Sub-Saharan Africa

Volunteerism: A New Business Model for Scaling Microfinance and Technology for Development

This is not volunteerism for the sake of volunteerism, but rather a new business model for solving some of the real problems impeding the scale, sustainability, and impact of microfinance and T4D initiatives. A greater and more strategic use of volunteers can help the field to realize, more rapidly, strategic and operational improvements.


After tragically delivering a stillborn baby, Yvonne was unsure whether she would ever be able to have a healthy baby. She is a seamstress in Ahentia, a small village in central Ghana, where access to basic healthcare is limited. Many local women rely on myths and customs to understand pregnancy, leading them to false and sometimes harmful conclusions.

During her unsuccessful pregnancy, Yvonne did not visit the local health clinic for prenatal checkups. Instead, she used herbal medicines recommended to her by others in her community.


After Regina learned she was pregnant, she was ecstatic about the new addition to her family, but she had the same questions that all new mothers have. What’s happening to my body? What are those movements in my abdomen? Why do I feel so nauseous all the time? But Regina, who lives in Ghana, doesn’t have the luxury of searching the Web for answers.

“I used to think that health information could only be accessed from the hospital or from our grandmothers,” she says. But using the Mobile Midwife phone application helped her learn what she wanted to know quickly and easily. 

Fatuma Anawari

When Fatuma was a young girl in Kenya, family hardships forced her to drop out of primary school after only two years; she never learned to read or write. Now her dream is to educate and provide for her own children.

Charity Kulola

When Charity Kulola was sixteen, her father married her off to a man who already had two wives, in exchange for money for land. During their marriage, Charity bore seven daughters. Furious that she never bore a son, her husband expelled her and their daughters from his home. When Charity’s brother took her in, his wife told her about Yehu Microfinance Trust, Grameen Foundation’s partner in Kenya. 

Rose and Daniel

Rose Opio is a typical farmer in Uganda. She works a small plot and rears pigs to support her family in the village of Oyam in the country’s northern region. Most farmers in the area have been subsistence farmers for generations, living off of what they grow and earning only small and inconsistent amounts from other labor.

Mama Shabaan

In many African communities, clean water is a scarce and valuable resource. On the southern coast of Kenya, villagers in the small, rural community of Mwambalazi rely on water collected from wells or murky ponds for all of their household needs.

Ester Maruba

In rural Kenya, clients of Juhudi Kilimo — a microfinance organization that focuses on farmers — support each other both financially and emotionally. With guidance from a Juhudi Kilimo loan officer, farmers form groups to receive loans, manage repayments, share business ideas and challenges, and get technical training and product demonstrations. Once business is over, they share tea and bread before heading back to work. If one farmer is trying something new, he or she can definitely expect visitors from the group before the next meeting.