GROW empowers women with microloans

Screen Shot 2019-03-26 at 11.23.31 AMAuthored by Simran Patwa ’19

When I opened my email inbox, my screen was flashing with the word “Congrats.” I was elated to find that GROW — Hathaway Brown’s Middle and Upper School student-run foundation — made its 50th microloan through Kiva. Kiva is a nonprofit organization with a mission to “connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.”

Because HB is an all-girls school, we tend to focus on funding female aspirations. GROW stands for Girls Reaching Others Worldwide, and the microfinance committee of the foundation stays true to that mission by helping women internationally with their entrepreneurial interests, to get an education despite financial circumstances, or even promotion of hygiene in their communities. The microfinance committee selects organizations that empower women abroad because HB provides us with those same opportunities.

As a leader of the microfinance committee, I lead discussions and encourage the team to favor loans that will make the biggest impact, create a ripple effect, and align with GROW’s mission statement. Ventures that continue to better the community even after GROW’s initial investment are ones we tend to give microloans to. GROW wants the money to produce a continuous profit in the future.

For example, by helping restock supplies in a shop is a great cause, but it does not help the business continuously grow after the loan is depleted. Rather, the shop will need additional funds to restock in the future. However, funding an entrepreneur’s idea creates a business that will produce continuous profits.

A recent microfinance loan funded extra equipment, such as chemicals, a water tank, vegetable seeds, soil, and a rake, for growing a Samoan woman’s business. Because Samoa is a country where alternative financing is scarce, the committee was inspired to give a loan to this woman. Because we funded the equipment rather than the vegetables, GROW empowers her to run her business and reach her ultimate goal of sending her child to school.

We also recently funded Martha from Paraguay who was working toward a degree in animal sciences and asked for funds to cover her thesis expenses.

Last year, GROW’s microfinance committee supported 19 borrowers, impacted five countries, and made five loans. It is amazing to see the money be repaid over time and be able to give away the same money that helped women in one region of the world to women in another part. As a fourth year GROW member and second-year microfinance officer, it is amazing to see how much knowledge we have garnered about Kiva, such as having a deeper understanding of our statistics and the risk ratings of each of the organizations we could fund.

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