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Microfinance Evidence of the Journey 10


“A single loan influences many�

SKIP THE MOVIE There are many microfinace organizations that can facilitate micro lonas to impoverished clients. Some accept donations and continually reinvest, while others return your capital once a loan has been rapai d. Skip the movie tonight. Twenty five dollars, spent well, can alter the course of a human life.

Published by Aller Beauchamp P.O. Box 36615, Los Angeles, California 90036


TEXT a nd PI C TUR E S by A L L E R B E AUCH A M P A free nation does not guarantee opportunity. Though one may be legally free to follow their passions and pursue their dreams, many simply do not have the resources, infrastructure or capital to move forward. It is common for the poor in developing nations to spend much of their day gathering firewood and fresh water, leaving little time to advance their fortunes. Those of us who have been born into well-established western civilizations are privileged. Our ancestors, governments and economies have paved the way for us to excel if we choose to do so. But on unpaved roads, where the poorest of the poor walk, there is no such inheritance. In the short-term, donations or food, medicines and supplies

improve the lives of those less fortunate. Volunteerism lends a tangible hand and often assuages a pressing need. Sadly these wellworn, well-intentioned practices do little to ensure a self-sustaining future. Microfinance may be the answer. Put simply, it is the facilitation of small business loans to poor entrepreneurial men and women who desire to build a better life. With loans of a few hundred dollars they become artisans, open bakeries, schools and shops. Their success flows into the surrounding communities and villages. A single loan influences many. Thanks to these minute sums of money and those who deploy it, positive transformation exists. Microfinance is not charity. It is an auspicious way to invest in our fellow man.


It is easy to speculate as to the cause of poverty. Some may even believe that it’s lack of education or motivation that keeps one poor. This is a fallacy. Histories great men and women have risen from all walks of life. Success comes to fruition when the capable and the determined find opportunity. Micro loans

provide the necessary funds for many hard working, men and women to begin building a future. I have witnessed an inspiring work ethic. Many awake before dawn, care for their families, get straight to work, diversify, educate others, and make their loan payments of time. It was pleasure to be in the company of

those who truly wish to work. The following pages offer a very brief introduction to a few simple and great people that are well worthy of respect, entrepreneurs that have done much with little. There are millions more for want of a small loan.

Maria Elena Sandwiches, Juice, beans, baked goods and a corner market.

I am unable to think of an American family that appears to live a more idyllic a life than that of Maria Elena’s. She works all day bedside her mother and her mother in law. I spent seven hours with them and they were always smiling, no matter the task, washing dishes, sorting beans, making juice, they were always smiling. Her polite, wellgroomed son came home dressed in a school uniform and enthusiastically participated in the family’s enterprises, once his mother had

finished showering him with kisses. Meanwhile his teenage sister quietly works a few yards away. I know it sounds overly sentimental. Everyone has problems, I am sure the Gonzalez family does as well, but perhaps it is easier to appreciate something when you start with nothing. Five years ago Maria Elena’s family was suffering. Her husband subscribed to the belief that his wife should not work. But she was determined to contribute so that her family would no longer go hungry. Against his wishes she applied for

and received a loan of $190. Given this opportunity Maria Elena purchased a few grocery items and household staples that she proudly placed in front of her home on two newly purchased small tables. Her business flourished allowing her to establish a permanent mini-grocery store in her home. An avid baker since childhood she began baking and selling breads. With a subsequent loan she purchased a juicer and a grill expanding her business to weekend concessions at a local church. To increase profits she many supplies in bulk and repackages them for sale to her customers. Maria Elena plans to continue growing her businesses and one day be Nextipac’s first restaurateur. When asked about her children’s future she aptly replies I am confident that anything is possible for them.�

Benedicta The ADOM store is little more than a few planks of wood and sheets of metal standing a few yards from rocky dirt road in Kumasi. Physically it is little more than shed. This tiny business serves as a market, a restaurant and a social gathering place. Benedicta sells coal, medicines, groceries, with a wide a variety of other necessitites and niceties. She also prepares Kinke a local corn based dietary staple (.22 cents) and freshly grilled whole fish ($1.40). The most interesting thing about the way they prepare the fish is not the old oil

drum on which it is prepared or that it is cooked over an open fire of gathered scrap wood. It is that she does not have utensils. Her daughter, 20, who attends school with the tuition generated by the store, is helping out today. There is a small bowl of water near the grill. She dips her hand in the water and then quickly flips the fish before the fire has time to burn her skin. She dips her hand again, grabs a cooked fish and drops it onto a brown piece of paper for a waiting customer.

El sa Elsa has a little bakery within the walls of an open courtyard. Within these walls she and two others bake. Her recipe is of the oral tradition. There is no need for measuring cups or written reminders. She simply knows how to make bread. With bare hands, she mixes hot melted butter with dry ingredients. The batter is then poured into a mishmash of well-worn pans and placed into a handmade stone oven. As the bread cooks, anxious customers gather at the gate. That’s all I know of Elsa. I was only able to spend a short while with her and though she was very friendly, she was busy attending to her work.

D oro t hy

Dorothy is well dressed and elegant with beautiful children and beautiful students. Upon her husbands death she began working with orphans and widows. She then used a microfinance loan to start the KETAVA school where she now employs six teachers who instruct about 240 students. With the profits from her school and subsequent microfinance loans she built two rental units adjacent to the school. Every morning the tenants’ activities are accompanied by cherubic voices as they begin their day in song. Dorothy has just been diagnosed as HIV positive.

Geraldo If you are in the market for a tiny child’s slingshot, a kitchen table of a pound of dry goods then Geraldo’s home is a wise place to visit. He is a proud father of four and a skilled craftsman that has used his loans to build a woodworking business. The addition of a small general store operated by his eldest son has further stabilized the family’s finances. The store is well equipped with a walk up window for customer convenience, complete with four rubber tires to prevent them from sinking into the mud during heavy rains.

B oston In Malawi’s agricultural hinterlands Boston farms an entire hectare of tobacco, about two and a half acres, with a single bladed hoe he purchased a few years back for $2.75. In his part of the world one purchases the blade and then ventures into the woods to search for a suitable branch to be used as a handle. In regards to western culture, Boston is the most unaffected person I have ever known. He and his family live without electricity, without running water and without pretense. I asked him this simple question, “If you can have anything, what you wish for.” His reply, “ A cart and two oxen.” His desire is not for food, money, or luxury. He only wishes for the tools that will allow him to push forward.

Felix & Micaela For 58 years Felix has been a baker. At twenty-four his wife Micaela helped him find a place to live and build an oven. Thirtyseven years later Felix was baking 100 pieces of bread per day. A few years ago, Micaela received a loan of $200. Allowing for the basic purchase of more flour. The family bakery now produces 500 pieces of bread daily. Some salt and some sweet. Felix awakes at 3am to prepare, by hand, the flour for his breads, he feels that flour prepared by machine does not taste the as is should. The morning bread is salty. The

afternoon bread is sweet. At 10am, three twelve years old boys carry the salted bread to local markets while Micaela stands at her door selling to neighbors. Felix naps from 10am to noon and then begins baking the sweet bread. At 6pm he finishes. The boys again carry the bread to the stores as Michala greets the neighbors. Felix and Micaela have six sons and six daughters. Their grandchildren are spoiled. They will only eat the bread that grandpa Felix makes.

Vivian The Providence Educational Complex

Vivian’s was a young teacher with young children of her own when her husband passed away. One day while walking through her neighborhood she realized that many women had babies on their backs and were unable to work. She realized that other schools were to far away to service her neighborhood so she decided to open a crèche (a day care center) where she could care for many children, including her own. She made a few flyers, passed them out, and on the day she opened, six children came. When her babies and students grew old enough to enroll in primary school she escorted them for testing. They were rejected

as being too advanced for the public school curriculum. Vivian was upset and unsure of what to do until some of her students parents suggested she start a primary school, she did so. Vivian’s first microloan was for $54. She now has 370 students. Second graders learn in English, French and native languages. She provides them with a nutritious lunch, subsidizers the already discounted tuition and sews many of the school uniforms herself. The second schools second story is incomplete and the library consists of fewer than a dozen books. There are no ipods or computers and the restrooms are really

just outhouses. A school such as this would be a disgrace were it located in the United States. But here it is an inspiration, teachers and students are happy to be in school. A chance to learn and become more is rare and valuable. Vivian would like to establish some vocational training for the girls so that they can be more independent. She would also like to have guest speakers to teach her students a wider variety of skills. I asked Vivian what she could use the most and she of course said “computer would be nice but a few storybooks would help the children to learn English.�

Ev a

Eva makes and sells tamales. At seventynine she runs though the streets delivering them to waiting customers. She cooks on a tiny stove, built into the corner of a narrow walkway, between one neighborhood and another. She is a very passionate about the good things in her life. She proclaims that she is rich “ not in money but in friends,” and she thanks the bank for helping her. When she first saw me she ceased he activities and ran her fingers through my long hair. “You are like Jesus she said” I will always hold dear that moment.

Mamma Esther Mama is a widow that once worked long hours selling shoes yet was unable to support her family. She is now a skilled artisan. Her batik and tie-dye fabrics are in high demand. But the great thing about Mama Esther is not that she has received loans and used them to grow her business. It is that she has used her stability to care for others. Her sons are good-natured, Thanks to their mothers success many previously unavailable roads are now open to them. Her youngest borrowed my camera and took a few surprisingly well-composed shots. He plans to be a photographer. Her apprentices are treated like family. She offers them room and board, teaches them a trade and gives sanctuary from despair.

Virginia I felt like an unwelcome guest in Virginia’s home. She was in no way unkind or rude. I just felt that she was uncomfortable discussing her personal life. And that she knew her time is better spent caring for her family and working to provide for them than it was promoting her lenders agenda. Her husband kicked his leg, powering a manual pottery wheel upon which her creates a variety of decorative goods to be

sold in the local market. Virginia colors the pieces with a mixture of tar and gasoline. They then fired in a handmade, wood fueled kiln located in the narrow courtyard behind their home, a single room of about 300 square feet. In this tiny space the front door must be closed before the dresser drawer can be opened. At the foot of the family’s only bed her children do homework on a small table. They function like any other family. They just have less money.

Esther Esther is soft spoken with a gentle demeanor. Prior to her receipt of a small loan she lived in her parents home with her children and her brother. She received a loan and began making doughnuts. They are cooked in10gallon steel bowls of hot oil fueled by firewood. I asked her what were her dreams. She said, “ to one day cook with electricity.” There are no power lines connected to the area in which she operates so for now it is just a dream. Her bakery consists of a few slam rooms with earthen floors. The only sign of contemporary culture here is an empty coke bottle that has been repurposed as a kitchen utensil. She sells all that she makes and believes that if she could buy ten bags of flour instead of five “that would be better for me.” Having eaten several of her warm, sweet fried breads I can attest you that are well worth the 20 Kwatcha (.14cents) for which she

sells them. And, it would be better for everyone if she could afford more flour. With the profits from her business, she has built a home, her children now attend school, her parents live with her, and she helps to support her brother. She employs several young men from the village who can now, as she puts it, “buy soap and take care of themselves.”

Trust and Transformation

Micoloans are intended for the poorest of the poor. Many of those in need have no collateral, education or business experience. Complied with aids related mortality statistics most lenders view such clients as an unnecessary risk. But they are not. The repayment rate of microlaons is somewhere around 95%. This repayment rate is due in part to formation of small groups of borrowers that take a group loan, each guaranteeing the repayment should one of their members become ill or insolvent. This is accomplished by the banks active participation with its clients. They do not simply write a check and

hope for the best. Loan officers go to the field to meet with clients at their homes and businesses. There are weekly and biweekly meeting held to share information about safe health practices, child welfare, woman’s rights, and business practices. I was visiting a remote bank in Africa where bank employees stood in a circle telling stories about their client’s success. They sang songs and prayed for deceased relatives and the well being of those they service. There was a genuine sense of partnership and compassion. At 7am 23 bankers were already working and caring for a mere 2000 customers.

Loan clients at a Nungua Trust Group Meeting

HRH Princess Anne tours a mushroom hut in Ghana


In the short-term, donations or food, medicines and supplies improve the lives of those less fortunate. Volunteerism lends a tangible hand a...