Posts Tagged ‘microfinance’

Cusco on My Mind


If you haven’t heard, there have been terrible floods in Cusco, Peru in the past week. Since we are in the thick of la epoca de la lluvia (the rainy season), rain is expected but the level of destruction seen in the area is unimaginable.

Affected house in Oropesa

Tourism is the main industry in Cusco, and the damage produced by the rain does substantial damage on the Cusco economy. From the February 3rd warden message from the U.S. Embassy in Peru, I read that Machu Picchu is closed and the rail line between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes is closed due to landslides until possibly March. I also read that tourists were stranded in Aguas Calientes (the town closest to Incan archeological site Machu Picchu) and that the conditions were excruciating. Luckily, helicopters eventually evacuated all the tourists from the town.

Unfortunately, my Kiva clients in Cusco don’t have that luxury.

I met a Kiva communal bank called Virgen Estrella de Oropesa in Oropesa, a small town south of Cusco in November while working as a Kiva Fellow for Asociación Arariwa, a microfinance institution that has worked in the Cusco region of Peru for the past 25 years. This town is known as the capital of bread because of its delicious “pan chuta.” In fact, the town has so many bakeries that the smell of baking bread permeates the town’s air. In their Kiva profile video, the from Virgen Estrella de Oropesa are laughing and smiling as they get together for their Kiva profile photo. If you had the pleasure of meeting them in person like I had, they were even more animated, making fun of their loan officer Jacob for not having a girlfriend. Unfortunately, most jokes told outside of the city are told in Quechua, so I just got the translated version (definitely not the same!)

Now the town of Oropesa is under water, and many of the talented entrepreneurs I met in Oropesa have lost their homes and businesses.

I wrote in my last La Vida Idealist entry about when you live somewhere you feel a much closer connection with your adopted home than if you had visited for a week or two for vacation. And if you work or volunteer in your new home, like I did in Cusco with Arariwa, you feel an even stronger connection to the place and its people. I am sure the volunteers in Haiti feel similarly, like fellow climber and volunteer Krista.

My friend and colleague, the Kiva coordinator at Arariwa, Raquel Villafuerte, recently wrote me an email in which she said (translated into English):

“Hi there,

…Arariwa is collecting money from employees to help. We are also collecting food at the offices here. If you want you can send money to buy supplies. In reality all you have known – has been for the most part lost – the main avenue of Aguas Calientes and many houses in Anta and south from Saylla to Urcos are under water.”

Organizations like Kiva have responded with updates about how the tragedy has affected Kiva/Arariwa entrepreneurs, including links on how to help victims.

I read a La Vida Idealist post about the tragedy, which included photos of the flooded streets of Cusco city. But from other photos I have seen, the provinces of Cusco were harder hit by the floods than the city.

Citizens have been collecting supplies in the Plaza de Armas, while virtual support, fundraisers, supply collections and updates have come through online and offline news sources and social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I have also heard many updates through the Couchsurfing La Paz group, of which I am a member.

Now living and volunteering in La Paz, I see homes located on the edge of cliffs where there has been and continues to be severe erosion. As I go by, I always think that one day when the rain is strong enough, these homes could fall. I recently heard of landslides in Chasquipampa, a neighborhood of La Paz (and I do have Kiva clients in Chasquipampa). A friend of mine here works as a volunteer gathering and distributing supplies, which she did last Friday after the landslides. Another friend told me that a victim who lost his home in the landslide is staying in his church.

Although tragedies like this one are tough to experience and hear about, it’s great to know that ordinary citizens become dedicated volunteers and come through when people need it.

Here’s how to help the victims of the floods in Cusco and how to support disaster relief efforts around the world.

Sheethal Shobowale is working as a Kiva Fellow at microfinance institution Emprender in La Paz Bolivia.


Financial Literacy and Microfinance

Un favorcito: Please help Kiva win a million dollars! Go to, add the app, click to vote and you’re done!


By Sheethal Shobowale, KF9, Peru

Doris, one of the loan officers at Asociación Arariwa, has been working with clients in Urubamba and Cusco for 17 years.

I sat in on one of the monthly loan payment meetings of one of her communal banks, Aguas Buenas. All members paid their monthly payments on time, but two of the members asked permission beforehand not to attend. Because of their absence, Doris commented on the importance of attending the monthly meetings, saying “No vamos a lograr nada” (We won’t achieve anything this way). She even called one of the absent members on her cellphone to remind them of the importance of attending monthly meetings.

Attendance is importance especially since during each meeting, loan officers teach a short workshop on different topics such as financial literacy, business training, family well-being or health. In this meeting Doris taught a lesson on setting financial goals. Having done some financial literacy workshops for teenagers and some credit counseling for adults in my work with the Lower East Side Credit Union in New York, I was excited and honored to see Arariwa’s financial literacy training in action, especially by a loan officer as experience as Doris.

Continue reading

Falso! A Musing on Fake Money in Peru


By Sheethal Shobowale, KF9, Peru

Counterfeit money is a very serious topic in Peru. There is so much false money floating around that it is extremely possible that at some point or another, you will try to buy some fruit from the woman selling fruit on the corner and she will return your bill or coin exclaiming, “falso!” (false!)

Continue reading

#MifiMon: Women and Microfinance

This Monday, I participated on the #MiFiMon Twitter panel about Women and Microfinance.  #MifiMon stands for Microfinance Monday, but is shortened due to the restrictions in text length in Twitter posts.  Here is a link to the tweets from the discussion on Twazzup.

For those of you who have not yet heard of Twitter discussions, it is a way have a real-time discussion about a certain topic on Twitter.  During #MifiMon we discuss microfinance.  #SocEntChat is another discussion about social entrepreneurship.  Using the hashtag #MiFiMon, we tag each comment so that it can be found in Twitter searches.  Twazzup is a service that helps isolate and track a real-time discussion on Twitter.  I found it to be a little slow to update, but that could have been because I’m in Cusco and it might have been the internet connection.

#MiFiMon Chat about Women and Microfinance

#MiFiMon Chat about Women and Microfinance

Twitter chats (just like any type of discussion, conference, workshop, etc) link  your organization with your field of work.  Your thoughts, opinions and links shared in chats can engage new and current supporters with your organization.  I received some new Twitter followers during this chat, and most of the are work in the field of microfinance or are interested in the topic.  Since I am a Kiva Fellow, I shared stories that my colleagues and I have written during our time in the field from the Kiva Fellows Blog.

If you are interested in going one more step and host a Twitter chat, here’s a blog post from @johnhaydon with a video on How to create successful chats on Twitter with hashtags

I also wrote the summary of the #MiFiMon discussion after the chat.  Below is the summary –


#MifiMon: Women and Microfinance



The following is a guest post by Sheethal Shobowale, Kiva Fellow at MFIs Asociación Arariwa in Cusco, Peru and Emprender in La Paz, Bolivia starting in January.

Interested in learning about microfinance? Follow our biweekly Twitter discussion group #mifimon (because Microfinance Mondays was too long for Twitter’s 140-character limit). Our aim is to host an exchange of ideas about issues relevant to the microfinance industry. You’re welcome to lend your voice, whether you’re a practitioner in the field or a newbie just learning the basics. Just end your messages with the hashtag #mifimon!

Continue reading

Kiva Gift Certificates, Kiva Loans, Kiva Lending Teams: More ways to support my Kiva Fellowship in Peru

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.

Kiva Fellows support that mission by being the on the ground connector between the Microfinance Institution and Kiva.  Please read more about my Kiva Fellowship here.

Here are a couple more ways to support Kiva and my Kiva Fellowship in Peru:

1. Buy a Kiva gift certificate for me:

With the Kiva gift certificate, I can make a loan to a Kiva borrower and as the loan is paid back, I can withdraw the money to use for my Kiva Fellowship.  This support Kiva’s borrowers and my Kiva Fellowship.  Here is my Kiva lender page:

Here’s how to purchase a Kiva gift certificate:

  1. Go to Kiva’s gift certificate page
  2. Choose the amount
  3. Choose the number of gift certificates
  4. Enter my First Name, Last Name, Email: and confirm it
  5. Enter a personal message (For example: “Hope you don’t get Dengue Fever!” or “Please lend to a widow in Cambodia, if available” or something more personal that would make me smile when I’m feeling lonely reading it from Cusco)
  6. Click “Purchase Kiva Gift Certificate(s)”
  7. Click “Agree to Terms of Service”
  8. Decide if you would like to “tip” Kiva with a donation to their operating costs (Remember, Kiva is dedicated to transparency.  100% of all loans go directly to the borrower.  Kiva does not take any portion of your loan amount for their operating costs)
  9. Review your purchase.  If you already have a Kiva account and have Kiva credit, you can use that credit to buy a gift certificate
  10. Click “Purchase”  If you don’t have enough Kiva credit, this step will take you to PayPal
  11. Log-in to PayPal or use your credit card
  12. Complete your purchase

Voilá!  You have supported a Kiva borrower and my Kiva Fellowship!

Buy a Kiva Gift Certificate - Support Kiva and My Kiva Fellowship

Buy a Kiva Gift Certificate - Support Kiva and My Kiva Fellowship

Continue reading to learn more ways to support Kiva… Continue reading

Professor Muhammad Yunus Named Recipient of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom

Very exciting news from Grameen America!

Professor Muhammad Yunus Named Recipient of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom

Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and microcredit pioneer, will be one of the 2009 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced yesterday afternoon. Awarded annually, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is the most prestigious civilian award in the United States.

Professor Muhammad Yunus and the fifteen other recipients will be honored at a White House ceremony with President Barack Obama on August 12th.

According to the White House announcement, 2009 recipients were chosen “for their work as agents of change.”

In a statement to the press, President Obama said, “These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds. Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs. Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change. Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way. Their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens sets a standard to which we all should strive.”

Grameen America Senior Vice President Shah Newaz has been invited to attend the August 12th ceremony with Professor Yunus. Manager of Grameen America’s inaugural branch in Jackson Heights, Queens, Mr. Newaz has worked with Muhammad Yunus at the Grameen Bank since 1982. He moved to the United States with his two children in 2007, and is committed to building Grameen America into a fully sustainable social business.

Since launching in January 2008, Grameen America has made rapid progress. As of July 2009, the nonprofit microfinance organization has lent over $2 million to more than 900 low-income entrepreneurs for income generating purposes. Grameen America provides group-model microcredit in low-income communities in the United States. Recognizing strong results in Queens, Grameen America is now serving communities in Brooklyn and Washington Heights. Outside of New York, Grameen America recently began lending in Omaha, Nebraska. Other states that have expressed interest in opening a Grameen America branch include California, North Carolina, Arkansas, Illinois, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Maryland and Massachusetts.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is bestowed annually by the President of the United States and is the highest civilian award in the United States. The medal recognizes individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or the interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

-from email from Grameen America

Pocket Entrepreneurs Benefit from Teenage Philanthropists | Edutopia

It’s great to see high school students involved in microfinance, and in turn learning lessons in finance, leadership and social entrepreneurship. Could this be used on a wider scale to help teach financial literacy to youth?

Pocket Entrepreneurs Benefit from Teenage Philanthropists | Edutopia

Reveca, a mother of four, struggles to support her family by selling flowers on the streets of her village in Peru. But thanks to a $325 loan from high school students in the United States, she recently expanded her small retail operation.

That’s right, high school students.

The budding bankers are trying their hand at microlending, a practice pioneered by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus to help the world’s poor. Microloans allow entre­­preneurs who lack the collateral needed for traditional financing to borrow small amounts — typically a few hundred dollars — to expand their enterprise.

American teens are beginning to see microlending as an opportunity to make a big difference through small loans. Justin Blau, a senior at Las Vegas’s private Meadows School, founded the Meadows School MicroBank, one of the first microlending initiatives based at a high school.

Under his leadership, students have raised $27,000 to invest in businesses in the developing world. Blau learned of microlending two years ago while doing research for a debate competition. “I realized that $50-$100 can transform a family’s life,” he says.

Around the same time, a program got under way at a public school in the Seattle area. Bellevue High School’s Microfinance Club has now made more than 1,100 loans in the Caribbean region. Its assets exceed $125,000, says founder Scott Bennett, a senior.

The schools’ microlending programs differ somewhat, but they share a purpose: to support developing economies while giving students a powerful experience with philanthropy. “It’s real money and real people we’re lending to,” says Blau. “That’s why we’re so motivated.”

-From Pocket Entrepreneurs Benefit from Teenage Philanthropists

Shared via AddThis