During a time in which the coronavirus led to trauma and dislocation, fintech—shorthand for financial technologies—provided a light in the darkness to many of the world’s poorest people. And while the communities in which FINCA works likely won’t see mass availability of vaccines until 2022 at the earliest, fintech at least is making their lives a little bit easier.
Like you, we at FINCA are excited to have turned the page on 2020. Between the pandemic, social and political unrest, and natural disasters, it was a doozy of a year for all of us and for the millions of vulnerable people FINCA serves. But as we plan for the year ahead, we’re also reflecting on the good things that happened in 2020 and the many lessons we learned. Here are five of our takeaways from 2020, with reflections on how these takeaways will enhance our poverty-fighting work moving forward.
Takeaway 1: FINCA’s clients are incredibly resilientIt was no surprise that FINCA’s clients stayed resilient in the face of the pandemic. After all, these are women and men who have faced adversity time and time again, and COVID-19 was just a plot-twist on their journey to a better future. Even so, seeing how FINCA’s clients reacted to shutdowns, to economic uncertainty, and to tragedy in their communities was nothing short of inspiring. We saw clients like Eugénie in the Democratic Republic of the Congo start making face masks in her tailoring shop to keep her colleagues employed and her community safe from viral transmission. Clients like Aidah in Uganda cleverly use the resources she had to maximize earnings from her banana sales even during the nationwide lockdown. And thousands of others who adapted quickly to a new reality in order to keep their families and communities strong. FINCA has always believed in the industriousness, creativity, and strength of our clients. What we saw last year reinforced that belief, so we never forget that our clients are capable of incredible things, especially when given the resources they need to thrive.
Takeaway 2: Our world is more interconnected than it has ever been beforeThe poet John Donne didn’t need to watch a deadly pandemic unfold on the nightly news to know that no man–nor nation–is an island entire of itself. Neither did we. But the swiftness with which COVID-19 spread to nearly every corner of the globe was a stark reminder that our world is more interconnected than ever before, and our collective actions have very real consequences for our global neighbours. While our interconnectedness caused suffering this year through the spread of COVID-19, it also allowed us to respond quickly to the needs of people next door and around the world with relevant solutions, relief, and kindness. It allowed us to share resources and ideas, to encourage entire communities in their fight against the virus, and to recognize our heroes. As we look ahead, we’re mindful of our responsibility to our global neighbours and will remember how our interconnectedness has helped–and will help–us better share, grow and promote peace and equity.
Takeaway 3: Innovative entrepreneurs are critical to the future of our existenceThe first COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in the United States was created by a couple of entrepreneurial scientists who are so dedicated to their vocation that they spent part of their wedding day in a laboratory. They exemplify the dedication, intelligence, and hard work of entrepreneurs around the world. While every entrepreneur may not have global impact like the scientists who started BioNTech, data tells us small-scale entrepreneurs can have a big impact on their neighbours and communities. And these entrepreneurs often have no choice but to be agile and innovative so they can be more effective and efficient, which results in better services and products for their customers. These services and products were crucial to the wellbeing of millions of people in 2020. For example, one of our FINCA Ventures partner companies, Eneza Education, provided digital education to millions of students in Africa who couldn’t go to school during nationwide lockdowns. Another FINCA Ventures partner, Good Nature Agro, is using its innovative approach to increasing farm outputs to improve farmer welfare and decrease hunger. On a smaller scale, thousands of FINCA microloan recipients are making groceries and essentials more accessible to their communities at a time when travelling to faraway markets is impossible or unsafe. FINCA is doubling down on our commitment to empowering entrepreneurs with working capital and smart advice so they can continue effecting change in the communities they serve. We saw in 2020 that big businesses are protecting their interests while entrepreneurs are serving the interests of their neighbours and clients, and we’re committed to bolstering the efforts of these dedicated innovators and community leaders.
Takeaway 4: Reliable data makes a huge differenceFINCA has always been committed to robust research and we were thankful to have a strong research and data science program in place when COVID-19 hit. We wanted to respond to the needs of our clients, and we needed to know how the pandemic and lockdowns were affecting them in order to respond effectively. Our data science team jumped into action when lockdowns began in the spring with a client survey using our tried-and-true data validation software. Our extensive field network administered the survey with safety precautions in place, and our data scientists analyzed the results to make recommendations on FINCA’s COVID-19 response. Those recommendations made all the difference in helping FINCA to respond appropriately to the challenges our clients were facing. For BrightLife clean energy clients, we responded with free energy during the lockdown period since earning income was impossible for many. For FINCA Ventures partners, we responded with more capital to help them fulfill their social missions despite global economic uncertainty. And for microfinance clients, we responded with more business advice, more digital tools to make remote banking possible, easy access to savings, and more flexible loan repayment terms. We are still collecting data on the impact COVID-19 is having on our clients, and we remain committed to responding to their needs on the long road to recovery.
Takeaway 5: FINCA’s partners are radically generousLast year was hard on everyone, and it would have been easy for one to stick their head in the sand to insulate themselves from the overwhelming sadness and need surrounding us. But FINCA’s supporters did the exact opposite. You, our contributors and partners, were radically generous last year. In the spring we launched the FINCA Canada Emergency Response Fund to address the needs of our clients and we asked you to help. And you did. Your response was nothing short of heroic, and as we reflect on 2020, we are honoured and deeply grateful for your outpouring of support, love, concern, and compassion for vulnerable families and struggling entrepreneurs who needed your help. Our takeaway from your generosity is this: there are better, brighter days ahead for FINCA’s clients, their communities, and the whole world thanks to you and the millions of people who are willing to make sacrifices for the good of others. Thank you for sustaining hope when it’s needed most and for being one of the best things about 2020.
Now that we’re in the midst of the holiday season, we know that everyone is preparing to celebrate in different ways than usual this year. And since you may be trying some new things this year, why not try some new holiday recipes as well? FINCA works with clients in 44 countries around the world, giving people in need a hand up when they need it most. Working in so many places, we’ve come across some amazing people who have also shared with us some incredible holiday recipes. Read below to find out more about two inspiring women we’ve worked with, and to learn some traditional recipes from their countries that you can try out this holiday season.
Lisseth Cerda from NicaraguaWith good jobs harder to come by in Nicaragua, Martha “Lisseth” Castellon Cerda her husband decided to leave their home in Nicaragua in search of better jobs. They moved to neighboring Costa Rica, where Lisseth worked in a bar and a restaurant. However, after earning and saving some money, Lisseth and her husband chose to move back to Nicaragua so they could raise their children in their home country around their family. But with good jobs harder to come by in Nicaragua, Lisseth decided to start her own business: a bakery. Each morning, she and her husband start baking at 6 am and they keep working until 9 pm. That strong work ethic—along with her talent for baking, good business sense, and several loans from FINCA—has made her bakery one of the most successful in the area, not only providing her family with a good life but also providing good jobs to four of her neighbors. And it’s an ethic that she’s passing on to her children as she prepares them for university, something she never thought they would be able to afford. But you can get an even better sense of why Lisseth’s bakery is doing so well by making a batch of Nicaraguan Rosquillas, like what you would find in her shop, this Thanksgiving morning! It’s the prefect holiday recipe for your family to enjoy as they watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade from home.
Nicaraguan RosquillasIngredients ½ cup unsalted butter, softened ¾ cup sugar ½ cup milk 1 tsp vanilla extract 2 cups masa harina (corn flour) ¼ tsp salt ½ cup brown sugar Instructions
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Cream the butter and sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the milk and vanilla, then stir in the masa harina and salt until a dough forms. It may seem a little wet but keep stirring or just let it sit for a few minutes so the masa harina has time to absorb the moisture.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Use a heaped tablespoon to portion dough. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and arrange them onto the lined baking tray, leaving an inch between them.
- Take a glass or something with a flat bottom and press it gently on each ball of dough, flattening them to one-third of an inch thickness. Use your finger and press an indent in the center of each flattened round of dough, then press more indents around the perimeter to form “petals.”
- Drop a small amount of brown sugar onto the center of each cookie, then bake them for 20-25 minutes, or until golden on the edges.
- Cool completely on the tray before storing in a sealed container.
Rossette Kyomuhangi from UgandaEvery morning, long before the sun has even made its appearance over the horizon, you’ll find Rossette at her roadside stand in Kampala, Uganda getting ready for the day’s business. For the next four hours or so, she’ll prepare hot food and sell produce to passersby, usually folks on their way to work. When Rossette started her business, it was hard working in the dark, and the smoke from the traditional wood and charcoal stoves she used to cook made her eyes burn. And the firewood or charcoal was expensive, eating into her profits. But that was before she learned about FINCA’s BrightLife program and purchased an efficient new cookstove. It had an immediate impact on her business. For one thing, the cookstove comes with a built-in light, which helps her see better, and the savings in fuel costs are dramatic. “I used to spend 15,000 shillings per week on firewood,” said Rossette. “Today I spend about 5,000 shillings. And the new cookstove is much faster. It took me two to three hours to cook cowpeas on a traditional stove. Not it takes just one and a half hours.” Rossette uses her newfound time to give more of her attention to her two young children and her husband. And with her increased profits, she has big plans for the future. “I also wish to educate my children because education is the source of everything. I didn’t finish school because of lack of school fees. I don’t want the same to be true for my children.” One of our favorite holiday recipes you might find at Rossette’s roadside stand is Ugandan Curry Potatoes. They are a delicious way to spice up a traditional Thanksgiving potato dish.
Ugandan Curry PotatoesIngredients 2 lbs red potatoes washed, cut into 1-inch cubes, and parboiled 4 minutes in salted water 4 Tbsp vegetable oil 1 medium onion, chopped 1 large clove garlic, minced ½ tsp ground turmeric 1½ cups of water ½ tsp ground cayenne ¼ tsp ground cinnamon ½ tsp ground coriander 1 Tbsp tomato paste 2 tsp lemon juice 4 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced Salt to taste Instructions
- Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.
- Add onions and sauté for 6-8 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.
- Add the turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, and coriander and stir well. Add the tomato paste and lemon juice and stir again to combine everything.
- Add the potatoes and about 1⁄4 teaspoon of salt and stir again.
- Add 1½ cups of water.
- Cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fully tender and the juices in the pan are thickened and coating the potatoes.
- Add the parsley near the end of cooking time and stir well. Serve hot.
Share These Holiday Recipes with Family and FriendsWe hope you enjoy making these delicious holiday recipes with your family this Thanksgiving. And when you do, be sure to share your baking experience on social media. With the holidays looking a little different this year, posting a photo of your family’s Thanksgiving activities can be a great way to share your holiday with friends and family you may not be able to visit. And don’t forget to also tag FINCA Canada on Facebook, so that we can share your photos with the FINCA family as well.
Every year on December 10th, organizations and individuals around the world celebrate Human Rights Day. It was established in 1948, on the day the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration was monumental in furthering human rights regardless of any biases or prejudices. Over 70 years later, the UN continues to highlight this day, bringing attention to the most pressing human rights issues. This year’s Human Rights Day theme is: Recover Better – Stand up for Human Rights. Not surprisingly, this theme centers on the COVID-19 pandemic and how recovery efforts should focus on ensuring human rights in order to build back better. The goals of this theme directly align with FINCA’s initiatives for alleviating poverty and optimizing social impact. Read on to learn how the various aspects of the 2020 theme tie into FINCA’s mission.
Ending Discrimination and Addressing InequalitiesDiscrimination is an extremely pertinent issue, and it has been particularly present this year. It has directly contributed to the growing inequality and crises faced by people around the world. FINCA has been working to end discrimination in the financial sector by developing strategies to curb the problem of financial exclusion and banking discrimination. Financial exclusion refers to people who are excluded by the financial sector and their services. This can be because of socioeconomic status, and this exclusion makes it difficult for individuals to access the resources they need. To fight this financial discrimination, FINCA provides the needed financial services to clients around the world. Regardless of their financial history or social status, people can take out loans and access many kinds of financial services. This aids low-income individuals and communities and helps end the injustice of financial discrimination.
Encouraging Participation and SolidarityIn order to create a better post-COVID-19 world, organizations and individuals need to help those who are most vulnerable. And, unfortunately, low-income communities will be most negatively impacted by this crisis. FINCA quickly responded to this call to action to help the most vulnerable by creating the FINCA Emergency Response Fund. This fund provides relief to low-income entrepreneurs and communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and aid to social enterprises working within these communities. The fund also supports using FINCA’s extensive community-based network to provide public health messaging and expand distribution of relief supplies in the countries where we work. These efforts are essential in bridging the gap between the most vulnerable populations and the aid they need to survive and recover better.
Promoting Sustainable Development and the SDGsThough crucial prior to the pandemic, sustainable development is also an important part of recovery and building back better. Contributing to this goal, FINCA had already invested in many life-changing social enterprises and solutions through our FINCA Ventures program. Our investees are dedicated to social impact and providing innovative, sustainable solutions to various problems faced by low-income communities. These enterprises span a range of industries, including agriculture, education, energy and health. In addition to FINCA Ventures, we support sustainable development across all facets of our operations, which coincides with another groundbreaking UN initiative. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the main pillars for human rights. These 17 goals work to achieve a better and more sustainable planet for everyone. FINCA actively contributes to 15 SDGs, through our impactful microfinance services, Brightlife program, FINCA Forward, and FINCA Ventures. The expansion of human rights relies upon the progress of the SDGs, which is why it is so important to uphold them in every capacity.
FINCA’s Dedication to Human Rights and Recovering BetterOn this Human Rights Day, FINCA continues to show support for the recovery and betterment of all people, especially those most vulnerable. Through our services, we fight against financial exclusion and bias, furthering the mission to end inequality. Our Emergency Response Fund brings aid and relief to our clients globally. And our commitment to contribute to the SDGs is shown in the initiatives and enterprises we back. FINCA is working everyday to improve the lives of our clients and ensure that they can recover better.
This abstract is based on a blog originally published by FINCA Impact Finance. Microfinance has long played a critical role in poverty alleviation. It gives people a hand up, empowering them to help themselves work their way out of poverty. However, the role of microfinance within COVID-19 recovery efforts is even more prominent. The microfinance infrastructure and technologies already in place will play a crucial role in keeping people connected to essential services throughout the pandemic and its recovery. The microfinance industry is in a unique position to help people recover from the economic effects of unexpected lockdowns and social restrictions caused by the pandemic. Microfinance banks are already working with low-income and underserved communities without access to traditional financial services. As a result, they are extending critical lifelines to those most in need and hardest hit by the pandemic. This support comes in the form of small loans and other financial services to help struggling families and small businesses stay afloat. And thanks to the investment that FINCA and other microfinance institutions have made in digital financial technologies, this engagement can be done safely. Services such as agent networks, e-wallets and mobile banking enable safe and convenient access to the financial services many people need to recover. FINCA has a deep commitment to putting customers first. We offer solutions that help people not only sustain their own households but support the broader community as well. This has always been a central part of our mission, but its execution is crucial now more than ever. Accommodating and adapting to the needs of our customers has been a key part of our strategy throughout the pandemic and will continue to be just as critical throughout recovery. For more information about the critical role of microfinance within the COVID-19 recovery effort, you can read the full article here.
Like most of us, I’ve been thinking about the holidays and what they might look like this year. For many of us, this year has sometimes felt devoid of hope. No family gatherings to look forward to. No big trips to plan. Nothing to change up our days spent in a quiet routine. But if we look closely, hope is all around us. From teachers finding creative ways to keep kids learning, to local businesses adjusting to changing restrictions, to millions of people staying home to protect their neighbours, I am constantly inspired by the resilience of the human spirit. This resilient spirit I see in Canada this year is the same spirit we have seen year after year, decade after decade in the developing world. Our global neighbours are facing the same challenges and fears we are through this pandemic, but with fewer safety nets in place to help them. Their resilience and ability to overcome adversity are incredible, serving as another reminder that there is boundless hope for our collective future. It made me think of Eugénie Kabeya. Eugénie is an entrepreneur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and she perfectly embodies this resilience. Eugénie invested nearly twenty years of hard work into building a thriving dressmaking business in her hometown. FINCA micro-loans allowed her to invest in her business by purchasing supplies and even a sewing machine. Soon she made enough income to feed her family and pay school fees for the nieces she dotes on, all while living confined to a wheelchair. As sales climbed over the years, she hired twelve of her neighbours as tailors, sending ripples of prosperity throughout her community. And after bringing her business through two decades of violent political upheaval and sharp economic ups and downs in the DRC, she thought she was ready for anything. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With people confined in their homes and the economy in collapse, her income plummeted by 70 percent almost immediately and she had to lay off more than half of her tailors. Eugénie was understandably worried, so she spoke with the manager at her local FINCA branch about her business prospects. That conversation changed her outlook completely. In fact, it gave her hope. This is what she told us:
She reminded me: I am a tailor! I could easily put that to use to make masks and help my business by selling them to compensate for the losses I was experiencing because of COVID-19.And that’s exactly what she did. She designed an attractive pattern for her masks, bought the materials she needed, and jumped right into production. She started off selling individual masks on the street, but then larger orders started coming in from local organizations. As sales continued to increase, she was soon able to call some of her employees back to work. For her, that was one of the best moments.
It helped bring my life back to normal. I’m doing business and helping people protect themselves from the pandemic. And my prices are very affordable to low-income people in my town.Thanks to her hard work and FINCA’s generous donors, Eugénie is making it through this difficult time and helping others to do the same. But there are so many other hardworking FINCA clients, entrepreneurs, and social business leaders who urgently need a hand up to weather this crisis and sustain the momentum they’ve worked so hard to build. Give a hand up! We know that investing in micro-entrepreneurs and social enterprises yield big dividends, and we’re hearing from our colleagues in the field that the industrious women and men who run these businesses are more than ready to recover from the shock of COVID-19. They just need a little support to get going. And isn’t that what we all need? This year as you start to plan your holiday festivities, I ask that you consider how lucky you to be in Canada to have support available. May Eugénie’s story remind you that there is hope all around us, even in hard times like these, and that you and I have the good fortune to be able to spread that hope to the farthest corners of the globe. I wish you good health, joy, and, of course, hope as we head into the holiday season. Drew Boshell, Executive Director, FINCA Canada Thanks to a special 3-to-1 Matching Gift, you have the opportunity to quadruple your contribution this #GivingTuesday. Make a contribution!
On October 31st 1924, World Savings Day—originally named World Thrift Day—was established to promote a worldwide initiative encouraging saving money. Almost 100 years later, this initiative is still extremely relevant, especially in developing countries. In fact, according to the The World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI), in some countries only about 10% of the population have savings accounts. However, growing your savings is an important life tool to not only invest in your future, but also your community. FINCA Canada is an advocate for cultivating savings for individuals and their communities, as saving is interwoven into FINCA Canada’s mission. Alleviating poverty needs to be carried out with sustainable and long-lasting solutions that will last for many generations. FINCA Canada provides financial services and tools to low-income individuals in developing countries, which are not usually offered in these areas. One of these tools is savings accounts.
The Benefits of Savings Accounts and Financial TechnologySavings accounts are sustainable and beneficial for low-income individuals and their communities because they provide security for their futures. An account can provide a means for future financial and/or business opportunities. Savings also serve to be especially useful when needed for an unexpected emergency, securing housing, or paying for education. And when these individuals have savings to afford these things, communities as a whole benefit from more stability. However, many services, such as education and housing, are harder to come by in developing countries, making savings accounts increasingly more valuable. Another large part of FINCA’s savings impact is through financial technology. Many low-income communities have limited access to the modern day technologies we interact with everyday, so bridging that gap between technology and users is critical. FINCA works to do just that by creating financial technologies that people in the developing world do have access to, which makes starting savings accounts more accessible—especially in communities that are more isolated. In many countries where we work, various forms of mobile banking technology have been implemented and spread quickly. The savings accounts that are used through mobile platforms have many different functions depending on the user, so some cater towards rural farmers or entrepreneurs.
The Larger Impact of World Savings DayDeveloping personal savings is an exceedingly essential step in increasing the financial security and wellbeing of people and their communities. When more individuals become financially independent, their communities benefit directly and can prosper along with them. FINCA Canada works hard, through many of our own along with other initiatives, to increase the number of people with access to savings accounts. With this in mind, we continue to recognize the significance of World Savings Day every year, and every day.
The impact of the pandemic is devastating the developing world and threatening decades of progress towards poverty reduction. In early October, the World Bank reported that COVID-19 is estimated to push an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, with the total rising to as many as 150 million by 2021, depending on the severity of the economic contraction. A knock-on impact of this is increased food insecurity with the World Food Programme (WFP) predicting those facing starvation will double to 260 million. With government lockdowns, many of our clients who are small and micro-business owners in retail services, trade, and small-scale production, will be hardest hit by the pandemic’s effects. With many losing their ability to earn an income, there could be a loss of progress towards financial inclusion with millions of people finding themselves financially excluded, yet again, due to a poor repayment history and downgraded credit rating. Of significance, the impacts of COVID-19 will disproportionately affect women across multiple socio-economic areas including domestic violence, health access, food security and financial inclusion.
The Role of Microfinance Within Pandemic Recovery EffortsDespite the negative impact of COVID-19 on microfinance institutions, it is clear that loans to the poor can play a critical role in the long- term recovery efforts. As the Economist pointed out “for microfinance lenders, COVID-19 is an existential threat yet, in the post-pandemic world, the world’s poor will need them more than ever.” On the positive side, COVID-19 will significantly accelerate the digital financial inclusion needed to provide necessary and safer access to cash transfers and other contactless financial services. According to the World Bank and other leading development institutions, to limit the damage and build a strong recovery there needs to be “faster advances in digital connectivity, and a major expansion of cash safety nets for the poor by putting in place very targeted stimulus measures to help reignite growth. This includes efforts to maintain the private sector and get money directly to people so that we may see a quicker return to business creation after this pandemic has passed. During the mitigation period, countries should focus on sustaining economic activity with targeted support to provide liquidity to households.”
FINCA Canada is Adjusting Operations to Support Recovery EffortsFINCA Canada is doing exactly this by continuing to support financial inclusion efforts while adapting to the challenges and changes to client needs posed by the pandemic. FINCA Canada’s Executive Director, Drew Boshell stated
The work of FINCA Canada is needed more than ever and as a result we are adapting the way we work to support recovery efforts. This includes shifting our financial literacy training online, working with our partners to restructure existing loans, increasing support of digital banking tools to allow for safe transactions and getting emergency loans to those in need with a focus on women who are disproportionately impacted. With support from our community, we can help millions rebuild a stronger, more resilient future.
COVID-19 is giving Americans a powerful appreciation for what is lost when schools shut down. But in many of the countries in which FINCA operates, the lack of a robust school system is a way of life, and the value of education is taken for granted by few. It’s one of the greatest challenges parents face in building a brighter future for their children, and it’s why FINCA constantly looks to support education and educational institutions. In Haiti, one of those clients is Kerlande Toussaint. In a country where the average adult has less than five years of schooling, Kerlande and her husband Annesse both graduated from college and had many promising options to live abroad. While many people would jump at the chance to leave Haiti and build a comfortable life elsewhere, Kerlande and Annesse chose to stay. And precisely because they knew the value of education, they decided to become teachers in Haiti’s sprawling capital city of Port-au-Prince. They loved being teachers and Kerlande saw an opportunity for the couple do more. In 2006, she decided they should open their own small elementary school for children too poor to attend other schools. Those first couple of years were hard, but by 2008 their tiny school was up and thriving.
The First Disaster, EarthquakeIn 2010, a catastrophic earthquake leveled much of Port-au-Prince, including Kerlande and Annesse’s school. But the earthquake did not shake their determination to give poor kids a chance to go to a good school. Within weeks Kerlande and Annesse had moved to their hometown of Gonaives, the capital of Haiti’s Artibonite department about 100 miles north of Port-au-Prince. Once in Gonaives they opened a new school on a plot of land in a poor and neglected neighborhood. They started with a single kindergarten class in late 2010. Among that first group of students was their eldest son. Each year since they’ve added one grade. They’re able to pay teachers’ salaries and operating expenses with the modest tuition they charge and charitable donations that cover tuition for especially poor families. But to build a new classroom or buy books and equipment, Kerlande and Annesse need cash up front. That’s where FINCA’s loans comes in. “We really trust FINCA,” says Kerlande. “And we’re glad that FINCA trusts us. We used our loans to invest in the school. We know other people who get loans from big banks to buy cars or a motorbike. That’s not a good investment.” Thanks to their strong management and determination the school has grown into a bustling academic center, with more than 30 staff members and 600 children enrolled in grades K-10.
The Second Disaster, COVID-19Just as in the United States, Kerlande and Annesse had the unthankful task of closing the door of their school in March of 2020. The risks posed by the coronavirus were far too great. Virtual schooling wasn’t an option given the dearth of computers and of internet access. So for five months learning simply stopped. By mid-August with relatively few confirmed cases, the government allowed schools to reopen. Like jurisdictions everywhere, the government had to weigh the potential costs with the potential benefits. And as elsewhere, it wasn’t an entirely smooth process. Teachers, students and parents were concerned about safety. And money was tighter than ever. But by the end of the month, Kerlande and Annesse had re-opened on a limited basis, with masks required and plenty of lessons on proper hygiene. There are no guarantees that they’ll be able to stay open, but Kerlande and Annesse are doggedly determined to succeed. Considering that they managed to rebuild after a devastating earthquake, it feels safe to think that they will find a way to weather the current pandemic as well. Note: The pictures in this article were taken in March, just weeks before Kerlande and Annesse closed their school.
International Literacy Day, celebrated each year on September 8th since 1966, is recognized throughout the world as a day to promote the importance of literacy and advance a more literate society. For many people, it’s hard to fully take part in their communities, both socially and economically, if they are illiterate. To address this issue worldwide, the 4th Sustainable Development Goal targets creating equitable access to education, acknowledging that literacy is an integral part of daily life. Through our mission and programs, FINCA Canada is supporting literacy and financial literacy around the world, especially for women. Read on to learn how.