“To help another become self-supporting, by means of a loan… that is the highest level of tzedakah”
On a recent trip to Nogales, Mexico sponsored by the Jewish Funds for Justice, we asked Kiko Trujillo what we could do to ease the plight of those crossing into the United States illegally. We had learned that virtually all of the females who make the dangerous trek across the desert are harassed and that people are dying each day. We sought a way to ease their plight.
Kiko responded by encouraging us to support the micro-credit program sponsored by the Catholic Relief Services in Arizona.
Micro-credit is very small loans (beginning as low as $200) which enable the very poor to carry out their own entrepreneurial ideas. With this source of credit, they can use their own initiative and creativity to create small businesses, which will support their families. Often the borrowers are women who become empowered in this way and prove to be excellent businesswomen.
They are organized in “banks” or groups of twelve to fifteen new entrepreneurs who help and support each other. They take on joint responsibility for the repayment of the individual loans. All of this is based on the original insights of Mohammed Yunus, a Nobel Prize winner, in his successful efforts to help millions of citizens of Bangladesh escape lives of extreme poverty and hopelessness. (See his book: Banker to the Poor.)
What We Planned To Do
We are creating a bank. Every four months the loans will be repaid. In addition, the entrepreneurs will add a relatively low amount for interest and will also put aside five percent for savings. They will meet as a group every two weeks to share experiences. At each meeting, 1/8 of the loan will be repaid.
For the first four months, a maximum loan of $200 is available. For the next four months, $400. For the third four month period, $600 and the fourth and last four month period up to $800.
With the support of the Sisterhood of the Barnert Temple, Franklin Lakes, NJ, we hope to raise $12,000 to support our bank in the long-term.
The first $3,000 has already been sent.
We met the members of our bank over Labor Day Weekend. It gave us a chance to see the training and CRS teams in action. In this way, specific entrepreneurs can be sponsored.