By Sheethal Shobowale, KF9, Peru

My first loan disbursement outside of the Asociación Arariwa office took place in San Sebastian, an area of Cusco about 15 minutes away from the office.

This group meeting was my ideal picture of group microfinance.  Banco Comunal de Maria Auxiliadora is a group of 11 low-income women from Cusco, engaged all all different types of businesses, from cosmetic and grocery sales to artesanía.  They had failed to make their repayments on time in their last loan cycle but this time, Valentina, their loan officer was determined for them to succeed.


The Meeting

As we entered the small shop where the meeting was held, we saluted each woman with a buenas tardes (good afternoon) and a customary kiss on the cheek. Rocio (another loan officer) and I posted the meeting agenda on the wall.  Valentina introduced me to the group and I said a few words about Kiva and myself.  The women applauded for me (it felt so good :)   We started with a short prayer by the group president followed by the Peruvian national anthem (Here’s a link to the Peruvian National anthem).  Then the group president spoke a few words of encouragement.

Next Valentina took the stage. She explained the importance of being responsible and careful with their funds.  Poetically she compared “nuestra capital semilla” (our seed money) that Arariwa will give them to help grow their businesses with the seeds we plant to grow food. With a ton of enthusiasm, Valentina bestowed positivity, confidence and encouragement on the women and welcomed them to the Arariwa family.  Each woman signed their loan documents and created guarantor groups (Arariwa’s loan model stipulates that the borrowers guarantee each other’s loans in groups of three).   The president and treasurer of the group verified and counted the money and disbursed the funds. Valentina dictated the monthly payment dates and the amounts they would have to pay.

Opening a new communal bank is a special event and the formal group meeting instills confidence in the group loan model for each member.

A Celebration of Women and Nuestra Capital Semilla

With the money business over, we celebrated with a toast of sweet Peruvian wine. (Imagine drinking with your loan officer?) It was also Yegenia’s (one of the members) birthday so we sang happy birthday to her in both Spanish and English and each woman gave her a hug. We then ate an enormous plate of food consisting of beef, potatoes and stuffed peppers prepared by the several of the group members.  It was an experience I will never forget.

On only my second day at Arariwa, I saw my ideal of group microfinance. Who could ask for anything more than a group of women led by women and supporting each other financially and emotionally?  I truly hope they succeed.

Watch Banco Comunal Maria Auxiliadora’s progress on the Kiva website and consider loaning to other Kiva women.

Sheethal Shobowale is currently serving as a Kiva Fellow with Asociación Arariwa in Cusco, Peru.  Follow Sheethal on Twitter to get more real-time updates from Cusco!

“Mi Mundo” courtesy of Sylvia Replay through the Creative Commons license.

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