Archives For microfinance

Reposted from www.peterkgreer.com

This week is the 75th birthday of Muhammad Yunus, the inspiring leader who asked a question which struck at the root of a paternalistic approach to poverty alleviation: Why do for people what they’re capable of doing for themselves?

This question served as the basis of Yunus’ groundbreaking work in the 1970s as he founded the Grameen Bank; pioneered the modern microfinance movement; and garnered some impressive recognition, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Nobel Peace Prize.

Hundreds of thousands (myself included) have been inspired by the model of microfinance and signed up to help unleash women’s and men’s creativity around the world.

But recently there have been articles and thoughtful research projects critiquing this tool. Does this recent criticism undermine the microfinance movement? Does it unravel all that Yunus envisioned and that many of us have worked to implement?

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By Annie Rose Ansley, Field Communications Fellow in the Dominican Republic

A fundamental component of Dominican life, whether in the middle of bustling city streets or tucked away in the most remote, rural community, is the colmado. A colmado is a small corner store, or the Dominican equivalent of a mini-mart. And they truly are on almost every corner; the stores are as ubiquitous as Starbucks in New York City.

Two of the three clients with Esperanza (HOPE’s partner in the Dominican Republic) that I’ve interviewed thus far were, incidentally, colmado owners. People in their neighborhoods can stop by for fresh bread, a bag of chips, a soda, seasoning mix, eggs, candy. . .  Some colmado workers also have bikes and deliver–for free!–to your door, which is especially convenient when you need another 5-gallon water jug. However, colmados aren’t mainly about convenience; they’re mainly about community.

In the U.S., the goal is “get in, get out”; in the D.R., it’s more of a “come in, hang out” mentality. I have been shocked at the number of customers I’ve seen at several tiny colmados; they seem to arrive from nowhere, gathering in front of the store, in no rush to leave.

colmadoAt times they share a just-purchased snack or drink, or perhaps they start a game of dominoes or chess (can you imagine a chess match going on inside your local 7-Eleven?). Many colmados keep these games behind the counter and let you borrow them, along with a few plastic chairs; a game will often draw a crowd of spectators.

Then there are the “colmadones”—same concept, but a little larger and with much louder music, allowing them to transform into natural party spots at night. Locals gather there to spend their evenings together. When Hamilton and I had just arrived in Santo Domingo, we were searching for bottled water downtown and were afraid to enter the extremely noisy and crowded colmadón near our hotel. (Wait, what? I’m supposed to be able to pick up groceries here right now?)

There is definitely a beauty to this colmado culture. The stores meet even more of a social need than a physical one; they are a nucleus of community activity. Dominicans are very outgoing people (I particularly love their custom of greeting everyone when they get on the bus!), and they clearly see the importance of human connection and fellowship. For them, a tiny grocery store is a perfect place to hang out, laugh, and catch up with neighbors. And unlike many of us, they feel like they have time to spare.

Each year, HOPE celebrates a client who demonstrates HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing the Thurman Award winner. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman Award celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the stories of this year’s honorable mentions and overall winner.

When Elena Borisenko speaks, people listen. Throughout her community in Kamenka-Dneprovskaya, Ukraine, she’s seen as a woman of influence, not only because of her charismatic personality but also because of the changes she has seen as a successful businesswoman and a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

Hungry to learn

As a child, Elena loved the land and enjoyed tending her family’s garden, where new life was always sprouting. She moved to the city to attend college and continued living there after graduation. But when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Elena immediately moved home to care for her. Together, the two women cried out to God. In time, Elena’s mother grew healthy and strong again, and the answered prayer left Elena hungry to know more about Christ.

While living with her mother, Elena met and married her now-husband. She soon gave birth to a son. With her husband’s encouragement, Elena left her job at a local post office and began growing tomatoes. She and her husband built a greenhouse using income from his job at a feed mill, and Elena says her family had everything they desired.

In 2006, Elena’s husband fell seriously ill. Doctors offered little hope, and Elena again put her hope in the Lord. She prayed fervently for her husband, and from his hospital bed, he dreamed that a powerful ray of light ascended from Elena to the sky and then entered his body. “From that moment I got better,” he testifies. After this, Elena’s faith was strong, but she still hungered to grow spiritually.

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In this excerpt from a recent HOPE event, HOPE’s president and CEO, Peter Greer, demonstrates the urgency felt by those in poverty as they try to build a better future for their families. He also paints a picture of how Christ-centered microenterprise development can accelerate the process and make a difference by preparing people to work today.

Each year, HOPE celebrates a client who demonstrates HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing the Thurman Award winner. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman Award celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the stories of this year’s honorable mentions and overall winner.

Apophie Nyirabaziga is a mother to the motherless, a respected leader in her community, and a sharp businesswoman. Caring for five young children, three of whom she adopted when their own mother died, Apophie is proud to support her family with love and creativity in action.

A perceptive entrepreneur

In 2009, Urwego Opportunity Bank, HOPE’s partner in Rwanda, came alongside Apophie with a loan totaling just $88, which she used to strengthen her business selling cow and goat hides. A perceptive entrepreneur, Apophie realized there was greater demand for live goats, so she used subsequent loans to expand.

As her business grew, Apophie turned her attention to another industry: spare auto parts. Not only was it more profitable, it also allowed Apophie to more effectively leverage her husband’s own God-given talents as a mechanic. Through her 12 loan cycles, Apophie has modeled wise stewardship, saving half of each loan and investing the other portion back into her business.

Though her family used to live in a mud house without doors, windows, or toilets, Apophie now owns two homes, providing additional rental income. She has also used her profits to purchase two cows, a forest, six banana plantations, and a water tank for her family. Through her farm, Apophie employs eight others in the community. In addition, she serves in her local government and as a member of a cooperative committee formed to distribute water.

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Each year, HOPE celebrates a client who demonstrates HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing the Thurman Award winner. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman Award celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the stories of this year’s honorable mentions and overall winner.

For Marilyn Ciprian, serving God as a businesswoman means dedicating each day—and each transaction—to the Lord. “May God bless this day and multiply things in accordance with His glory,” she writes each morning in her account book. Thus begins her search for opportunities to serve Christ as she opens her convenience store—appropriately named La Gran Comision or “The Great Commission”—in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic.

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