Monday, 14 December 2015

Guest Blog | Lend Me Your Ears

This post was written by Tim Bishop and originally posted on his Definitely Maybe blog. It has been reposted here with permission.

Hoa Binh Province
Christmas is coming and there’s no stopping it. Even here in Saigon the Vietnamese have started to embrace what has become an indulgent festival of consumption, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

And, at this time every year, people like me pen blogs like this one, instigated to push a perspective your way. People like me who (you’ll soon enough not be surprised to read) have just spent half my week up in rural Vietnam, meeting local communities.

So, what’s the perspective I’m peddling ? Well, no doubt by the end of this post I will have worked it out…

Thursday, 5 November 2015

More than just microfinance | Helping poor farmers in the Philippines recover from disaster and build security for the future

This is Arlene Montejo, a small-scale farmer from the beautiful yet isolated mountain village of Sudlon II on the outskirts of Cebu City in the Philippines. Arlene, like millions of poor people around the world, relies solely on farming to generate an income and support her family. She grows a variety of vegetables including lettuces, cabbages, cucumbers and aubergines. When I met Arlene at her farm two weeks ago she told me that lettuce is the most popular item, selling an average of 300kg a week.

Arelene Montejo, farming entrepreneur working with our partner in the Philippines

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

It’s Financial Inclusion 2020 Week – but what happened to microfinance?

This week you may notice a lot of online discussion and social media chatter about financial inclusion, and how we ensure that low- and moderate-income people around the world have access to a full suite of quality financial services. And while this conversation is important, and this week gives those of us working in the sector the opportunity to galvanise support and mobilise action, it dawned on me that some people might be wondering: “What ever happened to microfinance?”

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Better evidence means less poverty

The primary purpose of Lendwithcare is to help poor people to improve their lives through supporting them to access loans for their businesses. Do we actually have any evidence that this is happening? Certainly, we have a great deal of anecdotal evidence – in addition to the periodic updates that we receive from some of the microentrepreneurs that we have funded, each year my colleagues and I also visit and speak with hundreds of individuals and groups who Lendwithcare supports in 11 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Although we do come across some persons for whom nothing much seems to have changed, more often than not they explain to us how access to loans over an extended period of time has enabled them to develop their businesses, stabilise or increase their incomes, increased their self-confidence, self-esteem and economic independence, make improvements to their homes, and sometimes as a result even spend more money in areas such as their children’s education and the health of their families.

However, this approach is not particularly scientific – there are often other important reasons aside from improved access to loans why their lives have improved, it might be that we are simply meeting the more ‘successful’ microentrepreneurs, people are simply being polite, or they are telling us what they think we want to hear.

Ghulam Raza interviewing an entrepreneur at Akhuvat

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Right Type of Microfinance

Nyangu Sakala, who was supported by a loan from Lendwithcare

In recent years there’s been a steady stream of media articles questioning the benefits of microfinance, with some critics even arguing that not only does microfinance not benefit the poor, it actually makes them poorer. How should those of us involved in supporting the access of poor people to financial services respond? Is what we are doing actually helping the poor? Is the criticism of microfinance justified? Here are some personal thoughts.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Impressions from a first time visit to Pakistan

Most cities have them ... In fact most towns, villages and neighbourhoods do too. The lofty saying that marks that particular place out from all the rest. London’s is the famous Samuel Johnson quote that says "those that are tired of London are tired of life." So it was not surprising when I visited the cultural heart of Pakistan a couple of weeks ago, Lahore, that I was informed by many proud Lahoris that I could now count myself amongst the ranks of those lucky enough to say they have truly lived. As the famous Punjabi quote goes, those who have not seen Lahore have not been born.

Shakeel, Joana and I outside the Lahore Cultural Museum

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Tackling gender inequality in Pakistan | The Akhuwat clothes bank initiative

Following his recent trip to Pakistan, Dr Ajaz Ahmed Khan tells us about a very interesting project implemented by our MFI partner AKHUWAT.

Guriya, who works in the Clothes Bank
Transgender persons, or khwaja siras as they are often referred to in Pakistan, routinely face a high level of discrimination in access to health, housing, education and employment as well as ridicule, intimidation and the threat of physical violence. Most khwaja siras are forced to live at the margins of society and earn an income by dancing at ceremonies such as weddings and births, and most commonly from begging. In an almost unprecedented example of positive discrimination Dr Amjad Saqib, the founder and executive director of Akhuwat, Lendwithcare’s partner in Pakistan, decided when he established a clothes bank in May of last year to only employ khwaja siras to sort, repair, clean and pack the clothes. Such regular employment opportunities are almost unheard of for transgender persons. Akhuwat now employs six full-time khwaja siras, namely Naghma, Naina, Guriya, Faisal, Moshin Deedar and Guru Taj, in the clothes bank which is based in Akhuwat’s head office in Lahore.

Friday, 10 April 2015

The new Lendwithcare website - a lender perspective

I’ve been using the old Lendwithcare website since 2013, and although I didn’t have any major problems with it there were signs it was starting to show its age, having been originally launched back in 2010. It was great to discover it was going to be getting a lick of paint, as well incorporating some other changes suggested by existing lenders, and so I jumped at the chance to kick the tyres on the new site before it launched.

Behind the scene shots of the website redesign process

Friday, 27 March 2015

Lendwithcare News: The launch of our new and improved Lendwithcare website

From early April (assuming everything goes to plan!), when you visit the Lendwithcare website you will be presented with the new and hugely improved version of the site.

Screenshot of the 'new visitor' homepage

The initial motivation behind making changes to the current website was to make it a lot easier for lenders to use on mobile devices. We noticed that over 50% of our lenders were accessing the website either on their mobile phone or tablet and yet the current website made it very difficult for them to read about our entrepreneurs, make loans or purchase gift vouchers. However, as the project developed (and after some market research among lenders) it became obvious that we also needed to use this opportunity to enhance some of the site’s features to improve user experience for both new people coming to the site and for existing lenders.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Crowdfunding: A Cure to the World's Social Problems?

This blog was written by Lendwithcare lender, Jan Tchamani, and originally posted on DuCredit's website. It has been re-posted here with permission.


The Chitimba Women's Group, supported by Jan through Lendwithcare

Crowdfunding activity has been on the rise for a few years. With the rise of Kickstarter and other platforms, no sector benefits more fruitfully from crowd funding initiatives than the 3rd sector.

Micro-finance initiatives allow anyone to invest small amounts of money which make a huge difference to entrepreneurs and workers in the third world. Allowing them to provide a sustainable future for their families.

We asked one UK based donor, Jan Tchamani, one of AgeUK’s current internet champions, why she chose to give through crowdfunding and tell us a little about her experience of charitable giving through LendWithCare.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Diary from the field - cycling from Vietnam to Cambodia

Head of Lendwithcare, Tracey Horner, has embarked on a challenge of a lifetime. For the past seven days Tracey, along with ten other CARE supporters, has cycled from Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam to Battambang in Cambodia (a gruelling 460km) to raise vital funds for CARE's poverty-fighting programmes. 

Before peddling off into the Mekong Tracey met with one of Lendwithcare's newest microfinance partners, MACDI, who are based in northern Vietnam. 

What follows is her diary from the first six days.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Promoting solar power in Pakistan

The city of Lahore is renowned as the literary, educational and cultural heart of Pakistan and has a long history of beautiful architecture dating in particular from the Mughal period with buildings such as the Badshahi Masjid and the Shahi Qila or Lahore Fort.

Shakeel and Rehan from Akhuwat on the roof  where the solar panels are located

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Unprecedented floods in Malawi

A few days ago, terrible floods destroyed homes and livelihoods in Southern Malawi.

Flooded areas in Nsanje ©Innocent Mbvundula/CARE

The true extent of the damage is still not known but Lendwithcare's microfinance partner in Malawi, the MicroLoan Foundation, has told us that clients from at least two of their branches have been badly affected. It will take around six weeks for the water to subside enough for  MicroLoan Foundation staff to assess the impact of the floods on their client’s lives and businesses and in the meantime they are simply going out to reassure all their clients that they will help them through this crisis.