I know I can. Be what I want to be.
By Suzy Marinkovich, KF8 Peru
When did I begin to learn about savings? I can’t say I’m any good at it, but at one point far and long ago, I know I learned about it.
I suppose it was simply modeled to me by my parents, dedicated savers and cautious spenders. For many of us, saving seems so natural a concept that it’s hard to climb outside of our nutshells to see the rest of the world’s reality. Banks are readily available to many of us, and they often shell out incentives for us to save with them – collecting interest, investing, and the like. It seems like everyone is telling us to save.
Yet, from interviews I’ve conducted here in Ayacucho, I’ve noticed the importance of saving is something many of our borrowers really come to value only after joining FINCA.
FINCA requires its borrowers to deposit into a savings, which they get at the end of their loan cycle. Loan Officers also lecture the borrowers on the importance and value of saving at their weekly meetings, and encourage them to voluntarily contribute additional savings through FINCA as well.
The last question on my journal interview questionnaire for Kiva borrowers is also my personal favorite, and I made it the last one because I look forward to the response so much I make myself wait until the end. (It’s like in college when I would allow myself to eat candy only after I finished my homework.) The question is: what do you like the most about borrowing from FINCA?
I love it because it’s the one question I almost always get a unique response from. And yet one of the most resounding responses is, “because they taught me how to save!” One Kiva borrower said, “They force me to save. At first I hated it. But now I understand it and I love it! I’m going to start construction on my home soon. The savings are my favorite part.” I definitely saw myself in her.
For these women, the loan itself is not their ‘favorite part’ about borrowing from FINCA. It’s learning about savings! As if I wasn’t addicted to Kiva enough, now I have another reason to be: it’s not just about borrowing for the present, it’s about teaching the women to save for their future. Our microfinance partners that stress saving—and most of them do—are passing a great test of sustainability.
But these days, it’s not only the women that learn how to save at FINCA Peru.'
The women often bring their children along when reporting to their weekly communal bank meetings. While FINCA has a playground behind the building for the borrower’s kids to play in, some of them insist on staying with their moms. (A common FINCA image is the rogue child, about three years old, laying down and moving their limbs like they are making a snow angel on the cement floor, in the center of one of the classrooms, surrounded by adult borrowers seated turning in their loans repayments. And of course, no one seems to take notice but me – how is that not distracting for everyone else?!).
Instead of encouraging them to hone their somersaults on the cement floor, FINCA Peru has begun lessons for the older children of FINCA borrowers concurrent with their mothers’ communal bank meetings. These classes have been led by two Canadian volunteers, Erika and Joel, who have come all the way to Ayacucho to help FINCA implement the program.
The program is part of a project started by an NGO called Aflatoun, which provides educational materials for children that encourage saving and spending from a young age. FINCA Peru has been its test market for implementation in microfinance institutions. The children bring savings to their weekly class, usually about 1 Nuevo Sole (about .30 cents in the US). Over the weeks, some children have saved as much as 40 Nuevo Soles. Since its inception in May, 210 children have attended at least one class. Recently, several mothers (all FINCA borrowers themselves) were polled about the program, and their responses speak for themselves.
100% of mothers responded that their children are now saving well or very well.
100% of mothers said that their children brought up saving with them at home.
The children were interviewed, and asked what they would like to do with the savings they are building at their FINCA Peru/Aflatoun classes:
- “I would keep saving it!” – Betty
- “I would buy clothes and go to different countries.” – Frank Anthony
- “I would buy a soccer ball.” – Frank
- “I would take my mother out to dinner.” – Jeanpier (awwww!)
- “I would buy presents for my family.” – Kattery
Kattery’s mother Cleidi – a Kiva borrower! – was also interviewed, and she noted “it’s good that the children are learning to save, because later they will need this skill. And with the money Kattery is saving she is talking about buying shoes.”
FINCA Peru knows their mission goes far beyond lending. They know it’s about teaching a whole new generation to save, and changing a culture that may not have been promoting it early enough in life. FINCA Peru offers the Aflatoun classes only to the children of its borrowers – and for free!
FINCA Peru’s social mission and its Aflatoun program provide tangible proof that Kiva works hard when vetting microfinance institutions.
Our partners do not just dole out the money you lend. They teach borrowers how to save, how to build successful businesses; and sometimes, though you might not know it, they even teach your borrower’s children. Kiva’s microfinance partners represent some of the best and the brightest, and they go far beyond expectations to meet their social mission.
Your simple loan has a much greater capacity than you already think it does. Programs like these have implications for entire families and communities.
And maybe, someday soon, little nine-year-old Kattery will have saved enough to buy presents for her family AND get those shoes she wants!
Suzy Marinkovich is a Kiva Fellow at FINCA Peru in Ayacucho, the first of her three placements. She has a wholehearted passion for microfinance, social justice, and poverty alleviation. Suzy is most excited to listen to the incredible stories of Kiva borrowers in South America and let them know how much they continually inspire us all./>