I have always liked visiting Pakistan, a country with an interesting history and colorful ethnic culture. Despite the tumultuous events in its political history, Pakistan’s economic growth has been steady, but has been unstable and vulnerable to internal and external developments. Though poverty alleviation programs have had considerable impact, rural poverty remains a crucial factor as development there has been far less than in the major urban centers. The recent floods have affected a large swath of the populace, mostly the poor.
Sahida Begum is a young woman living near Charsadda in Chitral District in Pakistan. A single mother of 3 with old parents to care for, Sahida’s life was one endless struggle of keeping body and soul together. Her husband Mohammed Amer had divorced her to marry another younger woman and had now left the town. In this scenario of dire need and day-to-day survival, he did not leave behind anything that could sustain the family. Sahida was reduced to literally begging the neighbors for some food at least for the young children and the old couple.
Hearing of small loans being disbursed by a private bank, Sahida went with a friend to find out if she could get some money to start a tailoring business. She applied for a loan of $250 and bought a sewing machine with the money. Her sister-in-law taught her the rudiments of working on the machine and soon Sahida was on her way. Getting orders from the neighbors and others, soon she was doing well. There was enough money for food and clothing and soon she could send the children to the local school. Paying off the initial loan, she approached the bank for a higher amount, with the proposal of a small school for teaching sewing and embroidery for the young women in her local community. These women subsequently became part of Sahida’s tailoring business and it became a synergistic enterprise.
Sahida now found organizations who bought their products and they were even exhibited in urban centers. She had plans for building another room to house her school, which now had several students. Her income was now substantial and she was also a catalyst for social change and empowerment. Though it had been a difficult journey, her sheer courage, determination and hard work had lifted her entire family to a life of dignity and self-respect. Her school helped other women to find work and also boosted their income. Sahida was now well on her way to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Individual micro-entrepreneurs make a difference not just to their own lives and the economic sustainability of their families but also have an impact on their communities. Sahida’s story gives us hope and inspiration that Club Asteria can help others like her to emerge from poverty and deprivation to a life lived well. We ask you to join us on this amazing journey to usher in a fairer and more equitable world, where everyone can live with dignity and self-respect.
I find nothing more inspiring than a story of women getting together and making something good happen to benefit their families and their own empowerment. This is one such story. Latin America is a region where 100 million people survive on less than $2 a day and microfinance has barely touched the surface of this vast mass of needy people. It is therefore even more encouraging to hear of success stories of families here and this takes place in Puerto Diaz in Nicaragua.
There is this little group of 4 women who are friends and helpmates, who are there for each other in their daily battle for survival. Karina, Tasha, Gabriela and Stephie are good homemakers who make every centavo count and manage to keep their families fed and clothed within their limited means. All the women are adept at baking, making a small cake or loaf as and when their finances permit. Whenever they met and giggled together in total amity, they would discuss their desire to open a bakery of their own, which seemed like a distant dream never to come true.
I have visited Nicaragua many times in my efforts to make some small difference to the deprived communities there. There was so much to do and so many people to help that I would sometimes feel that we were not doing enough. When I heard the story of Karina and her friends, it changed my mood to a more positive one. Through Gabriela’s brother, they came to know of a microfinance company that was giving small loans without collateral. With a small loan of $600 they managed to buy all that they needed for the baking, an oven and a mixer and they were all set to go. Stephie had a larger house and the front room was converted from being a living room to their dream bakery.
They were all single mothers and used to working hard and looking after their children. The bakery was an added, but much-loved chore. All 4 took turns at baking and managing the outlet and handling their housework and children. Soon, with the earnings from their bakery and after paying off their loan, they rented a larger house where they decided to live together. This was a better arrangement, as now the bakery was part of their home and caring for a single household and children became that much easier.
They are waiting now to take a second loan, with which they plan to add to the infrastructure and also take classes in cake decoration to take their skills to another level. The bakery has become popular in the neighborhood for its fresh products and the determination of its owners. The women themselves have found a new confidence and pride in the success of their enterprise and have emerged from the trauma and misery of their lives as single mothers in a male-dominated social structure. As a group, they have triumphed and earned the respect and grudging admiration of those who had scorned them earlier.
These are the heart-warming stories that give us hope and encouragement as microfinance is a proven solution that has a profound effect on those who benefit from it and leads to social revival and emancipation. We at Club Asteria are continuing our efforts to help such women and others in many countries around the world. We ask you to join hands with us in this endeavor to bring a better life to those who need it.Tags: additional income, future generations, entrepreneur skills, business loans, care food
One of the most misunderstood places in the world is Haiti. The devastating earthquake earlier this year has brought Haiti into the world stage, but the attention hasn’t gone very far in helping the situation. Tens of thousands of people who had very little to begin with, have lost everything. The economic fallout alone has been devastating, and thousands of individuals who relied on their small microbusinesses for a living have been hard pressed to keep going.
These informal vendors and operators of very small portable businesses, who the locals call the ti machann, often sell goods directly from their homes or from street stalls. But the earthquake caused so many to lose their homes—and the ti machann have had to rebuild.
Now I know a lot of prominent businesspeople who have suffered setbacks. I remember in the San Francisco earthquake in ’89, businesses that were worth many millions of dollars were forced to shut their doors forever. And if a millionaire businessman can’t rebuild after a disaster, what chance does a poor ti machann selling cooking oil out of her home have?
Rebuilding even a small business takes money and determination. Determination is free, but construction and sales goods cost money—and Haiti’s credit market is all but frozen. The only hope is from the handful of microlenders that have focused on the poor country, and the loans have given these people a chance to rebuild.
Where else will the money come from? Nations around the world have pledged support, but very little of the support has arrived. Microlending provides a lifeline and it’s providing it now. Even the microlenders are facing difficulties though in the aftermath of the disaster, and FInca Haiti, one of the largest microlenders in the country, had to write off about a third of its portfolio after so many of their own clients perished in the earthquake or lost their homes and businesses. But still, Finca Haiti and the other microlenders continue. Another microlender, Fonkoze, started by a Haitian priest in the 1990s, has been able to broaden its own program. According to a recent story in the New York Times, Fonkoze even has a program that lends not money, but goats and chickens—which in rural Haiti is even better than cash. Recipients can sell the milk and eggs to generate a regular income. Fonkoze made a loan to 30-year-old Marie, who lives in a mud house with her extended family. She was able to receive two chickens and a goat from the bank.
Now it may seem strange to go to a bank and make a withdrawal of livestock—but it’s a great idea and one that works. Marie has already started selling eggs from her house, and has been able to save up enough money to expand her inventory, and has even built a shed for her goat.
Microlending is an opportunity to help those who the conventional lenders don’t want to help. Club Asteria actively supports microlending in Haiti and throughout the world. We encourage you to join our program today.
I have learned over the many years I’ve worked in the financial world, people are generous by nature. If given the opportunity and an accountable, reliable source, instinctively human beings desire to help one another given the right avenues to do so. Interestingly, the same drive, appeal, and yearning compelled me to enter the world of micro financing and all its intricate realms of opportunity. It all begins with the education of those who want to give and those who want to receive.
At Club-Asteria, we know the importance of teaching entrepreneurial skills from the very basic philosophies of growth and development to the more complex details of financial stability and strategic business planning. To equip someone financially and then depart is wasting an opportunity to teach them to expand and develop at a level that not only affects them but their community, their children, and the lives of future generations.
Recently, I worked with a single mother of three, Rogelia, in the Philippines. Rogelia’s husband had died several years prior to our meeting her. She and her three sons lived in one of the poorest areas of the Philippines, scraping by on what little money she could make sewing. As a girl, Rogelia worked with her father in the fishing business and she believed that she could teach her sons all that she had learned from her father. With the current government’s encouragement of growth in the fishing industry and the duty-free shipping of equipment into the area, Rogelia dreamed of recreating the life she knew with her father but she did not have the educational confidence or the financial ability to move forward and start a business.
Club-Asteria strives to empower individuals and communities through entrepreneurial education by focusing on their talents and capabilities and enlisting the aide of donor contributions to launch and sustain their businesses. We understand the depth of need globally and the dire predicaments people find themselves living daily. We encounter the seemingly hopeless and endless fate of poverty every day; however, when Club-Asteria can contribute to benefit a family then the cycle of poverty is broken and change is put into action. It is all about transforming one individual’s and one family’s future at a time.
Rogelia attended our entrepreneurial educational workshop in her village. Today, she and her three sons own two fishing vessels and employ four other men in the community. Rogelia manages the home office assuring distribution and care of the fish caught daily. For her it is not just about the dream or a return to a childhood memory, for Rogelia, it is about teaching her sons a trade and the discipline it takes to earn a respectful living. When I asked her how her father might feel about what she is doing, she smiled shyly and whispered, “Honor… I have brought him honor.”
Learning good financial habits and gaining the confidence to create opportunities to build businesses that work is one of many missions of Club-Asteria. If we can support one person in a business successfully, the trickle down effect is enormous in the present day community and the future. I have seen first hand the impact of change through entrepreneurial education and the hope it brings to families throughout the world. Rogelia and her sons live it daily.Tags: entrepreneurial education, fishing industry, overwhelming task, entrepreneur skills, future generations