Niger RPCV Helps Create Dedicated Fund for Microfinance Investments in Peace Corps Countries
By Erica Burman on Thursday, December 17th, 2009
As we noted in the Summer issue of WorldView magazine, microcredit/microfinance is a “hot” field of interest for many returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Among them, Jason Hahn (Niger 99-01), who recently spent time as a marketing intern at MicroPlace.
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, I was struck by the way a little bit of money went such a long way in changing the lives of the people who lived in my village, Senago Kwara. (Though I was also often struck by how quickly my monthly stipend ran out – it was probably due though to my taste in orange Fanta – an addiction for many West African PCVs) I quickly discovered the power that access to credit for the women of Senago Kwara when I worked with them to set-up a group led savings bank. These aspiring bankers contributed equally to their bank, decided on loans and investment projects, collected interest, and earned a return. They did this all with a weekly contribution of 50 CFA or 11 cents. They were economically empowered!
I didn’t know at the time that what we were doing was called microfinance. In the intervening 9 years I learned more about microfinance, and when I started my MBA at the University of Washington my thoughts returned to these women and how I could get involved in empowering them.
I had the good fortune to meet Tracy Turner, the founder of MicroPlace, part of the eBay family. MicroPlace allows people to invest in microfinance institutions in amounts much smaller (as little as $20) than the big funders require. As I began working as a marketing intern at MicroPlace, and saw the number of different funds that they offer, I thought that surely there was a place for a fund dedicated to funding microfinance institutions (and micro-entrepreneurs) in Peace Corps countries.
Hahn worked with the MicroPlace team and approached the NPCA to create an “NPCA Investment” on MicroPlace. He explains:
The Calvert Foundation, a well-known institutional investor in microfinance institutions, manages the NPCA Investment. When you make an investment, MicroPlace transfers that money to Calvert, which then invests it in microfinance institutions in countries with a current or past Peace Corps presence. People can invest directly in the fund by following this link. People can also give gift certificates for other MicroPlace investments to friends or family by following this link.
I think this is a fantastic gift for this holiday season as it allows us to give something unique and meaningful that empowers people like those we worked with when we were Peace Corps volunteers.