This was a very common way of providing credit to persons who did not always have access to it. It is still practiced mostly by women.
Banks were often reluctant to provide financial services to persons with low income, so people found their own solutions. In finance these schemes have such names as “rotating savings” and “credit associations”. Caribbean people who are involved in it call it sou-sou, box money, meeting turn, and in St. Kitts it is commonly called Partner Hand.
To work, the system requires the formation of a committed co-operative association. It is very unlikely that there would be a written document to formalise the agreement. A great deal of trust is involved. Often the members of the group know each other well. They either work in the same place, or go to the same church, or are neighbours in the same village. Sometimes all three conditions apply.
The partners agree to pool an equal amount of money e.g. $100 for a period of time e.g. a month or two weeks. The money is deposited with the person who started the group. She would keep careful records making sure that everybody is paid up with in the agreed time. On an agreed day one of the partners receives the sum or hand. This continues until every member of the group has had her turn. It is also up to the leader of the group to keep a list of when each member would like to receive her hand. Sometimes a member would have a specific aim in mind for the money and would like to receive it at a certain time to make sure she can fulfil her purpose for joining the group. When all members have received the hand, the group can decide to do another round of hands or stop. At this point the membership can change.
The Partner Hand is not a savings scheme that pays returns (interest). It is simply a way to hold on to money by tying it up for a short period in the group. No one gains but also no one loses as long as each member is trustworthy and puts in her share.