by the PTA. In the end, all involved agreed that the short visit was a highly impactful and promising start of a long-term relationship, and plans are in place for Kelley students to return in 2014.