Sunday, May 1, 2011

Learn from Example! A Close Look at one of Kiva's Latin American Microfinance Partners

Meet Lindsey, our FSS in Colombia 

 Kiva's own Lindsey Freedman, a Field Support Specialist based in Latin America, has been working closely with Fundaciόn Mario Santo Domingo, a microfinance institution located in Barranquilla, Colombia. The institution was established by Mario Santo Domingo in 1960 and has strived for decades to meet the foundation's goals of improving living conditions for the most destitute of inhabitants of Barranquilla by building homes, retraining workers to efficiently harbor their existing skill sets, and supporting microenterprise development through business training and loans (MIX Market). For the past 27 years the institution has been involved in microfinance and the number of clients served has grown substantially. As of 2009, FMSD boasts a clientele of 11,363 active borrowers with an average loan balance of $1, 371.2 per borrower.

Dedication is Key

FMSD's impressive client base consists of well-resepcted and well-established people who hold a strong presence in Barranquilla, as many citizens in the community know someone with a credit history with FMSD or have one themselves. The breadth of the organization is quite impressive and the programs offered cover a range of topics to help borrowers manage their personal finances while developing prosperous business practices. From business training programs to finance and accounting to an aggressive wide-scale social housing project, FMSD is extremely committed to breaking the cycle of poverty and helping people succeed. These initiatives and goals can be accredited to two aspects: the efforts of the country of Colombia to promote social domestic programs and the internal strength of Fundaciόn Mario Santo Domingo. Massive government support has led to substantial funding in the social welfare sector and strong organizational structure in social institutions create defined roles for employees, issuing a sense of pride on behalf of the staff. Similarly, the dedication of the staff at FMSD has made the institution's successes possible. Liney, the KC and an exemplary employee who has been with the company for 23 years, is one member Lindsey has worked closely with. However, Liney is not the only individual who has sought long-term employment with FMSD, for many other employees have hit their 14 year mark - quite a remarkable feat in a profession that tends to have a high turnover rate!

Inside a Borrower's Profile

Lindsey observed various client loan applications at FMSD and was surprised to find the profiles resembled brief yet detailed biographical novels of each borrower. "Liney is the writer and editor behind each borrower profile and stresses the importance of explaining Kiva's mission, policies, and expectations to her clients", according to our Field Support Specialist. Lindsey also noticed that many loan officers also provide their clients with a printout of their profiles which creates a relationship between officer and borrower, eliminates anxiety for borrowers as they can see their rates of repayment, and may increase the likelihood that clients take out another loan in the future.

A Work in Progress: FMSD's Housing Project

FMSD has really focused its efforts on a project dedicated to the constructing of 25,000 homes by the year 2020 in villages on the outskirts of Barranquilla. Lindsey was able to personally visit a project in Cartagena, where she learned that there have been 450 homes constructed there and 139 families living within the village. "The cost of one home is estimated at $15,000 USD, but some funding is provided to qualifying families by the Colombian government with the rest expected to be paid off by the family over 10 years." FMSD stresses not only the importance of the building of homes for individual families, but also the construction of a whole community.

Kiva thanks Lindsey for this wonderful excerpt of her experience with Fundacion Mario Santo Domingo and for her hard work in the microfinance community in Colombia!