Beyond the Build

Customer Relationships

Microfinance, helping people across the globe ”one small loan” at a time.

My oldest daughter, Chappell, an economics major at Sewanee, spent this summer learning about microfinance lending; first in Bangladesh with the Grameen Bank and Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Then several more weeks in the Dominican Republic working with the Esperanza Bank (Bank of Hope) making micro loans.

Microfinance is a movement whose object is “a world in which as many poor and near-poor households have routine access to an appropriate range of quality lending and thus help the poor out of poverty.  Most of Chappell’s “clients” were women.  It could be as little as $25, to capitalize a business, to buy food to resell on the street or buy a small fridge from which to sell juice.

A typical day for Chappell involved assisting her host family before heading to the bank to visit “associates” (borrowers) ,meeting with staff members or visits to the countryside to visit to met with the borrowers,  which they tried to do a couple of times a month. On their visits they would collect a small repayment toward the loan and offer suggestions for the on-going business. These loans are not without risk, typically without collateral but with the upside so positive, these lenders have devised different ways to help provide somewhat of a social net to help lessen loan defaults.

A Different Process at the Grameen Bank….similar, yet different.

While they are also involved in the microfinance process, Grameen strives to assist in furthering education of the children of borrowers. One way that they have accomplished this is through the development of their own nursing school.  This is in addition to the already existing pre-schools and elementary schools.

Grameen is a story in itself and is very inspiring. They are led by Dr. Muhammad Yunus, who has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

You can read more about Chappell and her travels at her blog here.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.