As stated in wikipedia, “it is a movement that envisions ‘a world in which as many poor and near-poor households as possible have permanent access to an appropriate range of high quality financial services, including not just credit but also savings, insurance, and fund transfers.’ Those who promote microfinance generally believe that such access will help poor people out of poverty.”
I came across a website that is bringing poeple in to partner in this effort in a pretty awesome way.
OptINnow.org invests in the business efforts of impoverished clients who would not qualify for financial assistance from other financial institutions by providing them with a loan. The public is invited to donate towards the loan for a specific entrepreneur in Kenya, Ghana, Mexico or the Phillipines. The website lists the client by name and their business. When the loan is paid back, the money is reinvested in another entrepreneur.
Here is the fun part: The group provides a creative gift option. They offer gift cards. Recipients of the gift cards can designate the funds on the card to a specific client. Say I am given a $50 gift card. I go online, and read about the clients and decide to donate that $50 to help Ama Serwaa in Ghana who wants to scale up her existing restaurant and wants to use the proceeds to support her sister’s children in school.
What is powerful about microfinancing is that it empowers those in poverty to support themselves and others. It recognizes that they can work and contribute to their community and simply need the resources to get going. It gives dignity and humanity and encourages individuals to use their skills and gifts. It creates something sustainable and ongoing to stimulate the local community and it’s economy.
Providing food aid staves off hunger as long as it is available, but does not meet the need of a father who feels that part of his identity is to be the provider for his family or of the person who wants to do more than just survive.
For so long, we on the outside have seen the poverty and gave the immediate needs: food, medicine, water, etc., but have made people dependent on that aid. Someone mentioned to me recently that donations of food aid from foreign countries have deepened the problem in some situations by taking away demand from local food producers.
Enough of my soapbox…go visit the site! =)