Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Passport Series: Lending to help social good take root in Viet Nam

There's a Vietnamese saying that “Soft rain penetrates the soil better than a storm.” This belief -- that small, consistent action can be more powerful that acute bursts -- speaks to the success of microfinance.

In Viet Nam, the economic surge that exploded growth and wealth in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City didn’t fully extend into the rural areas, where growth remains limited by lack of resources. That's why Kiva is focused on expanding opportunity in these regions through our partnerships with Fund for Thanh Hoa Poor Women (FPW), Capital Aid Fund for Employment of the Poor (CEP) and Small Enterprise Development Assistance (SEDA). Each of these Field Partners is deeply entrenched in low-income communities, uniquely positioned to understand and meet the needs of Viet Nam’s poor.

FPW is dedicated to helping rural women like 29-year-old D. Thi Liên, who borrows funds as a member of the Nam Ngan Group. A mother of two, Ms. Liên industriously makes and sells blocks of coal, and is motivated by the dream that she will be able to provide more opportunities for her children. Her portion of the group's $375 loan enabled her to fix the machine that she uses to make the coal blocks. When one of our Kiva Fellows visited, she found Ms. Liên -- who makes an average of 1,000 blocks per day -- hard at work:

Headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City, CEP focuses on extending financial services to the urban poor -- women like Chi, a shop owner and mother of two. Chi’s loan enabled her to purchase more inventory at better prices. But she also benefitted from CEP's savings program, financial training, and scholarships for better health, nutrition and education. Offerings like these earned CEP Kiva's Family and Community Empowerment Social Performance badge.

As Viet Nam's economy grows, cities emerge, and technology takes hold, the importance of education and financial planning cuts across socio-economic levels. CEP and FPW both offer their clients savings programs that enable borrowers -- often for the first time -- to take control of their finances and stop struggling day to day to make ends meet, or worrying about unexpected expenses like medical bills.

Savings programs help people like Ms. Huong, a Kiva borrower, who operates a stand where she sells fish sauce. Our Kiva Fellow, Hanh Tran interviewed her about the nature of her life and loan. When asked about her future dreams, replied with this simple hope:

Kiva is excited to be partnering with organizations that help improve the lives of the poor. Together, with the soft rain of continual, sustainable support services, we can help bring about a more equitable future for the next generation.

This is the second of a three-part series taking a deep-dive look at Viet Nam, its history with microfinance, Kiva's role in expanding opportunities for the Vietnamese, and what it's like to participate in the country's economy as a borrower, lender and field worker.

Photo courtesy of Haikeu.