National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) is proud to support community-driven projects of impact through the Community Fund. NPCA supports grassroots initiatives led by members of the Peace Corps community that have a lasting and sustainable impact. One of our newest initiatives is supporting the continuation of the micro-loan programs facilitated by The Colombia Project Global (TCP Global).
Where it all began
In 2000, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Florida (RPCVSF) established The Colombia Project (TCP), a committee that was created in response to the drastic internal displacement rates in Colombia. Social workers, attorneys, leaders of the displaced community and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) gathered at a meeting in Bogota, Colombia and decided the most effective solution was to provide resources to people ready to rebuild their lives through a sustainable micro-loan program.
The mission of TCP is two-fold: assist marginalized entrepreneurs with micro-loans and strengthen the grassroots organizations that effectively serve marginalized communities.
In Colombia, as in much of the developing world, affordable loans for marginalized entrepreneurs are available only from the daily lenders who charged up to 10% per day and often used harsh collection measures. The larger micro-finance institutions tended to focus on population centers where it is easier to scale their operations. The TCP model, however, is created for small and remote communities where the lending gap is greatest.
For TCP loan recipients, a marginal increase in family income means the difference between young adults continuing their studies and dropping out to help feed the family. Those who successfully repay several TCP loans often qualify for bank loans for their business or for constructing their own homes. In addition to loan recipients, TCP partners used earnings to benefit the communities where they work. Projects included the first latrine for the handicapped in Aguadas, a facility for the handicapped in Cartago, repairing homes for the poorest residents of Puerto Tejada, establishing a sewing cooperative and completing a community center in La Victoria.
"I no longer look at myself as a displaced person but as an entrepreneur"
- Gloria Beatriz Barliza Epiayu, Woman Entrepreneur of the year for the Guajira Region of Colombia 2011
Moving onto the next phase
In 2014, The Colombia Project became independent of RPCVSF, and evolved in to TCP Global. In 2015, TCP Global opened new programs in Niger, Guatemala and Peru with one hundred percent loan repayment in the first 16 months. In this next phase, TCP Global has seeded $10,000 from the U.S. and supported $21,000 in loans to 100 recipients and earned its current partners $5,000 to date.
TCP Global partners have found that increasing the income of their clients provides each a hand up to reach a better standard of living. These loans help keep children in school, provide healthier diets, access to clean drinking water and protection of the environment. Women entrepreneurs are often empowered by their success and progress to become community leaders.
TCP is a results-oriented model that keeps the focus on the loan recipient. If they do well, the organizations that administer the loans are compensated for their good results. The first allocation is typically $1500. Once that has been invested twice with at least a 95% repayment rate, additional allocations are sent until the permanent loan pool is sufficient to meet the needs of the community.
NPCA's Community Fund is currently supporting a new program that will open in the Philippines and in a Colombian community where there is a Peace Corps Response Volunteer. These programs are projected to need up to $12,000 each over the next 4 years.
Since funds are released in $1500 increments or less, with a promise to send more if those funds are invested successfully, the risk is small. The repayment rate for loans given since 2007 exceeds 95%. TCP’s oldest site, in Genova has invested each donated dollar eight times in nine years. That is the level of success NPCA and TCP Global hope to continue globally as this program expands with the help of the Community Fund.