Monday, October 12, 2009

Economic Development Word of the Day

grubstake (grŭb'stāk') verb. - to provide with material assistance (as a loan) for launching an enterprise or for a person in difficult circumstances.

Linda's parents agreed to grubstake her small water business, providing sufficient funds to get it up and running.

World Relief Microfinance Stats Update

Here are the latest statistics for the World Relief Microfinance Network as of June 30, 2009. The network currently boasts over 205,000 active clients with a gross loan portfolio of close to $45mil USD and overall operational self-sufficiency of 103%! Praise God as we continue to move forward in serving the poor through sustainable microfinance.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Update! Walk For Economic Empowerment

Baltimore | Boston 26 September 2009


The 2009 Walk For Economic Empowerment is nearly here! This Saturday people in Baltimore and Boston will be walking to support World Relief’s Savings For Life programs in Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Malawi.

So far, you have helped us raise over $28,000. We’ve also received gifts from Cambodia, Rwanda, Malawi, Liberia and Tanzania. Our target is to raise $35,000, and it isn’t too late to sign-up and walk, our to sponsor your favorite walker.

Every $25 raised enables World Relief to train someone in financial literacy, helping them learn how to save and effectively manage their money. Working in groups, they are able to lend to one another when they need access to extra capital, either to meet lifecycle events, such as during an illness or in preparation for a wedding, or they can borrow to build an expand a business. By lending funds to one another they receive interest payments that grow their assets even further.

Help us empower more people, sign-up to walk or sponsor your favorite walker

Smile with Me!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Turame Community Finance Staff Profile - Rose Niyonizigiye

Staff: Rose Niyonizigiye
TURAME Branch: Bujumbura Office
Position: Loan Officer

image Rose sits at her desk with a deep sense of satisfaction; her journey leading to TURAME has been a particularly long one filled with many difficulties. Rose is married and mother to five children, the first of which is attending Hope University of Africa. She is also the guardian of two additional children of her husband’s relative.

From 2004 to 2006, Rose was unemployed, and with such a large family to support she found herself in desperate circumstances. Prior to 2004, Rose had been working on a project called FEPADE with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees), a UN agency that protects and supports refugees around the world. Unfortunately, she had come under corrupt leadership. The leaders of the project stole a sum equivalent to about $300,000; FEPADE was left financially stranded. After working for two months without pay, she had no choice but to leave.

During her time of unemployment, Rose had to rely on income generated from selling phone cards to send her children to school. She found herself contemplating evicting the two children of her husband’s relative. However, she stalled her decision upon hearing about loan possibilities from a community bank called TURAME. She applied for loans from TURAME and eventually became the leader of her community bank group. After three months of being a client, Rose learned of a job opening at the bank and applied. In time, she was hired.

When asked what she has gained by being a part of the TURAME staff, Rose responded by saying she had no appropriate words to answer with, she simply gave thanks and glory to God for her employment. She no longer has to deliberate evicting the two children as she is able to fund all her children’s education. Furthermore, TURAME has provided her with employee loans with which she has bought school supplies and a plot of land.

Rose wishes to continue to serve TURAME diligently. She also hopes that the entire TURAME staff will continue to work in Christ, if they do, she believes nothing can stop TURAME from reaching sustainability. She concluded with a prayer request that alluded to Matthew 6:19-24: that “moth and rust” would not destroy TURAME, but that in seeking after “treasures in heaven”, they would become an enduring institution.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Bernadette’s Story – Turame Community Finance, Burundi

Bernadette Nzeyimana
Community Bank Group: “Tuyage” (Let us Converse)
Location: Ngozi


Bernadette is a very tall elegant woman with a wide smile. Because of the war in Burundi, Bernadette was widowed in 2000 and left to care for her eight children - five daughters and three sons - on her own. However, her entrepreneurial skills have enabled her to provide for her family.

Today she runs a wholesale business of ground paddy rice. She has increased the sizes of her loans from 60,000 BIF (Burundian Francs) to 260,000 BIF in her fifth loan cycle. With pride she describe the way she is now able to provide for her entire family. “I’ve never missed any meal for my family.

I’ve got this place [in Ngozi Central Market] for my business and have already bought a parcel of land. Adding to this, I am able to pay my rent, reimburse my loans and remain with a benefit [profit].”

Bernadette says she enjoys being with the other community bank group members, making friendships and supporting each other. In the future she hopes to take a loan out for 500,000 BIF in order to purchase goats and cows.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How did I get here?

Tonight I was sitting and reading, Attacking Poverty in the Developing World, which is a collection of Essays edited by Judy Dean (et al) who is a World Relief board member. The book reviews a range of issues, including Health, Agriculture and Access to Finance. All of a sudden I was hit (again) by the enormity of the work that I am involved with. Poverty is incomprehensibly huge and yet I am involved in helping alleviate it. I sat on the edge of Lake Kivu and reflected that I am the Chairman of the largest microfinance institution (MFI) in Eastern Congo, on the Board of both an influential MFI in Burundi and one of the fastest growing banks in Rwanda.

How did that happen? Why me? It doesn’t make sense to me!

I have never been amazing at school, although I didn’t really have to work very hard. Truth be told I was pretty lazy and I could have achieved so much more academically. However, I did grow up in a Church that somewhat focuses on development programs, locally and internationally. The Salvation Army is probably known to many of you for it’s thrift stores and McDonalds Billions. But did you know it works in 119 countries? My siblings and I are the 5th generation of my family to be involved in ‘The Army’. There are three generations playing in my home ‘corps’ (church) brass band. At one time we had my Mother’s Father and my Dad’s Uncle, along with my Dad, my Brother and myself. My brother currently leads the young people’s band and my home corps, and my sister is involved in the young people’s ministry where she attends. Suffice to say, my family take the responsibility (and The Army) very seriously. In 1995 I was also privileged enough to travel with my brass band to set up a music school in Ghana.

So, growing up in an environment that was mission led, I was always involved in something. Whether it was spending Christmas Day playing carols to those in Hospital and feeding the elderly at church, or participating in the annual ‘self-denial’ appeal for international development, whereby you sacrifice something and give the saved money to the church for development work. I guess I have always been aware of the needs of those who have been less fortunate than I have.

I studied economics at university, and during the summers I went to New Jersey to work at a Salvation Army camp for underprivileged children. I remember saying to one of the counselors that I wanted to ‘save the poor with economics’. At that time I hadn’t even heard of microfinance or World Relief, all I knew was that there was no reason for inequalities. If the market was perfect then they would operate right up until the margin (until they do not make any more profit), and that there must be a way to make a ‘profit’ from providing services to the poor. What I saw when I looked at the current situation was that the markets were lazy, they hadn’t tried to use new technology and other resources to reach deeper into society. I also saw that those who did exploited the poor and made very large profits. There had to be a better way.

During my final years of study I learned about The Salvation Army’s Mustard Seed project in Tanzania. A small microcredit program that helped women build businesses and take steps out of poverty. I contacted The Army’s International Development department and asked them about the program. Mistakenly, I tried to write my final year dissertation on the impact of microfinance in Southern Tanzania. While I was talking to The Army about their work, I asked them if they had any vacant positions, thinking that I could take an admin job while I learnt more about international development. While I was working things out with The Army, I took a job at Royal Bank of Scotland in their Intermediary Sales department. I was doing very well and I could see a career developing in banking in the UK, just like my Father had. I also interviewed for a position with a private equity firm, they were looking to offer me the position, but I was waiting to hear from The Army about a position to manage their Tanzanian microcredit program. Would I take a high paying investment banking position or a very low paying NGO job?

Eventually, The Army asked me to manage the program for two years, and it was too hard to resist. I had to get back to Africa, Ghana had such an impact on me and finally I’d found away I could use economics to help people. The program went well, we expanded outreach, managed our liquidity and risk and opened a second branch. It is still running and I keep in touch with the team. After Tanzania I went back to the UK to rest. I quickly took a job in the Civil Service, working in the Permanent Secretary’s Private Office in the Department for Constitutional Affairs (now the Justice Department). I was responsible for the Permanent Secretary’s outward communications and internet presence. I was responsible for writing letters to Lords and Ladies. We had an office in Victoria and one in the House of Lords. After the opening of Parliament I struck up a conversation with the Bishop of London, and at Christmas I received a gift from the Lord Chancellor and the then Permanent Secretary and now head of the joint intelligence committee, Alex Allen. How on earth did I get there from rural Tanzania?!

I didn’t last there long. I missed Africa and working with the most vulnerable. So, I stated to apply for jobs in the microfinance field, but with only two years international experience from straight out of university I didn’t have many choices. However, I applied for a job with World Relief in Liberia, they asked for 5+ years experience and I thought I’d never get it. I guess they were desperate as one Friday night when I was trying to get the tube home I got a call from the guy who would become my boss, Richard Schroeder (now of World Hope International). I also met my future wife, as she prepared me to head out.

I signed up to working for LEAP Liberia for just one year, the idea was that I’d provide technical assistance to the managing director but she ended up going on maternity leave and I was moved in to her position. That year was tough. I had to let half the staff go because we didn’t have enough clients to keep everybody on staff. We also had some fraud which meant I had to fire the Accountant and Internal Auditor. We redeveloped the policies and procedures and got the program back up and running. It was very satisfying to rebuild the program, but again I was ready to head back to the UK.

I started looking for jobs, and I came across a Financial Economist position in the Economist. Again, this was a job I never thought I’d get. The firm flew me out from Liberia for an interview, and a few weeks later they offered me the job. I spent my time providing technical support to a microfinance bank in Tajikistan, writing proposals to DFID, the World Bank and others. I travelled to Bangladesh, Ghana and other places trying to put together a portfolio of projects. We came close to winning the project in Ghana, we heard we had won but they did a recount and we ended up second. Very frustrating. Unfortunately, the finance development department hadn’t made a profit for several years and so we were all made redundant. Fortunately, I was able to find some consulting work with UNDP in Pakistan and World Relief in Mozambique while I applied for other jobs.

At the same time World Relief was looking for a microfinance technical advisor, so I applied for the position and was able to secure a transfer visa from Liberia to Baltimore. After a few months, I was promoted to Deputy Director of Economic Development and I subsequently found myself on the boards of all these MFIs and managing the development of our Savings For Life programs. I feel really privileged to be able to do a job I am passionate about, but it is also very humbling to have all this responsibility.

Every time I come to visit the microfinance institutions I am reminded of this responsibility. Our clients have tremendous stories. Having access to financial services has allowed many to build successful businesses and smooth their income during difficult times. It is amazing how effective microfinance institutions can be. Even though this career is what I wanted, I never thought I’d be in the position I am now. I am grateful for the belief World Relief have had in me and the support of our donors in the US. Thank you for your continued support.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

World Relief at the Old Ball Game

The World Relief international programs team took the afternoon off to watch the Baltimore Orioles against the Boston Red Socks. In other news, we welcome Derek Wardlaw and his family to Kosovo to manage the BZMF program.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Muhammad Yunus at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore - April 20 2009

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus to Speak on How Social Business can Transforms Lives, April 20

Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, author, and founder of Grameen Bank, will discuss how the dynamics of capitalism can be applied to some of society's greatest challenges on Monday, April 20 at 6 p.m., in a special presentation at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St., near the UB campus. Sponsored by the University of Baltimore's Merrick School of Business, this presentation marks the school's commitment to inspiring and educating students to become globally responsible leaders.

Saturday, February 28, 2009