Club Asteria was founded to help the people of the world escape the chains of poverty and discover new ways and methods to generate income. In turn, they would use that new-found money to help themselves, their families and the people in their community.
As the popularity of Club Asteria grew, and more people signed up, we were able to take a step in the right direction by creating a micro-loan program. The idea behind a micro-loan is to provide money to a person who wants to begin a new business, but doesn’t have access to funds
Members such as you who purchase products and services from Club Asteria generate the funds we provide. The money is used in a variety of ways, including our micro-loan program.
Nashi was just a little girl growing up in Western India near a town called Tajpur when she discovered the joys of preparing food with her mother. The favorite part of her day was working with her mother in the family’s small kitchen, preparing simple dishes for the family’s dinner table.
As she grew older, Nashi’s mother began to experience the devastating effects of cancer that made her weaker and unable to do many of the chores around the house. While her mother received cancer treatments, the disease took away most of her strength, but she still was able to teach Nashi how to cook and bake.
One of the favorite memories Nashi had was of preparing sweet confections known as besan ladoo. Created out of almond paste and butter, the sweet treats were a family favorite, and were made for holidays and family gatherings.
Nashi’s time at school continued to shrink as her mother grew sicker, and after her mother’s death, she was placed in charge of helping raise her younger brothers and sisters, and making sure the domestic responsibilities were seen to.
As her siblings grew, Nashi began to consider going back to school, but because her family needed extra income, she found work in a local factory. The work was boring and tedious, but the money she brought back was desperately needed.
One day walking back from her job, Nashi saw a storefront for rent and she immediately realized what she wanted to do – open a small bakery and tea shop that would offer the best pastries and other confections!
Working with her father, she contacted Club Asteria and presented her plans for the small shop. Nashi would fill the labor demands, and then as she grew she would hire help. The loan would get her started and allow her to purchase the ingredients and other items for the store.
While the initial first weeks were demanding, Nashi’s talent for baking and creating delectable treats became the talk of the town. Her customers quickly became fond of her personal touch, not to mention her home cooked items.
Today, the shop is a center place for the town, a gathering point where people come to talk and eat. Nashi has repaid her loan and continues to work in the shop, teaching a new generation the joys of cooking.Tags: innovative programs, getting a loan, club asteria, financial freedom, micro loan
Guatemala is a nation with an ancient heritage and history, with regions that are home to some of the fast-vanishing eco-systems around the world. This developing country has been witness to political turmoil and genocide of its indigenous population and has achieved political stability after years of unrest and strife. On my visits to Guatemala, I have observed that it still faces many social problems and understand the reasons why it is still among the 10 poorest countries in Latin America. The distribution of income is extremely unequal and more than half the population lives below the national poverty line.
Felipe lived in the highlands of Guatemala near Totonicapan in a small home with his family of six; his wife Isabella, his two sons and his old parents. It was a tough life for Felipe and Isabella to look after this family with the meager earnings from his small plot of land where he grew potatoes and other vegetables. Felipe wished to buy more land and Isabella a loom on which she could weave traje, the traditional dress worn by the Highland Mayans. But where was the money to come from? Certainly not from the banks, which demanded guarantors and/or collateral.
It was a stroke of luck when Isabella, on one of her visits to the local market, heard from a friend of an NGO that was granting microloans to the villagers. The amounts were not very much, but there was no need for any collateral or guarantor. When Felipe came home that evening, Isabella told him of the company and gave him the address where he could contact them. Felipe went to Totonicapan the very next morning goaded by Isabella, though he was not very hopeful or confident.
The visit was successful and Felipe got a small loan of $500 after he outlined his proposal of buying more land and a weaving loom for his wife. Isabella worked with a will on the loom and with her natural skills, it was a matter of time before the first batch of colorful traje was ready to be sold at the local market. Felipe worked harder on his larger patch of land and the additional produce sold also added to the family income. Signs of prosperity were soon to be seen in their humble home; a television, another bed for the children (besides the one for the parents) and the loom of course dominated the décor! The two children were now both going to school and life now had a dignity and hope for the future that had been missing earlier.
Microfinance is an effective way to help the poor and marginalized in many countries to generate income and finding a way out of grinding poverty. Club Asteria finds a ray of hope in such stories of revival and will continue working for such communities around the world. We trust you will join us on this voyage of discovery to support the many that need a helping hand.
Both in the United States and abroad, in economically mature countries and poor or “emerging” nations, there’s one constant you can count on: Computer literacy helps to lift people out of poverty. The Internet economy has broken down barriers and borders, for the first time making it realistic for somebody in rural Thailand, in Kolkata India, or even in sub-Saharan Africa to begin the path towards self-sufficiency. Because of the available technology, it’s possible for the first time to realistically work at home in your own cottage industry, and more people are doing that every day. It’s no longer a pipe dream—it’s realistic, and the technology is here to make it happen.
The challenge of course, is to get computers in the hands of the world’s poorest people, to provide Internet access and electricity to rural villages, and to educate them on how to use the technology to their benefit. It’s already happening, on all fronts. Thailand’s well-regarded rural distance learning program pipes in first-class education to the most remote villages in the country, from the “King’s School” in HuaHin—the best school in the country. Satellite Internet access provides coverage to nearly all of Southeast Asia, no matter how remote. In India, even the poorest citizens have been able to get computer literate, and go into business providing services on a telecommuting basis to Western countries.
The innovative “One Laptop Per Child” (OLPC) program even has a solution to help get computers into the hands of young people in poor villages. This program isn’t just about providing computers to people—it’s about alleviating poverty. It’s about giving children a skill that they can use the rest of their lives. The goal of OLPC is to create very inexpensive, minimally configured laptops, which can even be used in a village with no electricity (remarkably, it’s powered by a hand crank). Thailand was actually the first country to sign up with the program, and Nigeria has also made great strides with it. Rwanda has made a commitment to provide laptops to all school children.
There’s no disputing that technology is the key. When Nehru established the Indian Institute of Technology, India was deep in poverty. There’s no doubt that poverty is still rampant there, but India has made great strides—and it’s largely due to the country’s focus on developing a framework for technological education. What has become known as the “Asian miracle” can be replicated around the world.
Microfinance has a role to play in establishing this technological base. While it’s up to NGOs like OLPC, and local governments, to provide the framework and the educational infrastructure, microfinance can actually give poor people the tools they need to become self-sufficient.
Take the case of a teenager from a poor family in Delhi. Through hands-on learning and some low-cost direct training, he has become very proficient at web site design, and he’s quickly discovered he has a talent for graphic arts. He’s already created the web site for his school, which has become widely recognized as one of the best school web sites in the country. But until recently, he has always relied on using computers at the school, or even paying to use the local Internet café. A small microfinance loan enabled him to buy a low-cost laptop and Internet service at home—and how he’s building web sites for schools and small businesses all over India. This small, home-based business has turned around his own life and the lives of his parents and siblings, and he’s just received some very good news. He’s been accepted to attend the Indian Institute of Technology, and because of his work, he will be able to afford to put himself through school.Tags: financial stability, membership organization, computer literacy, club asteria
Cambodia has a turbulent history and is still struggling to establish stability and peace, though it has a democratically elected government and a constitutional monarchy. During my visits to the country, I have never ceased to marvel at the amazing cultural heritage of the country and its imposing architecture. Juxtaposed against this is the daily life of the common people, who literally fight a battle for survival.
Kolab lives 40 kilometers outside Phnom Penh the capital city with her husband and 6 children, 4 daughters and 2 sons. She is 35 and her husband just 4 years older and like most of the local people, their livelihood is from rice farming in the small plot of land adjacent to their humble home. It is a struggle to feed and clothe her family and obviously there is no money left to send the children to school. The eldest son helps in the farm while the younger ones fend for themselves.
I met Kolab on one of my visits and saw how the family was struggling to survive with a little dignity. Kolab, as is usual in Asia, was the pivot around whom the others revolved and I noticed her desperation to give her children a better life. A chance encounter with a friend in the capital was the proverbial coincidence that did just that. Kolab and her husband had gone there to the government center to buy some seeds and fertilizer with the meager money they had and their farmer friend was also there. He started talking about the NGO that had advanced him a loan without any collateral and how he had expanded his farming land and bought a tractor with the money. Kolab felt a little hope blossoming in her heart, perhaps they could try?
A few days later the representative from the micro-lending NGO came to their home and the formalities were completed. Pheakdel, her husband, signed the papers and the loan amount of $700 was sanctioned with a monthly repayment plan starting from the 3rd month. Kolab and Pheakdel bought seeds, fertilizer, pesticides and a water pumping machine with the major portion of the money. They also managed to buy a small additional plot of land for planting more rice and potatoes.
My recent visit saw a changed scenario; Kolab’s entire personality had changed as she wore a colorful dress and the children looked well-fed and happy. They were all going to school, including Sovann, her eldest son. They had repaid the earlier loan and applied for a new one. Now, Pheakdel wanted to branch out into the fishing business and decided that he would buy the necessary equipment with the new loan. More land acquisition was also planned as Kolab brimmed over with her enthusiastic chatter about how good the yield was with all their hard work.
Microfinance is an effective way to help the poor and marginalized in many countries to generate income and find a way out of grinding poverty. Club Asteria finds a ray of hope in such stories of revival and will continue working for such communities around the world. We trust you will join us on this voyage of discovery to support the many that need a helping hand.Tags: farming land, rice farming, government center, younger ones
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.
Some of the poorest people in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa. Here, small things make a big difference. A few dollars from a middle-class American family may mean very little, but contributed to an African aid agency on a regular basis, may mean the difference between life and death. But how do you sustain that over the long run? Where there is need, aid must be given. But it doesn’t really address the root problem—what is causing that desperate poverty. Microfinance programs targeted at these extremely poor areas not only help feed starving families, they help them find ways to help themselves.
Part of the challenge is finding people to fund these microfinance programs, but the bigger challenge is making people in the poor targeted communities aware that the opportunity exists for them. Even when the money is available, many individuals in the poorest communities just don’t know it’s there.
A Gallup poll asked whether residents of sub-Saharan African countries whether they were aware of microfinance opportunities in their communities. At the top of the response curve, a majority of residents of Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, and Senegal indicated that they were aware of the programs. But residents of Ivory Coast, Congo Kinshasa, and Zimbabwe were a lot less likely to be aware of the programs’ existence.
What does all this mean? Statistics are interesting, but there are people behind them. The poorest, and least educated groups of people who need microfinance programs the most, are least likely to know about the opportunity. The Gallup poll indicated that there were 6.5 million microfinance borrowers in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2008, and this is heartening. But, this represents only three percent of the potential market—so there’s a long way to go.
We need to create more microfinance programs, and encourage more people to fund them; but more importantly, we need to make a better effort to reach the groups that need them. Can you imagine what it must be like to be living in desperate poverty, watching your children slowly starving to death, thinking that there is no way out—and then getting wind of a microfinance program that could help you feed your family? What wonderful news that would be! Outreach programs throughout Africa are starting to get the word out, and expanding the role of microfinance throughout the continent.
But microfinance is more than money, and the effects of these programs go far beyond simply giving people the means to generate a modest income. That in itself is noble enough—but it’s just the beginning. It’s about restoring people’s self-worth and self-respect. In places where rape is an everyday part of warfare, the female victims continue suffering in so many ways, sometimes even being rejected by their own communities and their own families. But it’s amazing what a little self-esteem can do for a person. In the Congo, I’ve seen how these programs go far beyond their intended goal—giving women back their position in society, and restoring their self-worth after falling victim to this horrible crime.
The money itself isn’t the vehicle of restoration, it’s the empowerment that it brings. In this way, these microcredit programs bring far more benefit than was even intended. Club Asteria is actively working to promote microcredit programs in the poorest parts of Africa, and I’ve had a chance to see some of these amazing success stories, where poor women have received not only a means of income—but restoration of their identities. I encourage you to continue to support our efforts to bring self-respect to the world’s poorest and most unfortunate people.
The Vancouver Sun carried a fascinating and touching story about how microfinance is empowering women in Afghanistan, and at the same time brings up some problems that exist in getting the word out. There are not very many people available to actually run the programs and distribute the money, and the sparsely populated rural areas are often hard to reach. There are thousands of people who could benefit from microfinance programs, but they live in areas that are cut off from the rest of the world—and they often don’t even know that it exists. Or, if they do know about microfinance, they have no way to get to a big city to apply. Another issue faced by microfinance lenders in Afghanistan is the fact that paying interest is against conservative Islamic rules, so borrowing money is problematic. The religious aspect may be worked around by replacing interest with administrative fees, but that’s just the beginning of the issues faced in trying to administer microfinance in Afghanistan.
Despite these problems, Afghan women are taking advantage of these loans in larger numbers, helping their families, earning income and respect in their communities. The Sun article talked about 21-year old Zahara, a woman who borrowed $1,100 to buy a carpet loom. That doesn’t sound like a lot of money to somebody from the developed world, and in fact, in the developed world you would be hard pressed to even find a bank that would even consider making a loan that small. But in Afghanistan, where the average annual income is something on the order of $370, it’s huge. Like many women in Afghanistan, Zahara never went to school, but she has been weaving carpets since she was ten—and next time you go to the import store and buy an imported Afghani carpet, it may well have been made by Zahara, who now earns a good living for her family.
Two-thirds of Afghanistan’s population of 30 million is illiterate, and a third in desperate poverty. Microfinance won’t solve all the problems of this troubled country, but it’s a start. The Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan has made over a million and a half microloans in the past seven years, since the coordinating agency was established by the government.
Afghanistan doesn’t have much of a “credit” culture, and borrowers there don’t face the same paperwork nightmare like we do here in the Western world. There are no FICO scores there and usually very little paperwork (if any), and most of the applicants can’t read to begin with. The requirement is more social—participants must become part of a support group, and verify their ability to repay. The support group is big—and it gives participants an active group of other people with the same goals with whom to discuss problems, challenges and ideas. It’s the same whether you’re in Manhattan or Kabul, if you’re in business, you need other people to brainstorm with, and this is a valuable part of the microloan process.
Club Asteria supports microloan programs all over the world. We encourage you to join us and help do good for yourself, by helping others achieve their goals as well.Tags: vancouver sun, donor contributions, managing director, religious aspect, desperate poverty, average annual income, borrowing money
An article in the Bangkok Post gave us some encouraging news. The Thai cabinet has approved a plan to set up a subsidiary to the Thailand Post, to provide microfinance loans to low-income individuals. Applicants need only go to the post office to apply.
Using the post office as a channel for distributing microfinance loans is an excellent idea. So many people who could benefit from microfinance simply don’t know where to apply. Microfinance lenders don’t usually have the big marketing budgets of regular banks, so they’re often harder to find.
Using the post office as a vehicle for application and delivery of microloans isn’t a new idea, and it’s already been used with some success in other areas. Earlier this year the First Micro Finance Bank Ltd. Pakistan inked a deal with the Pakistan post office to renew a similar deal to use post offices to provide microloans. The Pakistan deal has been in place since 2008, and has been very useful in delivering microloan services to rural populations.
In Thailand, according to the Information and Communications Technology Minister, there are about 18 million low-income earners in Thailand who don’t have any access to loans, and the Thailand Post deal will give them a useful and viable alternative. Now, any person in the country will be able to go to any one of the 1,200 post offices throughout the country to apply.
Those sorts of numbers don’t always mean much when you first look at them. Eighteen million people with no access to loans—out of a total population of about 66 million. Yes, it’s an “emerging nation” with an industrial infrastructure, but it’s still poor. As I’ve traveled throughout some of the world’s poorest regions, it always strikes me that “poor” is a relative term. In the United States, “poor” has a completely different meaning than it does in a country that has no social safety net. Thailand does have a minimum wage, which has helped—but again, that’s a relative figure. Minimum wage in the United States would be quite a windfall to a poor Thai working in a textile factory in Bangkok, where minimum wage is 206 baht per day—about US$6.86. That’s per day, not per hour!
Many of these working poor would benefit from a microloan if they knew that the program existed. A big part of the challenge—perhaps even a bigger challenge than actually getting the funding to support the program—is just getting the word out and letting people know that it’s there. I’ve seen it make such a big difference in peoples’ lives. Like 34-year-old Kaew. A mother of four that never made it past elementary school, Kaew used a microloan to open up a small shop in Bangkok’s legendary Chatuchak Market, the largest open-air bazaar in Southeast Asia. Her shop now employs three other family members, and she’s even thinking about starting a second location across town with the help of one of her cousins.
Club Asteria actively promotes and supports microlending programs all over the world. We encourage you to join us, and help make the world a better place.Tags: micro loans, pakistan post, micro finance, total population, numbers don, communications technology, industrial infrastructure
The wonderful thing about the world community is that every culture is different – from social habits to customers and traditions – those differences make this world interesting and rewarding.
However, there is one activity that’s enjoyed by everyone on the planet – whether you live in India, America, Asia or France – going to the local market or shopping mall. It might have a different name, but the concept is the same, and that’s why Club Asteria offers the Shopping Mall service to our members.
The concept is straightforward and simple, we’ve researched the internet and aligned ourselves with a number of online shopping malls. These sites offer the lowest prices anywhere, and we’re constantly on the lookout for new partners.
You can shop locally and patronize merchants in your homeland, or anywhere in the world. No matter what you want, chances are you can find it and order it with the click of a button!
Plus, with shipping rates so affordable, you can send your purchases anywhere in the world – whether it’s flowers or chocolates – you’ll be able to pay for it in advance from your Club Asteria back office and earn Asterios rewards.
Choose from these two options:
- Greenback Street offers premiere merchants and works on the frequent flyer model. There are no points or miles, instead you receive cash rebates for shopping – up to 30%. If you want to earn more, enroll others to shop online and receive 50% of the cash back rebates earned by your referrals!
- You can also elect to join Blast Off, which rewards shoppers with instant cash back. Like GreenBack Street, Blast Off gives members cash rebates and also rewards for referrals. In addition, you receive 50% of their cash rewards. Blast Off also offers 1,100 popular national and local stores, social networking, games and giveaways and, most importantly, the lowest prices online with cash back rebates!
As you can see, the shopping services offered by Club Asteria serve two different purposes: one is to bring the world’s best selection of goods and services to our members. The other is to provide instant cash back rewards, just for shopping. When you bring your friends, and they become referrals, you earn even more!
Take advantage of these and other services offered by Club Asteria – just visit our membership page and sign up today!Tags: developed countries, getting a loan, banking, inner city, business loans
Guatemala’s picturesque volcanoes glisten in the morning sun as our plane lands in Guatemala City. The airport rests in the middle of town, is newly renovated, and filled with activity. Containing my excitement is difficult for me because the family that I will visit today is one of my favorites, living in Santiago, a city known for its quality of beef; however, this family raises chickens!
Only eighteen short months ago, Lupita, a mother of 15, came to one of our seminars. Because her education did not surpass the third grade, she had difficulty reading and had little understanding of math. Her husband had passed away and her daughter Rosa had been diagnosed with leukemia. Most of her children worked in the local garment factory ridiculous hours for small wages but they were grateful for the work. The oldest daughter was employed at an exporting company in close proximity to their home and this is where the bulk of the family income came.
When we first met with Lupita, we learned of her interests in raising chickens. Her plan was to put the chickens on her flat roof and sell them to neighbors and people in the community. Lupita’s knowledge of chicken farming was exceptional because it had been an interest of her husband’s but he did not have the capital necessary to start a business.
Lupita desired to support her family and pay the tuition for her children to attend school. In Guatemala public education is only free up to the third grade. She wanted her children to know how to read and understand math. Most importantly, she needed money to buy medicines and pay for Rosa’s medical expenses. A few weeks ago, I learned that Lupita had expanded her farm by purchasing the home next door to her, thus the reason for my visit.
When we arrive at Lupita’s home, her son offers to us two plastic chairs and hot tea in chipped cups. The dirt floors and concrete walls make up the three room dwelling. The restroom is outside covered only with a black tarp. When I reach the roof, I am overwhelmed by the care Lupita affords her chickens. The pens are clean and she explains to me the process from eggs to maturity. Through my interpreter, I am aware of the benefit our seminars have been for her. A good business woman, Lupita sells the chickens at 6 weeks of age and those she does not sell are cooked and sold for lunch to people on the street and workers down the road from her home. Lupita’s cuisine is known throughout the community. Her oldest daughter prepares samples of Arroz con Pollo, a favorite entrée of Lupita’s customers for us to enjoy.
She smiles at me with great appreciation. Her children no longer have to work in the factory and are in school. The family has pulled together as a unit to make this business venture work. Her son Angel has taken responsibility for the farm and eagerly helps his mother. He has learned the business well.
As I put my hand in hers, she whispers to me with tearful eyes, “Rosa’s cancer is in remission.” The bright eyed girl, as if prompted by the remark, wraps her tiny arms around my waist.
Gifts appear in many different forms in our lives. Today I received several just being in this magnificent country and witnessing the benefit of microfinancing for this family and the community. But if I had to choose the best gift, it would have to be the hug; I think that said it all.Tags: medical expenses, hot tea, business loans, guatemala city, public education, inner city