Christopher Kellen is a Bankers Without Borders volunteer for Grameen Foundation. He recently traveled to Bangladesh to study work being done at the Grameen Bank, and you can read more about his travels on his blog. Before he left, he also found a great example of microfinance happening right in the middle of his "backyard" of New York City.
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At Grameen Foundation, our goal is to spur innovation in the global movement to eliminate extreme poverty. Part of that work is to develop better solutions and share them with people like you.
On GF Insights, we share lessons learned from our leaders in the field, news about efforts to expand access to financial and information services for the poor, and how poverty-focused organizations are using data to improve the way they work.
Along with several Grameen Foundation staff, the McCall Family - Jordan, Sarah, Ben, and Molly - flew to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to visit one of Grameen Foundation’s local Microfinance Institutions, Esperanza. This is an excerpt from Molly’s journal she wrote for school about her experience in the Dominican Republic.
October 5, 2010
At 1:30 pm our friends picked us up to go to the airport. First we flew to Dallas, Texas. We landed in Dallas at 9:30 pm. We spent the night at a Holiday Inn.
October 6, 2010
We had to wake up at 2:30 am! We drove to the airport with some funny old ladies who laughed and snorted. Our plan got to Miami, Florida at 9:45 am. At 10:45 am we left for Santo Domingo. We touched down at Santo Domingo at 1:45 pm. Then we went to our hotel and ate lunch. Factoid: every day in Santo Domingo it rains around 3 pm. Then we took some nice long naps. Next, we watched TV. Finally we went out to dinner with a group of people.
October 7, 2010
First we went on a bus to a bank meeting. Then we saw pigs. The owner of the pigs sells them for pesos. Next, we went to a clinic where people get help when they are sick. After that we went to a bank office and ate lunch. I liked the rice. After lunch, we went to a colmado which is like a little convenience store. Women borrow money from Esperanza to open them. Later we went to another colmado and a place that sold fried chicken. Then we went home. Then we went to dinner at an old colonial restaurant.
October 8, 2010
First we had breakfast at our hotel. Next we went to a bank meeting where people talked about how they came to Esperanza. It took place in someone’s front yard at a coastal town. People deposit money at the bank meeting for their businesses. One woman sold shoes, another sold coffee and tea. Then we went to lunch because we were a half hour off schedule. That took place at an Esperanza office. I had rice and a salad. After that we went on a cool water purifying tour. It was very fun although very hot. In the afternoon we went on a tour of the colonial district in downtown Santo Domingo. There were a lot of pigeons there. We visited the place where heroes are buried. Finally we went to dinner at a magical place on the water.
Kimberly Davies is a Program Associate for the Microsavings Initiative, which is part of Grameen Foundation’s Solutions for the Poorest program.
Last year, Grameen Foundation began a three year journey, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to increase the number of active monetary savers by 1.45 million people, especially the bottom poor living under US$1.25 per day. For this project, we are working with three microfinance institutions, CARD Bank in the Philippines, CASHPOR in India, and ACSI in Ethiopia. I recently had the opportunity to visit all three MFIs over a four week period, to work with our project managers on the ground, learn more about each project, and visit clients in the field. I will be writing several posts over the next few weeks, so I wanted to introduce myself briefly, and give a bit of background on savings and our project:
What is your project?
We are taking a holistic approach to create safe access to formal savings products by focusing on market research and product design, creating a marketing strategy and financial literacy program, using front-end technologies capable of enabling field-based transactions, and building institutional capacity.
Why is savings important?
The poor often have such inconsistent and unpredictable incomes that savings is an important risk management tool. Bad weather affecting agricultural production, family illness, and natural disasters are just some of the tragedies that commonly occur, creating financial hardships for poor families. Savings can be used during these hard times, cutting down on the need for emergency loans, which often come at high interest rates.
Alex Counts, Grameen Foundation president and CEO, considers how important it is for MFIs to "keep score" when it comes to poverty reduction. Being profitable is not enough to define success — MFIs need to demonstrate how well they're achieving their social mission.
Stephanie Denzer is Program Associate for Grameen Foundation’s Human Capital Center (HCC). This is her second blog from a recent trip to Peru where she participated in a Human Capital Management Assessment of an MFI in the process of transforming into a regulated institution. Her last blog post focused on Cultivating Leaders and Empowering Organizations, and in this post she follows a loan officer to a group meeting of several microfinance borrowers.
When I arrived in Pucallpa, Peru, I had worked in the microfinance sector for over a year without having seen in practice what I support daily from our DC-based offices. I was soon heading out on the back of a motorcycle taxi to a village bank meeting for clients of Microfinanzas Prisma. Bouncing down a dusty dirt road to the home of one of the clients where the monthly repayment meeting was being held, we followed Ramiro, one of Prisma’s loan officers, on his motorcycle as we traveled out of the central part of this city of about 300,000 in the country’s Amazon region.
I was in Peru to assist with the implementation of Grameen Foundation’s Human Capital Management Assessment tool. See my previous blog post for more information on how we are working to help MFIs better meet their missions of serving the poor. We were accompanying Ramiro to the field because we wanted to see what it’s truly like to walk in the shoes of one of Prisma’s more than 100 dedicated loan officers.
We arrived at the home of Dacia, who serves as president of this village bank group of 18 local women. Our visit came just a few days after her group had celebrated its fifth anniversary. Dacia herself has gone through 10 different loans since the group began on July 12, 2005. She has used her credit from Prisma to purchase a small boat in which she transports timber from family land further upstream on the Ucayali River. She sells this timber for a profit and with a bit of bashful pride, told us that because of the profit she’s made, she was able to move from a small wooden house into the larger, sturdier concrete structure where the group was meeting.
Her eyes lit up when I asked about how her life had been most affected by the access to the credit Prisma provides. She took down a framed picture from the wall that hung next to her wedding portrait. It was one of only three photographs in the house and it showed a team of smiling teenage girls. Dacia pointed to one of the girls and told us how her oldest daughter was now in university and was playing volleyball on a team in Lima. In fact, all four of Dacia’s daughters are enrolled in school and seem to be thriving.