Photo: CARE/Jon Spaull
Realising Everyone’s Potential to Work their Way out of Poverty
Two weeks ago I went to Bosnia, the latest country to join lendwithcare.org - CARE International UK’s leading new micro-lending website.
Landing in Sarajevo 19 years after I was last there during the war, I was quite surprised to see a lot of buildings and infrastructure are still in the same poor condition as they were then, some exactly as I last saw them.
We travelled to Srebrenica which economically and physically appears to still be in a very bad way. Buildings still bear bullet marks from the conflict. The economy of Bosnia-Herzegovina has slowed down considerably, particularly since 2008, and as a result approximately 40 per cent of working age people are unemployed.
Clearly, many families are in a very vulnerable situation. Thousands of fathers were killed in the war, leaving mothers to care for children and make a living for their families alone. Many are struggling and a large number are still reliant on food kitchens to keep their family together.
A positive story
One positive story, however, was a woman named is Nermina. She is now 51-years-old and lost her husband in the 1995 massacre. She was left alone with three young children to look after, all under the age of five. In recent years, Nermina has benefitted significantly from education, training and loans through Lendwithcare’s partner and is now able to support all three children - with income from a greenhouse and an agricultural smallholding concentrating on chickens.
Lendwithcare gives vulnerable families the opportunity to stabilise their lives - the idea is that individuals in the UK make small loans to entrepreneurs in a poor community. So far 100% percent of the loans that should have been have been repaid – that’s a pretty enviable record that banks here in the UK would be very happy with. When you make a loan to a Lendwithcare beneficiary, which I have done several times, you receive updates on a regular basis and repayments on your loan.
While in Bosnia I also met inspiring staff from CARE’s women’s empowerment project and discussed the issue of the sex trade that has affected a large number of young women in this country. I see a really positive link with the Lendwithcare programmes as this will allow affected women to change their lives and start building a legitimate small-scale business as an alternative to the dreadful life they’ve had to lead.
At CARE we believe in realising everyone’s potential to work their way out of poverty.
We have decades of experience in breaking down barriers to opportunity and giving people the chance to make a decent, dignified living. We are leaders in implementing microfinance solutions to poverty, and have seen the powerful effect this can have in transforming people’s lives.
We believe affordable financial services can help the poorest earn a living, grow their businesses and create new jobs, pulling whole communities out of poverty.
Lendwithcare.org is just the latest manifestation of these beliefs, twenty years ago CARE developed Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA): a way to help the poorest, most marginalised people whereby community members pool their resources to create a kind of village bank. The (mostly female) groups pool their savings and ultimately use these savings to make loans to individual members. Groups are also given support and provided with training in basic financial principles. CARE provides more Africans access to financial services than any other international organization through Village Savings and Loans Associations
Last year, CARE helped more than 17 million people improve their household income through increased access to financial and non-financial services, participation in village savings and loan associations, market linkages and diversified livelihoods.
We feel there is great potential in the future to link these Village Savings and Loans Groups with the trusted Microfinance Institutions that we work with on lendwithcare.org, giving people the opportunity to graduate on to the next level of saving and credit products that they need to expand their small business ventures.
Lendwithcare operates in Togo, Benin the Philippines, Cambodia and now Bosnia, I’ve seen it in operation a few times now and I’m very impressed with the effect it has. I am a great believer in building self sustainable programmes so people don’t have to continue to rely on organisations like CARE. The effect of these small loans is genuinely life changing and they completely restore the dignity of families who do not want to rely on handouts.
As you will know from the Business Fights Poverty Christmas iPad2 appeal, Lendwithcare.org now offers gift vouchers to make it easy to share this opportunity with others. Please do ask your friends and colleagues to join the Business Fights Poverty network, and also go to www.lendwithcare.org, where you can see numerous entrepreneurs and opportunities to make a loan which really will substantially assist a less fortunate family at this time of year. It is not too late as vouchers can be either downloaded and printed or emailed immediately.
We really hope the Business Fights Poverty Network gets behind the lendwithcare.org gift vouchers. What a wonderful way to invest in improving the life of a vulnerable family at Christmas time. Every staff member in CARE International UK is making a loan on Lendwithcare.org this Christmas and we hope you will join us in doing the same. Happy Christmas.