Saturday, November 15, 2008

Haiti - Short Trip

I am currently on my way home from spending the week in Haiti. I was fortunate to be joined by some of our HIV/AIDS team, Dr. Esther Gwan and Joanna Mayhew, as well as Jeff Demers who provides support to the Haiti office. Later on during the week, we were all joined by a friend of World Relief, Mr. Ken Graber.

My primary purpose for the trip was to work with Ken to start the merger between our microfinance program and another microfinance program managed by World Concern. From looking through our books it is clear our program will definitely benefit from being a part of a larger microfinance program, as I believe will World Concern's program.

We met with USAID and ANIMH (the local microfinance network) and found that this would be the first merger between microfinance programs. This created quite a bit of excitement with the agencies. They are keen for consolidation in the sector, and we hope that we can document lessons learned through our merger, so that we can help other microfinance programs in the future.

I also sat with our HIV/AIDS team to discuss greater support to people giving care to HIV/AIDS sufferers and orphans. We have had a microfinance scheme within our program that has provided them with loans, this year through a grant from Tearfund UK, we are extending this.

Haiti amazes me every time I visit. I have lived in Liberia, immediately following the end of their 14 year civil war, but I think Haiti would be even harder to live in. Port Au Prince is densely populated, and very polluted. Houses cling to steep slopes that are prone to landslides due to the destruction of the environment and soil erosion. With Haiti so close to the US, it is sad that this place is one of the poorest countries in the World.

Much of the food and goods consumed in Haiti are imported. The agricultural sector is very fragile, the regular hurricanes can wipe away crops in a heartbeat. But the food that is produced is often organic, not necessarily by design, but because fertilizer is out of the reach for the majority of farmers.

Our microfinance program is looking at how we can better support the agricultural sector, how we can create 'green' loans to promote good environmental practices, and how we can help the poorest of the poor take small steps out of poverty.

Help World Relief support more people in Haiti, donate now and designate your funds to Microenterprise Development.

Thank you for your support. Gareth

Monday, November 3, 2008

DR Congo Updates

Please see the links below for updates from DR Congo.

World Relief is based in Goma and is looking to respond as soon as is possible.

Help World Relief respond, click here to donate

Miliband admits UK may send troops to bolster UN peacekeepers in Congo

Images from DR Congo§ionName=WorldAfrica

Too Slow to Act?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pray for the Crisis In Congo

The crisis in DR Congo has halted our microfinance programs in Goma, DR Congo.

We will keep you updated on the peace process and how our staff and clients are doing.

Please keep World Relief in your prayers and please consider donating to support our disaster response efforts.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

SEEP Network Meetings 4 - 7 Nov VA

World Relief will be participating on a panel about non-profit organizations and MFI divestiture.

World Relief has brought on a number of partners to their microfinance institutions. This has been a tool for strengthening the MFI, and has had the positive impact of also monetizing long-term assets for reinvestment.

The MFIs have benefited from increased growth, and technical support.

Find out more by attending the SEEP network meetings.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Financial Crisis and Microfinance

The financial crisis could affect our microfinance programs. There were two in particular that we were looking to bring in additional partners. It looks like we could have some problems with bringing those partners on board.

It may also be more difficult for our microfinance programs to borrow money. Which will then reduce the liquidity of the programs, slow their growth and reduce customer confidence.

Our savings programs are somewhat protected. The money is held by the clients, they lend their own capital and until they become more mature, they wont need access to debt.

We know it is also going to be difficult for donors to give. This could mean that we may find it difficult to raise enough money to train people in the savings for life methodology. And we may not be able to find enough donors for our microfinance institutions.

We will keep you updated on whether we meet our targets. In the meantime, if you are thinking of giving to World Relief, please consider our Microfinance programs. Click Donate Now and designate your donation to Microenterprise Development.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pray For Peace in DR Congo

It is with a sad heart that I write this note. We received reports about the tragic loss of Jonathan Karambura in Goma, DRC. Jonathan was shot and killed this evening (Tues 23 Sept) by armed robbers at his home in Goma. Jonathan served as the Finance Manager of our microfinance institution Hekima. He is survived by his wife and children who need our prayers. Please pray for Jonathan’s family, for Hekima, it’s clients and staff, and all the World Relief employees in DRC.

This terrible loss seems to be unrelated to the recent unrest in Goma over the weekend. As we get more information we will update our blog. Sam Ferguson, Hekima’s Managing Director, sent me the article below which has more detail about the problems in the region.

Prayerfully, Gareth

KINSHASA, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Weeks of heavy fighting between the army and Tutsi rebels in eastern Congo's North Kivu province has forced 100,000 people from their homes, the United Nations said on Monday.

Congolese forces and rebels led by renegade Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda started their latest bout of fighting in late August when a January peace deal aimed at ending more than a decade of violence collapsed.

On Monday the army blasted Nkunda's hilltop positions with rockets, heavy guns, and helicopter gunships.

U.N. and other international mediators have urged all sides to pull back to initial positions and return to talks, but with little effect. Frustration that these calls were being ignored spilled over into anger among many locals, triggering riots and looting in the provincial capital Goma on Sunday.

"We estimate that around 100,000 people have been displaced since the renewed fighting started on Aug. 28," Christophe Illemassene, spokesman for the U.N. humanitarian coordination office, OCHA, said.

North Kivu is one of the world's worst conflict-driven humanitarian crises.

An estimated 5.4 million have died from fighting, hunger and disease since a five-year war, fuelled by Congo's mineral riches, started in 1998.

The latest wave of clashes is worsening an already dire humanitarian crisis in the tiny border province.

More than 830,000 North Kivu people had already fled on-off fighting last year and sporadic clashes during this year's eight-month peace process, which was plagued from the start by daily ceasefire violations.

Illemassene said many of those recently displaced had already been forced to flee several times, and it was unclear how many were new internal refugees.

The daily fighting is also hampering aid efforts.

"Delivery of assistance is being limited, because of the lack of access," he said. "It's definitely a concern, the humanitarian situation. We're very concerned."

The U.N. mission in Congo has come under pressure from local officials and the government for not doing enough to pressure Nkunda's rebels to disband and reintegrate into the army.

The transfer of bodies of government soldiers to a hospital in Goma on Sunday sparked angry anti-rebel protests that degenerated into riots and looting, U.N. officials said.

A mob, led by the widows of the dead soldiers, attacked petrol stations rumoured to be owned by Nkunda.

Peacekeepers fired in the air to repel an angry crowd trying to force its way into a U.N. base on the outskirts of the city.

The U.N. mission cancelled flights from the capital Kinshasa to Goma on Monday and restricted its employees' movements there.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

WR Microfinance Forums

Visit the WR Microfinance Forums site. Give us your feedback on World Relief's microfinance programs. Ask the questions you have been wanting to ask, and help us to improve the way we work.

Friday, September 19, 2008

WR wants to Hear from You

We are developing a new tool for fundraising, an endowment fund in which 105% of your donation is used for supporting our economic development programs. It would be great to get your feedback on the endowment fund idea. To find out more about the fund and give us feedback join our google group, visit or sign up below.

I am looking forward to hearing from you, Gareth

Google Groups

Subscribe to WR Performance Giving


Visit this group

Monday, September 8, 2008


Wait for Wendy's Network Update, but here is a sneak preview:

Active Clients 159,239
Outstanding Loan Portfolio $37,666,000
Portfolio at Risk > 30 days 7%
Percent Female Clients 82%
Operational Self-Sufficiency 94%
Total Staff (Local/Expatriate) 1,138/6
Average Outstanding Loan Size $237

as at June 30 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Haiti Challenge

World Relief manages a small microfinance program in Haiti called, Finansman pou ede moun avanse (FEMA), or Financing for Helping People Advance.

With just over 3,000 clients FEMA is currently not self-sufficient, they rely on grants and donations to support their operating costs. We are looking to grow the program so that it can meet all it's operating costs from it's interest income, but growth takes time and your support is vital to ensuring FEMA can continue to provide access to financial services for the poor in Haiti.

Meet the Challenge
FEMA has several supporters that are making sure it continues to moves forward. One group, from Clifton Park in New York, was inspired by the leadership of World Relief Haiti and the opportunities for economic growth in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas. They pledged $50,000 to World Relief and are challenging other donors to match these funds to raise a total of $100,000.

So, far they have raised an additional $10,000 to meet the Haiti Challenge. Help us break through the $100,000 mark and help even more people out of poverty in Haiti.

Hallmarks of FEMA
Extending credit in conflict-ridden areas: Ongoing civil unrest in Haiti has placed significant pressure on the program’s loan portfolio. As other microfinance entities have fled the area, World Relief has chosen to stay. We believe the love of Christ shines brightest in dark places.

HIV/AIDS Training: In addition to biblically based ethics training and financial training, World Relief’s program integrates AIDS education during the weekly community banking meetings.

Integration with church-based ministries: Together with our church-based care-giving and health ministries in HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health, our loan programs are providing an integrated, sustainable, church-based solution to poverty.

About Haiti
The Poorest Country in the West, Located in the Caribbean, sharing the Island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. Haiti has a population of about 8.9m and a life expectancy of just 57 years. GDP per capita is only $1,300 compared to the US at $45,800, or Jamaica with $7,700.

How to Give
Go to for more information.
Make checks payable to World Relief, in the note section write "Designated for FEMA, Haiti, Matching Grant", and send to: World Relief, 7 East Baltimore Street, Baltimore MD 21202

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Reflection from the Field…

Today, I had the chance to observe the first meeting of the first formed group of Dutabarane’s “Shigikirana Savings & Credit” program. Dutabarane – a local partner organization of World Relief in Burundi promoting HIV/AIDS education and prevention awareness in churches - is launching a savings-led program to promote savings and credit associations. This type of community-managed development initiative in which groups of people, primarily women, form and develop an internal savings fund intends to
1.) provide a safe and effective mechanism for members to deposit their savings, particularly in rural areas where accessibility to banks or MFIs is limited, and
2.) provide an internal lending fund in which group savings can be lent out to group members to support business expansion, consumption needs, and life cycle events.

The savings group we observed today is called “Turemeshanye”, which means “We comfort each other.” There are 13 members of the group.

According to their constitution, the group will meet every Wednesday to save and issue small loans from their savings to members. One “share” (the minimum a member must contribute each meeting) is 350 Burundian Francs ($0.30). Some members at this meeting bought multiple shares – up to 5! The total savings fund of the group after one meeting is 8,850 Burundian Francs (about $8). Of this, 600 Francs is designated for the “Social fund” – a fund to be consistently contributed to by all members for use when a member has an emergency situation and needs a small grant.

Policies regarding fines have been set by the group members for such things as arriving late or missing a meeting. Even the Secretary at this meeting had to pay a fine for incorrectly following procedure!

What is impressive is how responsive this group is to this methodology; after only a short training period, they seem to clearly understand the procedures and set up of how to conduct operations. The program staff's presence today was to monitor and advise the leadership committee as the share purchase activities took place. The members – already – are taking control of the operations and management of the group! Everything – the process, the funds – is owned by them! They have even committed to purchasing the “kit” (lock box, stamp, passbook, etc.) that Dutabarane has supplied by making regular installments to Dutabarane. There are no subsidies, no hand-outs in this program. The role of Dutabarane is to work through local churches to guide & EMPOWER people to find their own solutions and use their own means in addressing their poverty! The potential for achieving significant depth and breadth of outreach with a very church-centered, sustainable approach is incredibly exciting!

In the walk back to our vehicle after the meeting was over, I spoke with the Acting Pastor of the church (who is also participating as a group member in this group). He had these comments to give regarding the program:

“This program is very important to helping people out of poverty. We need this program in our churches. Christians understand this program, but we have to educate church officials about the importance of it. Already, pastors from other churches in this area have approached me asking how they can get this program into their churches. I tell them – go to the local Dutabarane office!”

I am very excited & blessed to witness and be able to support the implementation and expansion of Shigikirana over the next year. In addition, I am excited to see World Relief launch similiar initiatives around the world & to see the impact of those programs in the churches & communities where we work!

I hope you are blessed by this note from the field…

~ Wendy

Desk Officer, Economic Development @ World Relief

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ikirezi Essential Oils - Hope Replaces Isolation and Poverty

Rwanda is rising. After facing horrible devastation in their country, people are willing to reconcile and work hard to get ahead. Involvement in an enterprise such as Ikirezi can provide the “leg-up” that hardworking widows and orphans need. Working together in cooperatives in the green lush geranium fields, these farmers share hope. a common goal, and their lives.

Odette MUREKATETE, 36 years old, is one of the 50 widows working on the 2 acre plantation in Rwanda’s Gasabo district. In the 1994 genocide, she lost her parents, her children and her husband. Afraid and unable to trust anyone, including her own neighbors, she felt totally alone.

Odette says: “The best thing that the Ikirezi project has done for me, is give me new friends with whom I share my restored and strengthened trust in God. I became a...member of a community. They helped me to finance and building a house, which I didn’t have. After having invested time and work in this project for some time, it now starts to pay off, so I can pay the school fees of the two orphans I’m taking care of. Instead of feeling angry and disappointed in life, I am happy now, and the future is no longer out of sight.”

The Finest Oil

Rwanda’s fertile hills and temperate climate result in the richest flavors and scents. The geranium plant prospers here and its leaves contain natural essential oil. The geraniums are harvested three times a year and the leaves steam distilled. The resulting oil, known for its unique fragrance, is commonly used in cosmetics, perfumes, and aromatherapy products. Ikirezi Natural Products prioritizes not only the purity and quality of its products but also the impact the business has on its surrounding environment . We are committed to providing a full traceable history (‘from seed to bottle’) of all operations carried out on our organic products. Each batch of geranium oil is tested and analyzed by an independent laboratory trained by Rutgers University to ensure the highest quality. The company’s products are organically certified by ECOCERT.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Women rise in Rwanda's revival
Female entrepreneurs run farms and other businesses following genocide
By Anthony Faiola
The Washington Post

MARABA, Rwanda - Sun-kissed plantations ring this village, renowned in recent years for growing the rich arabica beans brewed and served in some of the world's finest coffee houses. But the secret to success here has had far less to do with the idyllic climate and volcanic soil than with a group of people who have emerged as Maraba's -- and Rwanda's -- most potent economic force: women.

In the 14 years since the genocide, when 800,000 people died during three months of violence, this country has become perhaps the world's leading example of how empowering women can fundamentally transform post-conflict economies and fight the cycle of poverty.

Read the full article:

World Relief has been helping to empower women in Rwanda since 1997 - just three years after the end of the genocide. Urwego Opportunity Microfinance Bank - the current joint venture between World Relief, Hope International, World Relief Canada, and Opportunity International, serves over 30,000 clients - 83% of which are women - with loans and savings services geared to lift the burden of poverty in Rwanda's recovering economy.

Click here for more on UOMB's work.

New Turame video!

Check out the new YouTube video on Turame, World Relief's Microfinance Institution in Burundi!

Produced by Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Michigan.

Learn more about how Mars Hill is engaging in an exciting partnership with Turame to extend outreach of financial services to the poor in Burundi.

Development in the Midst of Insecurity

During the month of April, thousands of Haitians flooded the streets in Port-au-Prince burning tires, looting stores - all in protest of soaring food prices. In Haiti, food prices have increased as much as 45% in less than two years time. Stability was threatened in Burundi, where attacks by the National Liberation Forces (FNL) continue to jeopardize the recovering nation's peace after the end of a twelve year conflict in 2004 - a conflict that killed more than 300,000. In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, hundreds of Congolese living in the Rutshuru area of North Kivu fled recently after renewed violence erupted between the government's soldiers and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda rebel group.

In times of economic and political insecurity, microfinance institutions (MFIs) face threats in their ability to serve clients with loans as the pressure on borrowers to repay intensifies and conflict threatens the stability of markets. Clients struggle with managing an income base that becomes increasingly dedicated towards buying food rather than meeting other consumption needs. World Relief's microfinance sector is not new to these challenges. Since 1991, World Relief microfinance institutions have operated in tense environments where economies have been destroyed by civil, national, and global political conflict and economic collapse. Seven of World Relief's microfinance program countries rank in the bottom one third of the countries listed in the United Nation's 2007/2008 Human Development Index.

Today, World Relief's microfinance institutions continue to play a key role in promoting development in the midst of insecurity. World Relief's MFIs are extending outreach to new clients, expanding geographically with new branches in urban and rural areas, and revising and designing new loan products to better adapt to the business demands and realities clients face.

In Haiti, 3,000 women are organized into small credit groups through FEMA - World Relief's microfinance institution operating in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. In addition to working directly through local markets, FEMA links through local churches and reaches out to beneficiaries of World Relief's Orphan and Vulnerable Children Program, including those who have been affected by the mass HIV/AIDS epidemic in Haiti.

Turame Community Bank (TCB) currently extends financial services to over 11,000 men and women through urban and rural regions of Burundi. Current conflicts in Burundi are exacerbated by generations of ethnic conflict. To respond proactively to the effects of this, community bank groups are being trained in peace and reconciliation curriculum, which emphasizes communication, respect for others, and listening as conflict mitigation strategies. In Turame's Gitega branch and Ruyigi sub-branch, graduates of vocational skills schools, including ex-combatants, are receiving loans through Turame. Soon, these graduates will also be able to access new savings services and asset-based loan products through TCB.

In the North and South Kivu provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Hekima is not only expanding the outreach of the MFI, but is helping two formal microfinance associations to coordinate capacity-building activities and promote best practices to build the entire microfinance sector within the region. In Bukavu, South Kivu, Hekima is reaching vulnerable markets such as the Kadutu market - where women are accessing loans as small as $50. The levels of poverty in this area are amongst the most extreme, as years of inflation and ethnic war completely destroyed the financial sector, including the region's once innovative network of savings and credit cooperatives.

In conflict-affected and economic downtrodden regions of the world, hope in the face of poverty is often difficult to perceive. World Relief's microfinance institutions aim to not only make hope present in the lives of the poor, but to allow hope to thrive through sustainable, transformational change.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Story from Haiti...

Jean Marie Dominique

Bethsaléel association, Dieu Saint-Cité church in Jacmel.

Receiving an initial loan of 3,600 Haitian Gourdes ($96) from FEMA, World Relief's microfinance institution in Haiti, Jean Marie invested the money into her small fish and sardine business. She has prospered and now is on her third loan cycle, with a loan of $8,000 Gourdes ($214). She and her husband raise their seven children. Mrs. Dominique has managed her resources well and now has much more money to invest. She sells cases of chicken and fish imported from Miami. FEMA has enabled her to increase her business revenue, to save some money, and invest in the education of her children.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Big Thanks to our Interns

World Relief would like to thanks Jason and Amy for all their hard work supporting the Economic Development Unit.

Jason has been based in Baltimore for the last 8 months and has provided great support to the team, which has allowed us to improve our provision of microfinance around the world. He is moving on to join FSG Social Impact Consultants in Boston. We wish him all the best.

Amy has been based in Haiti and will be with us for another week in Baltimore but then heads back to Canada to start looking for her next position.

On behalf of World Relief and our partners we wish you both the best in your future careers.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

CREDIT Surpasses $1 million in loans from Kiva!

Kiva - the online marketplace providing individual lenders with the opportunity to lend to entrepreneurs in the developing world - and CREDIT, World Relief's microfinance institution in Cambodia, have partnered together for almost two years. Since the partnership formed, Kiva's lenders have provided over $1 million in loans to CREDIT's clients! Kiva has rated CREDIT with a 5-Star rating, signifying that CREDIT has provided sigificant evidence that its clients have a strong likelihood to repay their loans! CREDIT has a 0% delinquency rate and 0% default rate on Kiva loans! Learn more about CREDIT clients on Kiva's website!

Economic Development at World Relief

World Relief has a long history of providing Economic Development programs in conflict and post-conflict environments.

We currently support Microfinance and Agricultural Development programs in 12 countries providing pro-poor financial services to over 144,000 individuals.

Our Economic Development unit works closely with our Health team to combine HIV/AIDs and Maternal Mothers and Child Health programs to provide a more rounded approach to development.

If you would like to support World Relief please go to our website or contact the Economic Development unit.