4 interventions to help victims of trauma find hope and dignity

Josh Goldstein_keynote speech

Josh Goldstein (CFI) gives a keynote speech at the 8th Annual PCAF Pan-African Psychotrauma Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, a multidisciplinary event that focuses on psychological trauma in Africa’s war-affected societies. Photo: Josh Goldstein

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The Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion has made a Campaign Commitment to bring greater attention to the issue of aging and financial services and further support the inclusion of those with disabilities. Learn how you can join the global coalition of organizations working to help 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

Read the full text of Josh Goldstein’s keynote speech.


>>Josh Goldstein, Vice President, Economic Citizenship & Disability Inclusion, The Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

“Over a sixth of the world’s population has directly experienced armed conflict, torture, terrorism, sexual and gender-based violence, ethnic cleansing or genocide.”
— The Peter C. Alderman Foundation (PCAF) website

I recently attended the 8th Annual PCAF Pan-African Psychotrauma Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, a multidisciplinary event that focuses on psychological trauma in Africa’s war-affected societies. PCAF operates mental health clinics in Cambodia, Kenya, Liberia, and Uganda and conducts trainings for mental health professionals. At the conference,I was surrounded by global leaders from health care, academia, and a litany of organizations working in the mental health space.

At first blush, my placement at such an event might seem odd as my work focuses on disability inclusion for microfinance. But, I’d argue that’s more of a reflection of how society, and our industry, views mental disabilities — with reductive biases — rather than how they fit within microfinance.

I had the privilege of presenting a keynote to the attendees. I discussed whether it’s possible for trauma patients who have gone through a successful course treatment that includes counseling, medication, and livelihood trainings to become clients of microfinance institutions (MFI) and build small-sized enterprises. Immediately below is an abridged version of my speech, with the complete text linked at the end.

Can MFIs help victims of trauma find hope and dignity through self-employment?

Josh Goldstein_keynote speech_portAs a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) survivor myself from the U.S., who received treatment, I believe with all my heart that in a just society poor people with mental health challenges should get the help they need so they can flourish as human beings. Unfortunately, in the international development world I come from, this great cause is barely on the radar — in spite of the fact that reaching the most destitute is at the urgent core of all international development work. Indeed, I share your outrage at the paucity of funding and support for community mental health from governments and foundations.

But, why self-employment for those with mental health issues like PTSD? Why not go find a job and work for a business that provides a regular paycheck? Isn’t that easier and more secure? Of course it is. Most clients of MFIs are what we call “necessity entrepreneurs” and would rather have such jobs than start their own businesses. But, the sobering reality of limited formal sector employment opportunities across Africa makes finding such jobs for persons with physical disabilities, let alone psychosocial disabilities, even more challenging than it would be otherwise. Even in my country, the United States, unemployment of persons with disabilities in the formal workplace remains unconscionably high.

But are such financial products like credit or savings a good idea for someone with PTSD? For example, would the effort to save or borrow money bring greater stress? There is no easy answer based on my cursory review of the very limited research studies to date — the results are ambiguous and prove nothing conclusive one way or the other. What we do know, thanks to PCAF Uganda Program Director Dorothy Kizza, is that relapsing back into mental illness is often caused by a lack of employment. So, on balance, the stress of not working may be equally or more stressful than paying back a working capital loan which at least holds the promise of a more hopeful future. My own hunch is that the answer will only be decided on a case-by-case basis and so no generalization is really possible.

What seems beyond doubt, as Crick Lund, a professor at the University of South Africa and CEO of PRIME, a consortium of research institutions and ministries of health, has written, “is [the] growing international evidence that mental ill health and poverty interact in a negative cycle. This cycle increases the risk of mental illness among people who live in poverty and increases the likelihood that those living with mental illness will drift into or remain in poverty.” A big-picture study from the Harvard School of Public Health and the World Economic Forum estimates that the cumulative global impact of mental disorders in terms of lost economic output will amount to US$16.3 trillion between 2011 and 2030.

I am happy to say that the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) and its allied partners working on disability inclusion have begun to demonstrate significant success in including persons with physical disabilities in microfinance in Bangladesh, Ecuador, India, Nigeria, Paraguay, and Uganda, and I hope we can expand this initiative to include persons with mental health issues.

However, achieving the progress needed to financially include people with physical disabilities is not the same as that of including people with mental health issues. Persons with psychosocial disabilities in Africa and in many other places in the world are, in the words of Nigerian healthcare advocate Ifesinanchi Sam-Emurwa, “doubly stigmatized” for having a disability and for that disability being a mental one.

And, to paraphrase remarks by Columbia University psychiatrist Dr. Evaristo Akerele, who spoke this past June at the only mental health session on psychosocial disabilities at the U.N. Conference of State Parties annual disability conference: The person with mental health issues is blamed for bringing what psychiatrists call depression, or anxiety, on themselves. Beliefs such as that God is upset with them, that drug use is to blame, that witchcraft is at work, are all common. In most places, the term “depression” is not culturally acceptable or even understood; there is not an accepted and shared nomenclature for describing mental suffering.

An interesting example of how this “double stigma” plays out also comes from Nigeria, in the financial services arena. The Central Bank of Nigeria recently earmarked US$20 million to financial service providers to make loans to persons with disabilities — a great step forward. But, it explicitly excluded persons with mental health disabilities as recipients of these loans.

So, what can be done to improve the situation? I want to suggest five of the biggest challenges we face and interventions that I believe we can undertake together to answer these challenges and improve the livelihood possibilities of persons with psychosocial disabilities. I hope this will form the beginning of an action plan.

Challenge 1: How can the staff of an MFI with no training in psychology even begin to identify clients with mental health issues if there are no common, agreed on terms of reference for describing distressed states of mind? How do we sensitize staff to work with this client segment?

It is relatively easy to determine a baseline of the numbers of persons with physical disabilities who are clients, by asking medically non-invasive questions (or just through observation) about their state of wellness. Unless a person with mental health issues self-discloses, it is impossible to know if they are suffering from a depressive, anxiety, or other disorder.

Intervention: Volunteers from the mental disability space, like attendees of these annual PCAF Conferences,can help financial service providers design survey questions that allow MFI staff to get a better count of current clients with mental health issues. These volunteers along with PTSD survivors themselves can help sensitize MFI staff on how to best reach out to persons with mental health disabilities. They can connect MFIs with community mental health leaders and, in particular, patient advocates. These learnings can then be incorporated into the Framework for Disability Inclusion so that a set of best practices can be developed and shared with MFIs from around the world.

Challenge 2: Access and support for basic capital and business training for persons with psychosocial disabilities is largely lacking.

Intervention: Connect PCAF graduates, and those of other mental health clinics that include business training, to microfinance providers, credit unions, self-help savings groups, and otherproviders offering group-based financial services as well as enterprise-building support to professionalize the business training and operations of the clinic patients. The natural intermediary to make first contact with the MFI or other provider might be the PCAF social worker, during their weekly or monthly follow up outreach to former PCAF patients in their villages, homes,and workplaces.

Just as CFI identified two or three institutions in India that were eager to do a pilot to include persons with disabilities in their programs, we can work to identify two or three MFIs in the PCAF countries of Cambodia, Kenya, Liberia, and Uganda who want to be leaders in including persons with psychosocial disabilities in credit and/or savings groups. Success is promising here since a portion of PCAF livelihood trainings are done in groups,suggesting that the transition to group lending methodologies could prove to be quite natural and comfortable.

Challenge 3: The United Nations (U.N.) does not do enough to recognize the importance of mental health disabilities — when it comes to collecting good statistics, when it comes to prioritizing it as a Sustainable Development Goal to reduce extreme poverty, when it comes to seeing therapeutic intervention as a significant part of the Constitution on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities treaty.

Intervention: Those working in this field and other interested parties should lobby the Washington Group on Disability Statistics (the U.N. body charged with disability statistics) to include a specific question on mental health in its so-called “short set” of questions that it provides to governments that do censuses and disability surveys. Similarly, while they’re still being shaped, pressure should be applied to modify the Sustainable Development Goals to include much stronger language on mental health.

Finally, there must be concerted lobbying by PCAF, and others, to ensure that in implementing the articles of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the right to receive treatment for mental health ills gets equal billing with assuring the right to vote and enjoy equal protection before the law. If this does not happen, it will be much harder for mental health practitioners to obtain funding from governments and foundations to expand their community mental health programs — something critically important in countries like Burundi that have only one psychiatrist in the whole country!

Challenge 4: To create a new set of global standards and indicators for microfinance institutions and other financial service providers to follow that will establish the importance of and offer guidance on serving PTSD survivors and other persons with psychosocial disabilities.

Intervention: The CFI will work collaboratively to push the microfinance industry-wide standard-setters to add mental health indicators. With the help of key industry standard-setting groups, I believe that we can help to break down the attitudinal barriers that keep persons with psychosocial disabilities in extreme poverty unbanked and stigmatized. For example, I am delighted to announce that the Poverty Stoplight has offered to take the lead in creating a mental health indicator for its assessment tool. The Poverty Stoplight set of indicators, pioneered by Fundación Paraguaya and now used around the world, sees poverty as multidimensional and have developed a tool that allows the poor to measure their own poverty, broken down into different categories. Adding a mental health indicator could be a source of data that could be used not only by MFIs but by local community mental health leaders and other public health providers.

Freedom from Hunger in conjunction with the Microcredit Summit Campaign has just published a new guide called “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: How Microfinance Can Track the Health of Clients,” in which they share experiences in selecting and pilot-testing health indicators among four MFIs. The researchers asked questions around six health indicators: food security and nutrition, preventive health care, poverty, curative health care, sanitation and safe water, and attitudes. The results demonstrated the added value of health indicators when combined with poverty measurement in helping MFIs understand client well-being. Their “theory of change” is that with greater financial resources, the clients will be able to meet their essential needs as outlined above — like having cleaning water or improved nutrition. I have consulted with the guide’s author, Bobbi Gray, and she is very willing to work with us to see if we can help her develop a seventh indicator around mental health — which is great news.

My conclusion is that self-employment can offer dignity and hope to persons recovering from mental illness. And, that like persons with physical disabilities, many can make excellent clients. I think it is worth exploring how we can do more to connect to PTSD survivors with MFIs and other financial service providers to open their doors to PCAF clients and those of other clinics. At the very least, this initiative will help fight stigma and bring down attitudinal barriers. Let us see what works and what sticks. It is certainly worth a try.

Read the full text of Josh Goldstein’s keynote speech.


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Connecting across continents at the RESULTS International Conference

Join us at the 2015 RESULTS International Conference in Washington, D.C., this July 18-21. Leading poverty experts, activists, policymakers, and YOU will convene for a unique conference that mixes an educational experience and advocacy opportunities around increased access to education, health, and economic opportunity. Together, we can change the world!

Join us at the 2015 RESULTS International Conference in Washington, D.C., this July 18-21. Leading poverty experts, activists, policymakers, and YOU will convene for a unique conference that mixes an educational experience and advocacy opportunities around increased access to education, health, and economic opportunity. Together, we can change the world!

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This article was originally posted by RESULTS on April 16, 2015. Re-posted with permission. KANCO, the Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium, is a member of the ACTION global health advocacy partnership with RESULTS.

>>Authored by Joyce Matogo, KANCO Grassroots Manager.

“Connecting with other human beings about issues that affect human beings, you’re able to relate to these issues more closely…. When you step outside of your own continent and see other people who have good will, other people who care, it’s very empowering.”

I never thought I’d go to the U.S., much less Capitol Hill. But on the last day of the RESULTS International Conference, that’s exactly where I found myself. Standing in front of the Capitol dome with hundreds of other advocates, all I could think was, “This is a central place of power. Decisions are made here. And here I am, giving the human face to the vaccines issue.”

When I went back home to Kenya, I used the lessons that I learned at the conference to arrange an advocacy day and implement the RESULTS organizing model. I wanted grassroots volunteers in Kenya to feel the same sense of empowerment that I felt when I advocated in Washington. When our grassroots sat down with members of Parliament, they were well prepared to inform their MPs about the TB epidemic, explain the value of vaccines, and communicate a clear call to action.

Just like at the International Conference, our grassroots were ready to discuss not only problems but also solutions. Later that day, an MP that we’d spoken with brought our legislative ask on tuberculosis to the floor of Parliament. This prompted discussion on the deteriorating status of health in the country. The event was so successful that the Kenyan government expanded funding for immunizations and tuberculosis.

The RESULTS International Conference was an eye opener for me. I realized that anyone and everyone can be an advocate for issues that matter. I encourage you to come to the conference this year to see the success of our efforts. Let’s celebrate our incredible progress and encourage each other to keep going.

Want to have your own experience lobbying on Capitol Hill? Join RESULTS and attend the International Conference.

Who will pay for the end of poverty?

RESULTS UK is launching a report called 'Who Pays for Progress?' at Addis. It is an in-depth study that looks at one country and one sector - health in Kenya - to unpick that complexity and give some guidance as to what really matters when trying to decide the right financing mix.

RESULTS UK launched a report called ‘Who Pays for Progress?’ at the Financing for Growth conference in Addis Ababa. It is an in-depth study that looks at one country and one sector — health in Kenya — to unpick that complexity and give some guidance as to what really matters when trying to decide the right financing mix. Download the report.

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On Monday, RESULTS UK (a sister organization to our RESULTS Educational Fund) released a report at the Financing for Growth conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, (which is happening right now) where the global community is negotiating who will foot the bill to eradicate poverty. 

Titled “Who Pays for Progress? The Role of Domestic Resource Mobilisation and Development Assistance in Financing Health. A Case Study from Kenya,” RESULTS UK’s report focuses on Kenya’s reclassification from a low-income country (LIC) to a lower-middle-income country (LMIC) and how that reclassification will affect financing for health needs in Kenya. Oxley’s HuffPo article lays out RESULTS’ argument for strong and ambitious commitments from the global community to finance the next phase of development goals and the end of poverty. He closes his article with this warning:

The draft text of the Addis Ababa Accord has recently been weakened. We’ve lost time-bound commitments for rich countries to meet their aid-giving targets…If our leaders cannot make the political decisions and show the leadership necessary to ensure we have the funding needed to build a more just and equitable world, then history will judge us harshly. I, for one, want to be able to say it was this generation that finished off poverty. And I know we can.

The following article by Aaron Oxley (executive director of RESULTS UK) was originally posted on Huffington Post on July 8, 2015. Read Oxley’s article below for inspiration, and to the 2015 RESULTS International Conference (July 18-21) to learn how you can make a difference and influence policy making. 


One of the things I love about my job is that I get to be optimistic every day. That’s because I, and my colleagues working in international development, look at the problems of the world that are rooted in poverty and inequality, and refuse to accept that the world is not smart enough or rich enough to defeat them.

The evidence of history is on our side. Since the year 2000 the world has halved the number of people living in extreme poverty, the mortality rate for children under five has dropped almost 50%, millions more children live past their fifth birthday, and 90% of children now attend primary school. It’s been the best 15 years our species has had in its entire existence, with 1.7 billion undernourished people in 1999 dropping to ‘just’ 836m today. While we have a long way to go, that’s staggering progress.

That poverty still exists is a question of politics. Should we get the politics right, we can continue and accelerate those rapid gains and, truly, wipe out poverty in the next 15 years. At which point I’ll be happily out of a job.

This year, the world is coming together in a series of global meetings to decide the level of political ambition we’ll bring to the eradication of poverty. If we aim high, I get to head off to a beach somewhere in 2030. If we fail, the price isn’t just that my retirement is delayed: it means more human suffering and unnecessary death, a drag on economic growth that hurts us all, and wastes the potential of hundreds of millions of lives.

The first of those critical meetings is the Financing for Growth conference in Addis Ababa, happening from the 13th to 16th of July. This conference is all about the money: how are we going to pay for the end of poverty, and who will pay for what? I’d assert that money is not the most important element in ending global poverty, but it’s clear that so much simply cannot and will not happen without it.

Continue reading…

Aaron Oxley with John Mathai of Global Health Advocates India and a RESULTS US grassroots volunteer at the 2011 RESULTS International Conference.
Follow Aaron Oxley on Twitter: @ATOxley

#tbt: Microfinance Revolution at the Very Bottom

#Tbt_6

Keynote speakers of the 2004 Microcredit Summit in Bangladesh. Begum Khaleda Zia, then Prime Minister of Bangladesh, was the “chief guest.”

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We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2007. We hope this will encourage you to reflect on both how long we have been fighting to convince the policy makers (and other doubters) that microfinance can reach the extreme poor as well as be inspired by our early revolutionaries.


Microfinance Revolution at the Very Bottom: A Radical Departure

The following is an excerpt from an interview Campaign Director Sam Daley-Harris conducted with Jamii Bora founder Ingrid Munro in October 2007.

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April is the Month of Microfinance
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Microcredit Summit Campaign: RESULTS volunteers in the United States and in other countries have been working for four years to get half of World Bank microfinance funds to those living on less than a dollar a day. The arguments that come from the World Bank and others is that you cannot reach the very poor with microfinance, they need safety nets first. The president of the World Bank said this in an October 2007 meeting with 29 members of the U.S. Congress. Do you agree with this position?

Ingrid Munro: I don’t agree with that at all, because in Jamii Bora we know that you can reach the very poor. Not just reach them, not just feel sorry for them, pat them on the head and say, we are going to help you to come above the poverty line…

Our experience is, first of all, the most desperate are the ones that need microfinance the most, and they can handle it, we have proven that. It’s not something that is a theory, it is a proven fact…The poorer they are, the more they need the microfinance. And, they don’t need charity because charity is a way to keep people down. If we keep saying, “I feel very sorry for you because you can’t manage this yourself,” you start thinking [to yourself], “I should feel sorry for [myself] because I can’t manage [on my own].”

But, if we say to you, “You can make it. You have talents. God has given you talents like He has given everybody talents, and He wants you to use them.” And [if] you see some of your friends who were begging beside you on the same street now walk around in nice dresses, their children are in school, they eat three meals a day, they live in a better house — then you also dare to dream that that is possible for [you too].

Microcredit Summit Campaign: You say that some groups have tried to do what you do in reaching the very poor, but they get their fingers burned. What are some of the principles that can allow microfinance to succeed when you work with beggars, landless laborers, and prostitutes?

Ingrid Munro: …You have to be very close. You see, the beggar is a professional, it is a profession in itself. So, if you come and give a beggar $100, and say, “You go and start a business,” they will run away with that money. You have to prepare everybody for what it is, and we think you have to start by getting them to save, because then they are in that habit of setting aside a bit of money every day. That makes it easy for them to pay back the loan.

You also have to be there and encourage them when the problems come. The city authorities chase you away from where you are doing your business. A police officer might even take your goods, or thieves break in to your little kiosk, or you have a fire that [burns] down everything. You can’t be like a normal bank and say, “Okay, we will still hunt you. You have to bring the money back.” [Instead] you come together and say, “Now how do we solve this situation?” And you help them get on their feet so they are helped to pay back the old loan, but also a new loan. It’s a matter of being there all the time and understanding.

If you are naïve and you just go up to somebody who you haven’t spoken to about a loan, who doesn’t know [your] group, who doesn’t trust you…and you say, “Here’s $100, go start a business,” then you will lose that money. And there are naïve people who do that, and I think those are the ones who are spreading this dangerous message that you can’t reach the very poor, because they’ve done it the wrong way themselves, not because you can’t reach the very poor. I invite anyone who doubts to come visit us…

In that sense I think we are a movement, a people’s own movement, more than we are an institution, a normal financial institution. But we’re still microfinance.

Microcredit Summit Campaign: There are so many different things that Jamii Bora does from housing to the “get sober” program. Please talk about another of your innovative offerings, health insurance. How did it come about, what does it costs, and what are the benefits?

Ingrid Munro: In early 2001 we were one year and a few months old. We realized we had some people who were…falling behind in their repayments. So we decided to make a hundred percent research. We would visit every single one of them with our staff and try to note down what are [their] problems. Why can you not pay?

It was such a shocking result. We found that 93 percent had the same problem, they had a patient in hospital…It means my son, my daughter, my baby, my grandchild, or my spouse, or my sister — somebody very close to [them] had to be admitted in hospital, otherwise they would die. Now, of course, you can’t expect that anyone will let their child die because they have to pay their loan to Jamii Bora. So, it was clear to us, this was something we could not compete with. This was something that we had to solve.

So we went to all the insurance companies and asked, “Could you develop an insurance product for us?” They said, “Oh yes, yes.”

We had 6,000 members in those days, and they thought that was a lot. But the cheapest they could come up with was 6,000 shillings, and 6,000 shillings is about US$80 per year. And, US$80 per year, if you are a single mother with five children, you see, you have to [multiply that] times six. That is a lot of money. That is way above what anyone could dream of.

We then decided we’ll start our own in-house product. Everyone told me, “Now Ingrid, you are killing this beautiful organization. This will pull you down. It will not work.” But we never did any research. We sat in a group of staff with a lot of knowledge about our members. We decided we could charge 1,000 shillings a year, which was US$12 at the time, on condition that the members could pay every week, a small amount (about 30 cents US), and they didn’t have to pay everything up front. And, we decided it would cover an adult member and a maximum of four dependent kids. If they had more than four kids, they would add an extra US$2 per child per year. We would cover in-patient, that is, treatment in hospital. If they came into hospital, we would cover everything.

We started by linking up with one of the big mission hospitals in Nairobi. We said, “We’ll give you a deposit of what we think it could cost per month,” because mission hospitals cannot afford to give you services on credit. So we paid them up front. Then our members would come with a letter from us saying, “This patient has health insurance from us and please treat her. If she has to be admitted, we will pay everything.”

There was not more research than that. The background was, “This is what our members can afford to pay and we have to get it to work.” Over time, this has become a most incredible part of our organization. We also decided weren’t going to ask for any donor funding, because then they would send a lot of consultants and they’d tell us it’s not possible to do what we had decided to do, and they would also say, “So and so should qualify and those clients should not qualify.”

We wanted it to be for everybody. We decided it would cover maternity, it would cover any kind of operations, it would cover any kind of in-patient treatment, and we would not exclude people with HIV and AIDS, because then it was a useless insurance for us. And today, [October 2007] it is soon going to be seven years that we have run this.

We have always covered all our costs. We have never had any donor subsidy, not even US$1, and we have never asked for it either. I am sure we would have got it if we had asked. It has saved so many lives. Right now 120,000 people [are covered by the health insurance], because [every member of Jamii Bora] doesn’t take out health insurance…

Relevant resources

Guest Post: Miracles in Kenya

The following is a guest post from Sister Giant participant, Cathy Michael, who attended the Africa – Middle East Microcredit Summit in Nairobi, Kenya in April 2010. She along with hundreds of delegates to the Summit went on field visits organized by local organizations to showcase innovative projects and client success stories.
The reflections that Cathy shares with us is about her visit to the slums with the Jamii Bora team. To access her photos posted on Facebook, click here.

“For all of my friends everywhere who care about making this a more peaceful world and for my Sisters from Sister Giant, who could not make it to Kenya, this is for you. I have tried to recreate the experience as best as I could…

“A note to all of you who are not familiar with my recent trip to Nairobi, Kenya. I attended the African Regional Microcredit Summit in Nairobi last week. I had the fortune to go as part of a delegation from SisterGiant/RESULTS. The 3 day conference was sandwiched between 2 field trips to the slums and the new model community, Kaputiei Town. We had the opportunity to meet, hug, listen to and speak with the people whose lives have been transformed by the microfinance grassroots organization Jamii Bora. We also had private meetings with Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Peace Prize Recipient; Ingrid Munroe, the visionary behind Jamii Bora; and Sam Daly Harris, RESULTS founder and organizer of this conference.”

MIRACLES IN KENYA

We walked through the slums of Nairobi expecting to find the downtrodden — human beings without hope, children crying and begging. Instead to our surprise we found smiles and laughter and pride. Children were serenading us in their high pitched voices, “How are you, How are you?” Everyone was proud and pleased to welcome these “wasungu” — white foreigners.

Who were these lovely beings we found squashed inside their one room huts? Families of five or even fourteen crammed themselves with all their belongings into a 10 x 10 space. Mattresses piled one upon the other, stuffed between storage containers reaching to the ceiling. Each night the mattresses are pulled back out of the stack and laid upon the floor for all to sleep. No bathrooms. . .no toilets. . .no running water. . .no kitchens. . . maybe a cooking stove run on kerosene shoved in the corner. Outside the door are plastic buckets to wash and bathe in. Two foot wide dirt paths separate the shacks and morph into mud paths during the rainy season.

Strangely, strolling through this community warmth and happiness radiated with an intensity that both captivated and energized us. What beautiful faces! Never in my experience as I’ve traversed through villages in other foreign lands have I felt such warmth and love. What is this magic that caught us off guard and warmed our hearts? These were authentic smiles. These were people who walked with their heads held high, people filled with dignity! The love and warmth they exuded were contagious. We all felt it. Walking on rural or city streets back home in the US, I have never experienced such a feeling.

The secret recipe of that magic is called Jamii Bora which means “good families” in Swahili, is a grassroots microfinance organization. It transforms lives by integrating ingredients including micro-loans starting at $10, a mandatory savings program and weekly support groups, affordable health care and life insurance, education, training and counseling, all with an astonishing loan default rate of only 1% and without Government support. Private donations are used minimally to initiate projects to develop infrastructure. This holistic approach provides an opportunity, not a handout, for the world’s poorest to take responsibility for their own lives. Individuals who repays their loan can access larger loans and are then energized to mentor others in the street.

Jamii Bora, with the guidance and vision of Ingrid Munro, who had lived in Africa for over 20 years working in housing development, looks for the poorest of the poor, families earning less than $1.25 per day. They search for street beggars, prostitutes, gang members and thieves. Ingrid Munroe believes and has shown beyond a shadow of doubt that any person on this globe, no matter how destitute or downtrodden, once empowered will discover and ignite their own individual creativity and motivation to lead a life of contribution with dignity.

The miracle is one of transformation, both personal and social. A favorite mantra that we heard from the Jamii Bora members is that “it doesn’t matter where you come from, what matters is where you are going”. Personal transformation generates social transformation in a reinforcing and self-sustaining reaction. Helping the poorest stand up is a central element in this process of transforming a culture. Many microfinance organizations have found that women are particularly responsive, trustworthy and responsible. As the saying goes, give a woman a loaf of bread and she will share it with her family and if anything is left, her community. Give the man a loaf and he will eat it himself or sell it for something else.

I have been asked, “How many people can this possibly touch?“ Another miracle of Jamii Bora is that this social model is replicable. Jamii Bora has given over a hundred thousand loans totaling almost $3 Billion. Jamii Bora has grown and spread throughout Kenya.

In Bangladesh, Grameen Bank, the microfinance institution begun by Muhammad Yunus, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, has designed a similar program which has spread into Asia and Africa, now reaching millions of people. Another organization called BRAC, also begun by a Bangladeshi, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, has built an organization of several billion US dollars. BRAC is also spreading throughout Asia and Africa. Multitudes of other Microfinance groups, based on similar principles of savings and support groups are cropping up throughout the poorest communities of the world.

Muhammad Yunus has declared that microcredit is about making “The Impossibles Possible!” Leaders of the microfinance movement have said that we have the knowledge to end poverty within this generation. What we need now is not only the political will, but also compassionate commitment within the Institutions that serve the poor to make their first goal serving the poor not their bottom line, nor their investors. Jamii Bora, Grameen Bank and BRAC are outstanding examples of service in the name of the people. Reasonable interest rates and integrated support systems must be the accepted benchmark as we move forward. Institutions that charge 80% and 100% interest rates with the sole goal of profitting off of the world’s poorest are an absolute outrage.

People working in the field know that compassionate microfinance is the best tool that we have for obliterating poverty and obliterating poverty is the best tool we have to rid the world of terrorism.

Cathy Michael

To access the photos of the amazing people and their homes visit my Facebook page.

For more information on the organizations mentioned click on:
http://www.jamiibora.org/membersvoices.htm
http://www.grameen-info.org/
http://www.brac.net/index.php?nid=69
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Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister to Speak at Upcoming Microcredit Summit in Nairobi

Leaders of the Association of Microfinance Institutions in Kenya (AMFI) met withDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, on November 19, 2009 to discuss the Africa-Middle East Regional Microcredit Summit to be held April 7-10, 2010 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Hon. Kenyatta pointed out that microcredit was at the center of the development agenda for Kenya.The Minister said he would speak at the closing ceremony of the Summit and his Ministry would be fully involved.

More than 2,000 delegate from over 40 countries are expected for the Summit which will be the largest microfinance gathering ever held in Africa and the Middle East.

Microfinance According to Ingrid Munro – a Delightful Story

In a lovely, inspiring and amazing lecture Ms. Ingrid Munro shared her story, the story of Jamii Bora, the organization she founded in Kenya and the stories of what she calls the “slower and faster climbers”. She gave an illustration of the magnificent work she has accomplished through the last 10 years and her continuing extraordinary involvement for Jamii Bora members.

In a lecture hosted by J.P. Morgan in New York, on September 21st midday, Ingrid Munro explained to us, how she worked with the members of Jamii Bora and succeeded in getting them out of poverty.

In July 1999, Ms. Munro started Jamii Bora, by lending money to 50 women street beggars, who had proven they could save as little as 0.65$ per week, for months. Today, there are more than 200,000 members of Jamii Bora, and it is the largest microfinance institution in Kenya.

Ingrid Munro did not just start a microfinance institution that provides loan to poor people but she created a new model by providing microcredit along with significant services like health and life insurance. Jamii Bora created a remarkable safety net around the members making sure they will be able to reimburse their loan and eventually succeed out of poverty. Throughout Jamii Bora, Ingrid Munro also founded a Business school for the members and primary and high school institutions will be completed soon.

Furthermore, she is supporting and encouraging the members of Jamii Bora in building a new town. The members are building their own town to move out of their slums. They are also building the roads through the new town and all the houses have solar panels for their energy needs. Ingrid proudly mentioned “today Jamii Bora members are building the first eco-town in Africa and we are managing ourselves!”

To conclude in Ms. Munro’s own words “everybody is not a success story and some people take a long time, we never give up and one day, they will say I can also make it!”

You can watch the delightful lecture titled “Not even the sky is the limit” here.

RaceCar Drivers Leverage Twitter to END Poverty with Microfinance

To kick off Race 4 Change ( http://Race4Change.org ), top Twitter personalities and humanitarians will meet offline & on Twitter for a TweetUp to mix and mingle at one of New York City’s hippest lounges and hear about a daring and dangerous month long racecar rally on Kenya’s rough terrain to raise public awareness and money to end poverty and environmental degradation. By leveraging the microblogging site Twitter, two international financiers-turned-racecar drivers Steven Funk, a Canadian, and Jean-Louis Juchault, a Frenchman, and leading U.S. and African organizations, will launch a massive grassroots campaign throughout the global Twitter community to support the treacherous racecar rally’s goal of ending poverty, expanding microlending, and protecting the environment to transform the lives of Africa’s poorest people.

The grueling road race, to take place in November, is a coordinated effort between the East African Safari Classic Rally, Jamii Bora and Microcredit Summit. 100% of money raised will benefit Kenya-based Jamii Bora Bank, an innovative, world-renowned microcredit lending institution, and the Microcredit Summit Campaign, a global campaign to reach the world’s poorest families, especially women, with credit and financial services. It will host it’s next meeting in Kenya in April 2010.

In a day when the smallest effort can make the greatest difference, help show the power of what can happen when a challenge is offered and thousands respond. We can race to make great change! Follow the action in real time at @race4change, and share via your Twitter! Copy and ReTweet the below:

Pls RT: Check out the @race4change Tweetup in #NYC Sept 23, Africa Rally racers fight to end poverty: http://bit.ly/5RPiX #race4change

Jamii Bora helps Kenyans build a new life in Kaputei

On September 13th, the Seattle Times reported on Jamii Bora success story. Now one of Kenya’s largest microfinance organizations, with about 230,000 members, it has gone beyond the wildest imagination of what microfinance organizations are expected to accomplish with its new project.
22 miles outside of Nairobi, Kaputei is a being erected as a new self-contained town that Jamii Bora hopes will someday be home to 10,000 people, schools, shops and small industry.
“To keep costs down, Jamii Bora is manufacturing the building materials on site, providing jobs to its members and others living nearby. Kaputei is also an eco-town of sorts, with houses powered by solar panels and an ambitious plan to recycle 70 percent of the wastewater through man-made wetlands.”
Read Full article of Jim Simon and leran more about Jamii Bora here.