Giving The Gift Of Opportunity This Christmas

By Jo Broughton, Lendwithcare

Giving The Gift Of Opportunity This Christmas

When crowdfunding is combined with microfinance, amazing things can happen. Jo Broughton of Lendwithcare, the peer-to-peer microfinancing platform devised by aid and development charity CARE International, says that in the fight against poverty this is a winning combination.

Lendwithcare began in 2010, offering individuals in the UK the chance to club together to finance the businesses, the ambitions and the futures of individual entrepreneurs in some of the poorest countries in the world. As the only such platform backed by an established aid and development agency -with the sole aim of alleviating poverty – we knew we were onto something special.

Crowdfunding a family’s future

Through the Lendwithcare.org website, we offer UK ‘crowdfunders’ the opportunity to choose an individual entrepreneur from a poor community and lend them anything from £15. The UK lender is teamed up with others who wish to support the same person and together they fund the requested loan amount, allowing the entrepreneur to start or expand their small business. And in these communities, that’s life changing: it means they can feed their family and send their children to school.

Beyond basic credit

Lendwithcare began in Togo and Benin, and we’ve since expanded to nine countries across three continents. Wepartner with microfinance institutions that meet our stringent ethical criteria – they must offer vital services aside from basic credit, including micro insurance, financial literacy and business training. They must charge fair and reasonable interest rates and they must help and encourage those they serve to save money as well as, or instead of, borrowing. They must support only businesses that do no harm to the community or environment, favouring those that actively do good.

Four years on, we’ve reached the landmark figure of £5 million, lent by over 18,000 kind-hearted UK investors to 13,716 entrepreneurs. These investments have created 3,479 jobs in poor communities, and provided 64,602 family members with better food, the chance of an education and a more secure future. The numbers speak for themselves, but the individual stories behind the numbers are what really tell us we have created something powerful, sustainable and life-changing.

With credit comes opportunity

Yaya from Togo, a tailor and father of six, was one of the very first entrepreneurs to receive funding from Lendwithcare back in 2010. His loan was for £222.86, which was funded by eight people. With his first Lendwithcare loan, Yaya bought a second sewing machine and some cloth, allowing him to take on an apprentice- increasing his income and creating local employment. Since then, Yaya has continued to expand his business and has been able to buy a small plot of land. With subsequent loans he has begun to build his family home. Yaya says “There has been a big difference between before the loans and now. I am able to send four of my children to school, and hope to send the other two when they are old enough. We are able to eat three meals a day and my business has ensured the health of my family. Recently one of my children was sick but I was able to afford to pay the hospital fees. This is something I would not have been able to do before.”

Carlito Curacha, 64, is a farmer from the Philippines. He used his first Lendwithcare loan of 4,000 pesos (£55) to buy fertiliser, increasing his eggplant harvest from an average of 20 kilos to 110 kilos per week. In the last three years, Carlito has been able to employ four labourers from the local neighbourhood.

Carlito says: “I have learned so many farming skills. My increased harvest has meant I need to hire my neighbours to help, and it has given me the means to pay them. With my farming I hope to improve life for my children, and to send them all to college.”

CARE began Lendwithcare off the back of 40 years of experience in microfinance. We could see that where alleviating poverty can be combined with business, the potential for expansion is enormous – and it’s sustainable. The lenders get their money back; the microfinance institutions can expand their outreach and the individual entrepreneurs can earn a living. And in many cases their lives are transformed.

This Christmas Lendwithcare is offering gift vouchers so your loved ones can give the gift of opportunity. Visit www.lendwithcare.org to change a life with a loan.

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