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Successful Multi-club Microcredit Rotary Grants
Category: Microcredit | By RAGM, 12-Apr-2013 | Viewed 4813  Comments 0
For the past eight years, Rotary District 5150 (San Francisco area) has been developing microcredit projects in South and Central America using the Rotary grants program.  At this point, thirty-six of the 39 Rotary clubs in District 5150 have participated in one or more of the seven microcredit projects developed by the District Microcredit Committee. Clubs in other districts have also joined these projects.

Why so much support?  It is because these small microcredit loans allow the poorest of the poor to feed and house their families.  Children end up going to school.  There is a reduction of violence against women because they have some economic power.  And, most important, these loans are a hand-up rather than a hand-out.

Payback rates from the borrowers range between 97% and 100% allowing an on-going revolving loan fund.  Borrowers can then request additional loans to expand their small businesses, or the money can move on to other people to start new businesses.  These microcredit projects are initiated by Rotary clubs in the country of the people being served.

The first collaboration for District 5150 was in Guayaquil, Ecuador - District 4400.  Rotarians in this District saw microcredit as one of the best ways to raise people up from extreme poverty.  This belief in the effectiveness of microcredit led to two multi-club Rotary matching grants prepared by the District 5150 Microcredit Committee amounting to approximately $200,000. About $50,000 was donated by the Ecuador Rotary clubs through a grant received from a local company.  These grant funds are still serving low-income borrowers in Guayaquil seven years later.

Two other Rotary grants were developed with the Rotary Club of Quito Occidente, Ecuador and serves people in Quito as well as those living in extreme poverty in the province of Esmeraldas.  All of these microcredit projects include some ongoing training for the borrowers.

Another microcredit project in Guatemala combined small loans with an extensive training and coaching program.  With the latest project, District 5150 and their partners now have over $360,000 in Revolving Loan Funds assisting poor people in three Latin countries.

The most recent District 5150 Microcredit Committee project has just begun in Bogota, Colombia in cooperation with the Rotary Club of Bogota Centenario.  Like the other projects this one was done with Rotary grant funds and is a multi-club, multi-district Rotary project which includes contributions from private donors.People attending the Rotary International Conference in Lisbon will have an opportunity to hear about this excellent project.  Dr. Amparo Buendia will be a member of the panel being presented during the breakout session on Microcredit on Tuesday afternoon, June 25, 2013.  Her Rotary club, Bogota Centenario, is a dynamic club of 20 members dedicated to assisting people displaced by the violence in Colombia.  An estimated 5 million people or almost one-ninth of the population of Colombia has been affected by the on-going violence.

A grant of $67,620 is allowing this Bogota club to start its third microcredit project with the assistance of a non-profit operating agency.  The funds will be used over the next two years to start credit groups for very low income borrowers.

Rotarians from four clubs in the USA recently traveled to Bogota, Colombia to visit the project.  The travelers were from the Rotary Clubs of Ignacio, Marin Evening, Mill Valley and Novato, California and represented four of the 25 USA Rotary clubs that are supporting this impressive humanitarian work.

How is the money used?  To start truly "small" businesses, such as: assembling and selling plastic flowers by the side of the road, stocking small amounts of food or dry goods to sell from the home, buying beauty products to sell on credit (since their customers cannot afford to pay all at once), making Christmas ornaments and tablecloths to sell, providing day care for children.
If you wish to learn how your Rotary club or District can participate with the District 5150 Microcredit Committee in future microcredit projects in South America, write to Holly Axtell at axtellhol@aol.com.  Please put Rotary Microcredit in the subject line of the message.

Holly Altell
Holly Axtell introduced Rotary microcredit projects to District 5150 during her year as District Governor (2005-06).  She continues to work with her spouse, Keith, and the District Microcredit Committee on developing Rotary microcredit projects in Latin America.  In addition, she served as District World Community Service Chair for three years. This Rotary year (2012-13) Holly served as District Transition Chair assisting Rotary clubs in moving into the new Grants model known as Future Vision.
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