Saturday, February 15, 2014

Micro-lending

Courtesy of Unbound
Thursday night, I was able to attend an Unbound event, featuring Lillian, a woman working in Kenya as the director of the mother's groups for Unbound's Nairobi project. Lillian is an energetic woman with an eye for what really goes on in the sponsored families' homes. She grew up in a family with nine children in Mombasa, Kenya, which allows her to connect her own experiences with others around her. The event enabled people in the community to learn more about Unbound, the micro-lending program through mother's groups, and to socialize.

Courtesy of Unboud
The program began with time to socialize and then after an introduction by Elizabeth Alex, Director of New Channels, and Scott Wasserman, the newly elected CEO, Lillian began to talk about herself and her projects through compelling and entertaining stories using straight-forward language. Unbound's mother's  programs allow mothers of sponsored children in a community to meet together to support each other under the umbrella of the unbound community. These mothers represent their families, meeting once a month to discuss their community and what they can do to support them. 
Courtesy of Unbound

The most unique part about this group is their micro-lending programs. The women are encouraged to donate just about $1.10 per month to a group "pool", which unbound matches. At any given time, a mother can approach the group to request a loan to start their own business, expand a business, pay for a child's school tuition, or pay for medical expenses. 70% of the loans requested are to support businesses. These businesses may be raising poultry, farming, providing laundry services, or perhaps creating necklace and bracelets through intricate bead work. The loans allow the women to make the investment needed to start these businesses and then make money to support the family. 

Courtesy of Unbound
Lillian shared how important this income is to the family in this way: if a family does not have a steady job, the mother or father might go out in the community to find a job as a daily laborer. If they come home without having found a job, this also means that the family will not have a meal to feed their children. Lillian shared stories of mothers placing a pot on the stove without starting the fire, and then when their children ask "Mom, when is dinner" she simply says, "Its being cooked, just be patient". Eventually the children fall asleep without realizing they didn't have dinner, carrying them over into another day. These tactics are heart-breaking for these mothers and can cause fights for the parents. By allowing the mothers to start their own business, they no longer have to worry about whether or not they can provide a meal for their family, which provides huge ripple effects for everyone in the community. 






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