This is my last blog. At least in Guatemala. Today is my last day. Tomorrow, I jump on one of those planes that I hear fly every night over the house to take me back to the good ´ole US of A. So, I offer you some closing thoughts.
The experience has been amazing. Besides learning about microfinance, I have learned about myself: who I am, how I confront challenges, and how to live alone in a country that isn´t my own. And, I have gotten really good at speaking Spanish.
The pictures are from FAPE, the microfinance institution where I have spent the last few months working as a Kiva Fellow. From working on repayment reporting and strengthening the Kiva connection between borrowers, lenders, the MFI, and Kiva to implementing lengthy social performance evaluation managment surveys and doing a lot of training on the Kiva process in Spanish, I can say that I have been blessed to have been assigned to such an awesome field partner.
Unrelated, I have begun to discover a few things about microfinance. It isn´t the “silver” bullet that will eliminate poverty by itself. It will take people from around the world contributing their skills, talents and resources, and it will take big picture policy changes on the parts of governments throughout the world. However, I (personally) agree with Muhummad Yunus when he said that “Access to credit is a fundamental human right”. The access to financial services will allow the poor to smooth their income streams, preserve capital for future disasters, and obtain capital for their businesses (in that order).
Access and provision of financial services to the poor will introduce competition to the market and as the laws of supply and demand dictate, the relevant price of financial products to the poor will fall. There has been a lot of negative press in microfinance lately, concerning the apparent suicides in India and a recent conference in New York. But both beg the question if microfinance does more harm than good. To which I (and most of the microfinance community) would respond no.
All of the clients that I have met have expressed their deep gratitude for the loans and services provided by FAPE, and the key to all of this as I mentioned earlier is access. Microfinance provides something that was almost inaccessible for most people in poverty (or at the very least unaffortable): financial services. And through these financial services (as their progress and impact is closely monitored and controled) and policy changes, I believe that we may begin to see people escape from poverty.
Figured I´d end my last Guatemala post with the Guatemalan ruins of Iximché that I visited last week. All the Best!