It is a wonderful program for the women in Uganda giving them some freedom from the male dominance. Also, it has been a great opportunity for my daughter to thing through the needs and wants of a society that lives in the poverty level. It has given her an appreciation that not everyone has what we do. This has encouraged her to get involved in projects similar to this. Although this is not a direct reflection on WMI, it is telling of the influence it has had on some children trying to help the cause.
I am a volunteer for WMI and help organize the book drives that are helping create a lending library in a small village in Uganda and other villages in that region. Having two children of my own and seeing the impact reading can have on the growth and development of children has spurred me on to help make that happen in impoverished regions of the world where they don't have access to libraries such as we have here. I have watched WMI grow over the past 3-4 years and have been amazed at the impact one organization can have in transforming the lives of women and families.
(Volunteer and donor) Women's Microfinance Initiative has, in very few years, taken a successful plan and expanded it carefully and wisely. There is great enthusiasm among the volunteers and workers. They have done a great job collecting knowledgeable people (from a broad spectrum of professions) on their active board. Their overhead is quite small. But most relevant: they are doing important work!
I support WMI because it uses my money effectively to empower women in East Africa. WMI is an all volunteer organization; therefore its administrative costs are almost non-existent. WMI's program has rethought microfinance and how it should be delivered to women borrowers and through its loans, it has raised the standard of living over 500% for thousands of women and their families. I know of no more effective 501(c)(3) measured in terms of the results achieved with its funding. WMI truly is eradicating poverty one loan at a time.
WMI was founded to assist Ugandan women by providing microloans to help them start or expand businesses. With initial loans, we have seen that businesswomen focus on improving their businesses, standards of living, and educational oportunities for their children. But once the ladies have training in bookkeeping and business operations, and have improved things for their families, we see the women turn their attention to improving the community. WMI has connected the businesswomen with other women, and connected them with resources to improve the life of the community. WMI is flexible and responsive to the local women, and equips them to make decisions that will affect the quality of their lives and grow the local economy. It's a great model, and a great use of resources -- both dollars and the human capital that is built.
WMI provides small loans that bring big changes to inpoverished women living in rural Uganda and Kenya. In just over 2 years it has expanded from 20 loans to over 1,000 loans and established a $175,000 revolving loan fund. It has developed a unique economic model that takes impoverished women from their first loans to totally independent banking in 36 months in a framwork that is self-sustaining once the loan cycle is funded. It reuses loan funds repaid by graduationg borrowers to fund new loans to first time borrowers. It provides training and support services. Working at the bottom of the financial pyramid, WMI provides impoverished women with an on-ramp to their countries' formal economy.
I have been very impressed with this organization since its inception. It is a grass roots organization started and managed by neighborhood women. Each person on the Board brings a unique skill set in support of the program. It is well organized and truly a non-profit as no one receives a salary of any kind; they are all volunteers helping to make a difference in the lives of the women in Uganda. This program is successful based on the fact that over 1000 loans have been made in the last 2-1/2 years, the women in Uganda have a 100% repayment rate, and the program is now expanding into Kenya. Another unique aspect of this program is that after 2 years with WMI, there is now a program in place for the borrowers to transition into the independent banking system to increase their loans to further expand their businesses which allows them to take better care of themselves and their families.
There are so many positive attributes to this initiative, it's difficult to know where to begin. All the donations go directly into the loans. There are no U.S. staff salaries. Robyn Nietert, founder and president, devotes fulltime to the program and guides the work of other volunteers and interns. She travels to East Africa to assess progress and inspire local participants. The program has made a difference in the lives of a growing number of women and their families in East Africa and is a model that should be replicated in many other areas.
WMI has grown quickly in the past two years mainly because of very dedicated volunteers in the US and very enthusiastic borrowers in Uganda. WMI has made an effort to work with borrowers to figure out the best way to meet their credit needs. With loans, borrowers have been able to start and expand businesses, which have given them a more regular income. With extra income they have sent more children to school, improved their homes, and purchased better health care. Loans are making a difference for these women in Uganda, and WMI is working hard to continue to support them.