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.
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 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.
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.
This is a very innovative program that really helps to end the cycle of poverty in the communities served. The programs grow at a rate that is sustainable and repeatable. The program has grown in new directions because it is run by the people being served. As the program grows more people are helped and as more people are helped, more people can be served. This is truly a very sustainable model that does not seek to replace the existing financial markets that already exist; rather this model seeks to build a bridge to the existing financial marketplace for the people who never were allowed access.
It is an amazing organization that really makes a difference and is growing a rapid rate. I have volunteered for WMI since mid 2008 and the loan program and other WMI initiatives that have been introduced into the community all have been well received. This year, WMI worked with a local bank in Uganda by sharing the borrower's success stories, describing how the local businesses are thriving in their community and convincing the banks that the borrowers are desireable clients. Through these efforts, in 2010 WMI setup a program where WMI borrowers are eligible to take out a loan from this local bank after 24 months of receiving loans from WMI.
I was first enlisted to help WMI prepare reusable bags as graduation gifts for the loan recipients. However, my interaction with WMI has far surpassed that throughout the past couple years. I have seen WMI grow from micro-finance loans to other projects involving book donations for the library and computers for an internet cafe. It not only empowers women in Uganda and Kenya, but also allows women within the non-profit to exercise their talents as well. In addition, WMI focuses on a local and personal approach--they have direct contact with loan recipients and the people benefitting from the library and computers. In this way, WMI is truly assessing the needs of the people they help, and ensuring that everything operates smoothly. WMI has been growing steadily since it was founded, and helps more women receive loans every year. WMI is unique and innovative in assisting women empower themselves in the most direct and personal manner possible, and for that it is an amazing organization.
I have watched this organization grow since its beginning in January of 2008. When we handed out the first loans to the first group of 20 women we could not have anticipated on the impact these loans would have on their lives. These loans have enabled these women to start thriving businesses. These businesses in turn, have allowed these women to send their children to school, buy adequate food for their families, and expand their businesses. Also, this program is extremely well run. The president of WMI, Robyn Nietert, has made running WMI her full time job. In addition, she has a board of women who all have different skill sets. They work together to ensure that the program runs smoothly, and is able to continue to expand. They also always have creative, and innovative ideas about how to make the program more effective, and reach more people. Off shoot projects such as an internet cafe, a library, and bringing solar stoves to the village, are all ideas that have been implemented in the village. These types of off shoot projects have helped the women expend their businesses, live healthier lives, and promote education in the village. Finally, and I think most importantly, Mrs. Nietert is fully committed to this project, and deeply cares about the people she is helping.