Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Harnessing Micro-credit for Guatemalan Women

In order to start a business or improve one's financial well-being, people need access to banking services and credit. Sadly, the vast majority of poor people in the world lack this access to credit.

Recognizing this shortcoming, visionaries like Muhammad Yunus have developed micro-credit institutions (like his Grameen Bank in Bangladesh) that have gone on to help millions of families climb out of poverty. In many cases, these "micro-loans" (often just a few hundred dollars) are coupled with business training classes to allow local entrepreneurs to create and run their own business.

In September, Cause & Affect Founder Adam Carter was invited to speak at a Micro-credit Symposium at the College of Lake County (CLC). (Excerpts from his speech included in Field Report video). Joined by CLC Alum and C&A President Tim Summers, Carter explained to students and faculty why this development approach has become so widely embraced throughout the developing world. He then invited students to participate in funding a micro-credit project, urging them to raise money so they could see micro-credit in action.

Thanks to Liz Clark, the Alpha Alpha Pi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, a local women's group and the rest of the CLC team, the students were able to raise over $1,300! C&A took this money down to Guatemala to fund a micro-credit loan for Santos Dominga Chiroy García de Camajá, a single mother that lives in the El Quiche region of Guatemala. Santos Dominga, like most rural Guatemalans, is an indigenous Mayan that has been completely excluded from conventional banking institutions. Without access to credit or banking services, she is left on her own to support her five children. She and her family live in a delicate balance, as she is left tending to the fields all day and also preparing food for her children. All she can rely on is her meager onion crop, which does not provide enough income for her to address the food, educational and medical needs of her family.

But, with this micro-loan (administered through our local partner, a very-highly reputable micro-credit institution called SHARE Guatemala), this hard-working mother will be able to purchase additional inputs in order to increase the yield of her onion crop. She will also be able to purchase supplies to weave baskets, using her skills to foster her entrepreneurial spirit. Her older children will be able to assist her in this income-generating opportunity. The loan will be repaid over the course of 12 months, at which
point the money will be re-generated into another loan for the next worthy recipient.

Yes, it is that simple! American students learn about the wonders of micro-credit, they raise money to alleviate poverty and they are able to see the fruits of their labors through Cause & Affect's work in action. Meanwhile, in the middle of Guatemala, a family is provided with the means to pull themselves out of poverty. A family has more food, access to educational opportunities and money for medical treatment. Everyone wins. [C&A is looking for other colleges and universities to participate in this sort of program, so please e-mail any leads.]

Keep those donations coming - every dollar is instrumental in changing lives for the better!
Donations can be made on-line here. ¡Muchas Gracias!

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