Monday, January 30, 2012

The Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves

The feeling is coming to me that I should be going to Calcutta, India to visit the Indian widows that we have been sending money to the last year.  We have collected about $5,000 US and I believe that it is making a difference.  I also believe that if I can go there, see and spend time with the women, photograph them in their work, that I can come home and do more for them.  As that song says, "The sisters are doing it for themselves."

Last year, my two friends, Cheryl and Kathy, and I paired up with the Calcutta Rotary Club to send money to widows who are completely disinfranchised from Indian/Hindu culture.  If you want to see our blog:

Meet Madu B. from Calcutta, India. She is a Rotarian with the Calcutta Uptown Rotary Club. Her club is the presence "on the ground" as people who work in non-profit work say here in the West. That means that she is there working with the widow women in the empowerment process and helping to assure the monies are going where they need to be going. She and her fellow club members are invaluable to the success of this project.
Isn't she beautiful?

There is some question on how a microloan program works. Here is some history to the concept:

In 1971, Al Whittaker resigned as president of Bristol Myers and established Opportunity International’s first US office in Washington DC. The first loan was made to Carlos Moreno in Colombia to expand his one-man spice and tea business, cited in The Economist as the first "micro-loan". Opportunity International provided opportunities for people in chronic poverty to transform their lives by creating jobs, stimulating small businesses, and strengthening communities. Small loans ranging from $25 to $500 helped poor families lift themselves out of poverty with dignity.

Example: I donate $5.00 (US dollars) to the Charitable Fund of North Kansas City Rotary Club. The NKC Rotary will send me a $5.00 tax receipt for my charitable donation. The Rotary will then send a $5.00 check to the South Kolkata nari Jagriti Rotary Program--the financial arm of the Calcutta Uptown Rotary Club (this is the legal way of donating money to India). Indian Rotarians like Madu and those who work with her (all volunteers), go to the villages and dispurse the monies. They monitor the ladies as they work the program. The money is then repaid over a three year period back to the program. Then that same money will be loaned to another woman living in poverty. Just to be clear, the $5.00 I donated originally will NOT be returned to me. It is the same principle if I donated $5 to my church tithings or to another non-profit organization.

Regarding the widows being served in this project, here is the outline of how the loans work according to Madu:
"Our club's Rotary Community Corps is South Kolkata nari Jagriti. After a survey by SKNJ on which women who require loans for income-generating activity like goatery, duckery, cows, poultry, dairy, and aquaculture. We disburse the loans to a group of 10-12 women. These women are illiterate and poor. Loan amount is $50-$100 depending on the kind of business they wish to. Literacy programmes are held and our club ensures that girl childs goes to school. Health and sanitation awareness programmes are also helping. The women will repay the loans at 8% interest yearly and peer pressure is there to guarantee the loans along with interest amount is repaid."

You can now see the value of having trustworthy folks like Madu on the ground when you are dealing with money and projects in a foreign country that you are not able to have direct contact.
Yet.  :)