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Malawi Girls School Graduates get Microcredit Funding
Category: Education | By Editor, 27-Jun-2011 | Viewed 5261  Comments 0
APU Girls on the move education project
In a country where unemployment hovers at 60% education is one of the few avenues out of grinding poverty. More to the point, girls without education are particularly vulnerable to ending up at tender ages with multiple children and little hope of ever surmounting their circumstances. So it may not be a total surprise, that when the Malawi Atsikan P Uleddo (APU) girl's school (http://www.malawigirlsonthemove.com/) first opened their doors there were 350 girls in the parking lot, many having travelled all night and in some cases through the bush, hoping to be chosen for the 80 available desks. At the same time next year the desk count had risen to 160 and there were two thousand girls waiting in the parking lot. 

Education however is just the first step in Malawi where old technology, under-serviced infrastructure and a stubbornly slow growing economy are the norm. In such a situation it is a viable option to create a job rather than wait for one to appear and this is where Rotary has entered the picture. Microcredit is the single largest job creation tool — with 190 million borrowers. The following account of the project is offered by Chuck Morrison.

In 2007, inspired by a talk from the President of the Rotarian Action Group for Microcredit (RAGM) Steve Rickard, the Rotary club of Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada was convinced one of the key vehicles for eliminating poverty was through microcredit loans.  As the club researched this field, it became clear that any microcredit program we begin should relate to the secondary school for girls that our club helped build and continues to support. Research also convinced us that World Vision was the best NGO with which to partner since it has a registered microcredit bank in Malawi known as Finance Trust for the Self Employed, (FITSE).  Finally, it was agreed to proceed without a Rotary partner because of the uncertainties about the potential clubs' abilities to take on this project.

A large area development project was envisioned first but the 2008 world recession made it difficult to raise the necessary funds.  The Stony Plain club sought and received contributions from other clubs but was not able to raise the funds to meet the original objectives.  An alternative was suggested to World Vision to create a loan capital fund at the FITSE Bank in Lilongwe, Malawi, to provide microcredit loans to the girls graduating from the APU Secondary School for Girls, their immediate families and the citizens of their villages.  In late 2010, FITSE sent a representative to visit the APU School to determine the economic opportunities in the area around the school.  The school committed to provide space for the loan officers when they make their visits to place and collect loans.  FITSE determined that the area is ripe for a microcredit program.  The Rotary Club of Stony Plain signed an agreement with World Vision Canada to provide $60,000 in loan capital for this microcredit fund by July 31, 2011. 

APU Girls on the move education project
The first class to graduate from the APU School will do so on June 25, 2011.  On June 22, 2011, the Rotary Club of Stony Plain presented World Vision Canada representative John Goulding with a cheque for $60,000 in fulfillment of its agreement.  Though the Rotary Club of Stony Plain was the major donor, other clubs contributed to the project including the District 5370 Rotary Clubs o Edmonton South, Spruce Grove,  Wetaskiwin and Edmonton Riverview. 

In March of 2011, the Stony Plain Club was contacted by Christie Johnson a teacher from Victoria BC and one of the co-founders of the APU School, who indicated that the school was excited about microcredit as the funds  come just in time for use by the first graduating class. All contributing Rotarians and those following this great story look forward to description of fund deployment contained in the semi-annual fiscal report from World Vision. Stony Plain, as the lead club, will be receiving stories and updates on how the girls use the borrowed funds in furthering their careers. If you would like to receive these reports or need further information please contact Chuck Morrison at prairiecove@xplornet.com.
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