by Rachel Graubart
Juniors Elise LeCrone and Heidi Schillinger started the school’s Microfinance Club, in January to create a more sustainable form of aid to African women andÂ raise awareness about social issues extending beyond our local community.
Microfinance is â€œgiving small loans to people in third world countries to create a more sustainable, independent form of aid,â€ explained Elise LeCrone. Heidi Schillinger added, â€œThese microloans are to supply an opportunity to build credit to women who would not ordinarily be able to obtain a loan, allowing them to build up credit to enter the mainstream economy.â€
The club seeks to â€œbe able to support groups of women in Malawi [where the group plans to send their first loan] by working with a group called the MicroLoan Foundation,â€ according to LeCrone. â€œThe MicroLoan Foundation has offices in Malawi to handle distribution, training the women, and supervising the usage and payment of the loan,â€ explicated Schillinger.
The MicroLoan Foundation is a group based out of the UK that, according to their website, is, “committed to helping the poorest of the poor to help themselves in order to change their lives for the better.” Their goals are to use microloans to alleviate poverty and sickness, and educate third world countries.
The idea started for the club last June when Elise LeCrone attended a leadership conference. There she met Jimmy Devock who has had success starting a microfinance club at Medway High School. LeCrone immediately thought that starting a similar club in Hopkinton would be a great idea. Heidi Schillinger was also enthused by the proposal to create the club, and ever since the two girls have been working together to organize and promote the group.
â€œThere is definitely need within our own community,â€ says LeCrone, â€œBecause we donâ€™t see it every day, itâ€™s easy to forget the difficulties we face pale in comparison to the poverty that is the reality of their lives. â€œ
In order to raise the funds to make a loan, the club will sell various products made by African women at craft fairs, school events, and other venues. LeCrone explained that â€œWe [Microfinance Club] are currently working with a few different companies. Kazuri America provides our jewelry, and our baskets are supplied by Bolga Baskets. All the products are made by African women and are fair trade certified [the companies provide fair wages, healthcare, and support the local community]. â€œ The club has made one order already with the assistance of the Medway Microfinance Club. The products were shipped from Africa. Selling these types of goods creates a sustainability loop and allows the women to help each other.
They advocate for assisting the impoverished with microfinance, instead of traditional charity, because it has greater long term impact. Schillinger expressed that â€œBasically, the whole idea is to create sustainable aid for these women. It fits well with the idea that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetimeâ€¦not only does it [microfinance] support the individual families through the women, it also supports the community and the nation.â€
To begin, the club will be building awareness about microfinance and recruiting more members. For the future, they hope to make their first loan to a group of women in Malawi through the MicroLoan Foundation and establish a place for the Microfinance Club in the school community.
Elise and Heidi are dedicated to assisting these women with the help of the club, which currently has 20 members and welcomes anyone else who is interested. Schillinger stated that, â€œI think that with all of the opportunities and resources available to us in Hopkinton, it is our duty to not only share our wealth with those who are in dire need, but to understand the realities of many parts of the world that are foreign to us.â€
Schillinger and LeCrone enthusiastically encourage HHS students to come to one of their club meetings.Â They meet Mondays in Room 210.
For more information about the club and/or Microfinance, join the Facebook group â€œHopkinton Microfinance Clubâ€ or send an email to [email protected]