Micro Finance: What’s the big deal?

[h4a] “A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money” – W. C. Fields [/h4a]

Two women sitting with local, hand made textiles
Volunteers work with women just like this lady to help her grow her business.

Our micro finance volunteer projects are some of the projects that we are most proud to work with in Guatemala and Costa Rica. Why? Because micro finance is one of the ways that people are given a unique opportunity to truly take control of their lives, their futures and their family. It’s empowering. It’s impressive. It’s life changing.

So, what’s the big ideal and why are we harping on about it? Well, take a look below at this Q&A session to find out why micro finance is such a great thing to be getting involved in.

What is Micro Finance?

Two people standing in a workshop
Isabel, a volunteer with INLEXCA helping a client with his textile business.

Micro finance is a source of financial services for entrepreneurs and small businesses lacking access to banking and related services. Made famous by the Grameen Bank, known as the bank for the poor, they started offering loans to small businesses in rural communities in the seventies. Micro finance, simply put, is giving loans to poor people, with a low credit rating, with low interest rates and small repayments; a method that is know to work better for low income people.

Yeah…but what’s so great about it?

Micro finance got some bad press in the nineties due to it offering loans, that if the community couldn’t pay back, left them in debt. Done correctly however, it can allow a poor person or community (micro finance is typically offered in groups now so each loan recipient has a support network) take out a loan after all normal banks have rejected them. With this loan, they can invest in their business, grow their business,  increase their profit, pay off their loan and pull their family out of poverty.

A group of indigenous women sat with a volunteer
A volunteer interviewing micro finance clients to see how he can help and support their businesses

OK, sounds good, but where do I come in?

Small businessmen and women the world over have fantastic entrepreneurial ideas. They know what goods and services their local community needs better than anyone. What they struggle with is the knowledge of how to run a business efficiently, successfully and with a good structure. This is where you come in, with your business knowledge, you can help them focus, grow and succeed in business. You can also help the Micro Finance providers promote their loans and educate the local community.

So what role might I play?

A group of volunteers applauding a client, building her self esteem
A group of micro finance volunteers building the confidence of a client, helping her believe she can be a success

You will be working with microfinance organizations and co ops that give loans and support to borrowers. You will help:

– present workshops to small community entrepreneurs;
– manage borrowers’ budgets;
– manage the IT system of the organization;
– brainstorm new strategies;
– sales at events like farmer’s fairs;
– advise small community businesses;
and anything more you can bring to the table.

Where would I live whilst I volunteered?

The work of micro finance organisations is in rural communities so you would live with an INLEXCA approved host family in a village or town in the highlands of Guatemala or the rural areas of Costa Rica.

What qualifications do I need?

Although no specific qualifications are required, a strong interest in finance and/or development, a business mind and good computer skills are requested for this work.

Who can do this project?

This project is open to individual volunteers, group volunteers (be it friends, family or colleagues), university groups, faculty-led trips, study abroad programs or service learning trips. It has a focus on academic ability with regards to business skills so is well suited to business students or graduates.

Where do you offer this program?

We have micro finance partners across Costa Rica and Guatemala.

How can I sign up?

You can apply on our website through an online form which takes about five minutes to complete. If you would like more information, check out our pages about Costa Rica and Guatemala or send us a message!