During my Kiva Fellowship workplan one of my responsibilities was to write a mass journal. Journals on Kiva are sent to lenders of an individual borrower that show an update of how they are using their loan. This number can range, based on number of lenders, but usually say around 20. A mass journal is sent to ALL lenders of a microfinance institution which can be in the thousands. The style and how they are written is up to each Fellow. From my experience with Ahon sa Hirap, Inc. (ASHI), I really wanted to write about microfinance as a whole because based on my experience in the Philippines I realized that there is something much greater than just lending money to individuals.
Read below my mass journal sent to over 1,200 ASHI lenders on Kiva.
Dear Lender, ** Thank you for supporting the Ahon sa Hirap, Inc., otherwise known as ASHI here in the Philippines.**
Ahon sa Hirap, Inc. translated from Tagalog to English means** “to rise up from poverty”** and is the oldest example of the Grameen Bank approach to microfinance in the Philippines. Kiva launched the Philippines as an expansion country in November 2008, with ASHI among the first group of microfinance institutions partners.
All new microfinance partners with Kiva start in what is called “Pilot Status” which is like an introduction, a “getting to know you” phase. Both Kiva and the partner institution have to make sure the relationship is going to work – after all Kiva now has over 120 partners in more than 50 countries and that’s a lot of different ways of doing business.
Once both parties have fulfilled some internal controls, a partner can be moved to active status – which means a higher fundraising limit and a more solidified partnership. I’m happy to announce that due to hard work from the President and staff members of ASHI that Kiva has approved ASHI for active field partner status! The main way you, the Lender, will be able to see the difference is through increased loans on Kiva.org over the next few months.
For the past three months, since June 2009, I have been serving at ASHI as a Kiva Fellow, assisting in the transition from pilot to active. The time has flown by and I can hardly believe my Fellowship is coming to an end. I’ve learned so much about microfinance when it’s in practice and in the field and I wanted to share a few of my biggest takeaways with you. Microfinance is about more than a loan. The loan is the first step, the building block, and for that Kiva Lenders, I really thank you from the bottom of my heart and from each and every ASHI member and staff. You are the ones turn the key on in the ignition. The Borrower is the driver, the have a new path in front of them that can lead them out of poverty. What do I mean, more than a LOAN? Let me tell you.
Microfinance is also structured lending. For many in poverty they could get loans from loan sharks in their town (or 5/6s), but it’s only a loan and with much higher interest rates. Often times that loan would have no guarantee on terms or repayments. Someone could knock on your door and say, “Pay up today!” Microfinance changes that. It puts structure into lending for the Borrowers. It is term sheets, interest rates and responsibility. It’s not “pay when you can” but “pay weekly during a group meeting with all of the members in your neighborhood.” It’s training and retraining and “checking in” and making sure the Borrowers are using the funds for their business, and if not, why not? How can we help? It’s caring about their future.
Microfinance is also savings, with interest rates and an opportunity to plan for the future or put away for a rainy day.
Microfinance is house repair loans for when typhoons and storms sweep the country and the Borrowers homes and huts are washed away. It’s having the capital to rebuild with stone instead of bamboo so when they next storm arrives, your home is strong enough to withstand the winds. It’s having a home that is on solid ground and being proud of where you live.
Microfinance is educational loans and savings with better rates on interest paid and accrued. It’s an opportunity for Borrowers to send their children, grandchildren, sometimes even nieces and nephews to school.
Microfinance is life insurance policies for family members. Financial literacy classes for new members. Sustainable farming and agriculture classes. Training, tips on packaging, on taking goods to market, on how to grow your business in a way that will help lead you out of poverty.
Microfinance is community. It’s women gathering once a week to make repayments, discuss their business problems and come together as a second family. Some Borrowers I’ve met joined ASHI because their husband died and they were lonely. Some joined because without a new primary business or ability to start a second business their families were going to struggle to put food on the table. Some join quiet and shy and find their confidence and become leaders in their community. Many have told me they are better mothers, daughters, wives, sisters and friends because of ASHI and microfinance.
Yet, no matter WHY they joined – the takeaway is always the same. Their lives are forever changed for having the opportunity to step up and make their lives better through business opportunities.** It’s a hand up instead of a hand out.** It’s strengthening the fabric of the poorest of the poor and changing the face of the economy of an entire country. Does that mean there are success stories at every turn? Not really. Most progress is slow and hard to see day-to-day. There is always struggle, always some who don’t make the right choices, always some that mean to but can’t, and yes, always some that do. The thing to remember is that we all have to start somewhere, and microfinance is a crucial stepping-stone in poverty alleviation worldwide.
Lastly, microfinance in empowerment. It’s having a little extra change in your pocket for the first time in your life. Just imagine that for a moment. A little bit of change jingling in your pocket as you walk home from the market and the feeling that goes with it. Microfinance is earning enough revenue to be able to afford medicine or hospital bills. It’s politicians taking notice that there is some access to capital in your town and being motivated to have the roads paved, the schools repaired, and the community taken care of. It’s calling farmers, butchers, bakers, vendors, storeowners and craftsmen – ENTREPRENEURS.
Thank you again for providing the capital to lend to women at Ahon sa Hirap, Inc! Please consider lending to one of the currently fundraising loans from ASHI.
Salamat Po (Thank You), SloaneTweet