The weekend of May 14 – 17 was the annual Rotary District 5340 Conference, which was held at the Temecula Creek Inn, to wind up the Rotary Year. The main days were Friday and Saturday, and Teresa and up went up Friday morning to set up and staff a table on Microcredit. It was only supposed to be up between breakfast and lunch on Saturday, but we got it going before breakfast and kept it there until the middle of the afternoon.
Microcredit is an amazingly successful concept to combat extreme poverty all over the world. Small loans are provided to the poorest of the poor (mostly women) to start small businesses, which allow them to buy food, shelter, and education and even start a saving account. The loans are a genuine business transaction, with interest rates starting around 18% to handle the high cost of such loans. The loans are primarily to women, because about 92% of the income will be invested in food, shelter and education, while only 50% to 10% of a man’s income will benefit the family. The repayment success rate is excellent, typically 95 to 98 percent. As loans are repaid, the money is used to make more loans. Donations go to form Village Banks which make the actual loans.
Dr. Muhammad Yunus originated the concept in 1976 in Bangaladesh, where he started Grameen Bank. In 1998 a World Bank study showed that in Bangaldesh, Grameen Bank’s clients were escaping poverty at the rate of 10,000 per month. Microcredit loans are not just for underdeveloped countries. Microcredit loans have been made in San Diego, New York City, and many other such cities.
We received a significant amount of interest at our table, and committee people are following up on information and speaker requests. If you would like more information, I suggest you contact the Foundation for Women or any Rotarian.
The weekend was not all Microcredit, of course. We had a variety of workshops on other Rotary subjects, golf on Thursday, a barbecue on Friday night, and a dinner dance on Saturday night. It was an enjoyable, productive weekend, I would say.