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!

Group Volunteering: Chile comes to Guatemala!

[h4a]“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”

H Jackson Brown Jr. [/h4a]

A group of volunteers in a museum
A group of volunteers from Chile visiting one of the museums in Antigua Guatemala called Casa de los Gigantes

 

 

We have a wonderful group of volunteers with us in Guatemala at the moment, all the way from La Pintana in Chile. A group of high school students who were given the opportunity to travel to Guatemala and represent their country, town and school because they are the high achievers in their class.

And what a group they are! They are with us a month in total and have already finished two weeks of their experience; the time has flown by for us!

 

 

A group of people on top of a volcano
A group of INLEXCA Chilean volunteers climbing active volcano Pacaya

 

 

During their first week they received their orientation, moved into their new homes with their local families for the month, learnt how to make some traditional Guatemalan dishes and learnt how to make amazing things out of recycled materials. On Saturday they climbed Pacaya, an active volcano and roasted marshmallows on the hot rocks!

 

 

 

 

A group of Chilean volunteers stood with a group of Guatemalan youngsters
Sharing time with a group of Guatemalan youngsters. As part of their program they each did a presentation about their country and culture.

 

Week two started with a presentation to a group of youngsters about all the fantastic things Chile has to offer. They loved hearing about the culture and history of Chile so much that when they were tested at the end in the form of a quiz, they aced it!

After this they went to Guatemala City, the capital of Guatemala and visited some museums and the national palace and learnt about the history and struggle that Guatemala has suffered in its past. They also got to teach the locals how to cook like a Chilean!

 

 

 

 

A group of volunteers standing behind a recycled table and chairs

This group of youngsters is really enjoying their time here and taking full advantage of their trip.
Before they arrive, we ensure that their exact needs are taken care of and we produce their itinerary around their needs and desires for the trip. Keep tuning into our blog to see what else they get up to!

If you would like to organize a study abroad or faculty-led group volunteering trip to Guatemala for you and your chosen group, please contact us now for your very own, customized itinerary!

Why choose INLEX/CA for your volunteer experience?

[h4a] “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” – Winston Churchill [/h4a]

Female volunteer playing with children in a school during breaktime.
Volunteer on a child care project playing with the children during break time.

If you are reading this blog then my guess is you understand the reasons why you should volunteer. There is a ton of information online about this topic and the benefits to you, and to those you serve, by spending some time volunteering. It’s simply a fantastic way of putting your time to better use; making a difference.

This blog is here to give you the top five reasons you should choose INLEX/CA to volunteer with. There are many great organizations out there willing to offer you a wonderful volunteering experience, just like us! But, here are the top reasons why we think; we are the right organization for you. The top reasons that make INLEX/CA special, very capable and willing to make your experience the best you have ever had. So, read on and let us convince you to sign up with us today!

Two physiotherapy volunteers with a little girl lying down during her therapy session.
Two physiotherapist volunteers helping a little girl relax during her treatment in a clinic in rural Guatemala.

1) We’ll place you where you can be most useful

We have a huge variety of projects and focuses, across three different countries! Whatever skill you have to offer, we have a need to match you to. Everybody has a skill to offer, something they are good at and it’s important to us to match you where you can make the most impact. Are you training to be a nurse? Then come work with the underpaid, understaffed nurses in clinics. Are you good with children? Then come and support teachers or daycare staff stimulate the many children they have to take care of.

If you aren’t sure what your skill is, apply to us, tell us about yourself and we will help you find where you can make your biggest impact. Or, to start browsing our project opportunities, click here.

A group of volunteers jumping on the corner of a street in Antigua Guatemala
A group of volunteers with INLEX/CA on a walking of Antigua Guatemala before starting their volunteer service.

2) We’ll be there for you

In my blog last week we talked about how scary volunteering is; going into the unknown, to a unknown country, learning an unknown language, it can make you feel nervous, excited or downright terrified! At INLEX/CA we understand this and we support you through this.

We’ll come get you from the airport; we’ll handpick a loving, kind, open host family to make you feel welcome. We’ll teach you everything you need to know at your orientation and prepare you as best we can. We’ll introduce you to your project, project director, beneficiaries so you feel comfortable. We’ll be there for you, if you ask for help, every step of the way.

For more information about what we offer as part of our package, click here.

volunteer posing in front of a wall in a education project
We’ll support you but we won’t do your job for you!

3) We’ll support you but won’t clip your wings

However, we also understand you need to shape your volunteering time. We will set you up in your project, home stay, and make you feel comfortable but then it’s up to you! You have chosen this experience, so you deserve to live it! You will be placed in a project where your skills are needed so you need to show them where you can help, how you can help and what you can do. After all, that’s why you are with us! If you do need extra support, we will of course be close by!

A girl looking back at the camera whilst sat in a park
Shantall takes care of our INLEXCA volunteers whilst they are in Nicaragua

4) We know our stuff and are locals!

Our offices are run by local staff, from the towns we work in; they know everything you need to know about the location and the projects we work with! This is deliberate. We choose the most knowledgeable, local people to design your volunteer experience so that they can offer you the best time, in a project that most fits your skill set – where you can offer the most support and have the most impact. They are the James Bond’s of their field!

Tune into our blog next week when we will be introducing some of our highly trained experts to you!

Convinced? Then sign up today! Still not convinced? Why not take ay my previous blog about Elijah’s fantastic experience volunteering.

Volunteering in Guatemala with INLEX

Let’s face it, volunteering can be scary! Going to a new country. Speaking a different language. Living with a whole new family. But what is it really like?

A lot of people, before they sign up to volunteer have a lot of questions about what it’s like to volunteer:

What will my host family be like?

What will my placement be like?

What will the town I live in be like?

Will I enjoy myself?

Asking lots of questions is perfectly normal, we even encourage it so that you have as much information as possible to prepare you for your experience as a volunteer. But, at some point, you just have to take a leap of faith, sign up, book your flight, pack your bags and start your adventure.

That is exactly what Elijah Freeman did when he signed up for our Physiotherapy Volunteer Program in Guatemala. He took that leap of faith, booked his flight, came to Guatemala, volunteered, and he loved it! And luckily for you, he documented his amazing experience to help future volunteers, just like you, understand just what volunteering is all about. So take a look at his video and sign up to volunteer…you never know, you might just love it!