The Gemach Project

An Interest Free Micro-Loan Program

Benefit #7

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The 7th benefit is PEACE.

We have seen The Gemach Project bring peace in three different ways;

The first is peace between husband and wife.  As a wife in Benin told us.  There was constant tension between her and her husband because of their extreme poverty.  Since she has received a Gemach loan and she has been able to contribute to the family there is now peace in the family.

There is also peace between different religions within a village.  In many places such as Niger and Benin we have given group loans that are made up of individuals who may be animists, Muslims and Christians.  There individuals have had to look to each other for cooperation to make their businesses work.

The third way is peace between different ethnic groups.  In Kenhancha, Kenya there are four different tribes that have been fighting with each other for generations.  They raid each other to steal cattle and at times burn each other’s houses.  We have given several group loans in this area.  Our loan administrator has made groups comprised of members of these different tribes.  This way they are forced to communicate with and get to know each other as a person not as a member of the other tribe.  His goal is to bring peace between these tribes.  These groups are working well together and all have either paid back or are paying back their loans.  These group businesses are also succeeding.

Benefit #6

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Another benefit that we are seeing with The Gemach Project is the benefits to the community as a whole.  In some cases it changes the availability of products and in others it saves time and energy.  Two examples.

In Benin a woman received a loan for a business.   Being aware that medicine was hard to find in the village she started her own pharmacy.  Medicine for malaria and other ailments are now readily available perhaps even saving lives.

In Kenya a group of widows had to walk miles with their grain to get it milled into flour.  Realizing this need they pooled their loans and bought a grist mill.  They then paid to have electricity brought in to run the mill.  The use by the local village was so great they paid their loans back before they were due.  This availability has saved many people in the village time and energy as they now can get their grain milled locally.

In our next post we will see how the Gemach loans are bringing peace between villages.

 

Benefit #5

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Some of the unanticipated results we have seen from The Gemach Project are benefits being seen by the local African churches.

We have seen church attendance actually increase in areas.  We have been very careful how we give loans through churches.  We did not want people to come to the church and profess a belief in Jesus Christ just so they could get a loan.  We have seen church attendance increase even after they have been told that there is no more money for loans.  Why of course is speculation.  We believe hat it is because they have witnessed a church that cares about them, that is active in the community and has exhibited God’s love for them and they want to be a part of it.

We have seen tithing increase in the local churches.  Businesses are succeeding and with an increased income they are giving more to the church.  This of course enables the local church to expand their efforts and even make new church plants.  The Pastor has more time to devote to evangelism as his needs are being met.

Church members are realizing their need to help others now that they are able to do so.  A pastor’s wife in Senegal told us how she is reaching out to those in need.  She gives a needy family a piglet to raise.  Once this piglet is grown and has it’s own brood the recipient keeps one of the piglets from the brood and gives the rest back to the pastor’s wife.  The person in need is now on their way to making a better life for the family and the pastor’s wife can help others.

What we are doing with The Gemach Project, as you can see, has far reaching benefits beyond just helping one family out of poverty.   In our next post we will look at unanticipated benefits to the local villages.

 

Benefit #4

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I apologize for the delay in getting this post out.  We had a holiday and then my computer crashed.  I think we are back to normal and hopefully back on track.

The three previous benefit talked about bringing the poor out of poverty, giving the recipients a sense of self worth and accomplishment and the benefits given to the loan administrators by having self control.  In this post we will look at the fourth benefit and that is the benefit that the loan recipient receives by having self control.

Many organizations try to tell them what they are to do.  They decide what business they want them to do.  We don’t do that.  We don’t give them ten chickens that we tell them to raise.  They may not know anything about raising chickens or have feed.  We do not give them money and tell them that we want them to make soap.   They may not have access to the raw materials to make soap.  Unfortunately this is exactly what many organizations do.

Instead, we want to know what they know how to do or what they have an interest in.  In so doing we find that the will usually do one of four things;  if they have land they may want to grow crops or raise animals, if they have a skill but not the tools they may choose to buy the tools needed.   For instance they may know carpentry but not have the tools or they may know how to make clothing but not have a sewing machine.  So they use the loan to buy the needed items to utilize their skills.  The fourth thing we see is that they buy in bulk and sell piecemeal thus making a profit.

Regardless of what they choose it is their choice.  They then own it and have no one to blame but themselves should they fail.  Thus them having ownership becomes a very important factor in determining if the businesses succeed or fail.  So the fourth benefit is true ownership and control of their own future.  Limits are not set on them and they can take it as far as they want.  We have seen many start a second or third business from the profits of the first.

In our next post we will look at the benefits realized by the local churches because of the Gemach loans.

Benefit #3

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I touched on it a little in the previous post.  The third benefit that we provide is local self control.

Our local administrators are all African.  Our administrators are responsible for identifying village or area where the loans are most needed.  They then decide the individual families that are in the greatest need that will make the most of the opportunity.  The administrator makes sure that their business ideas are viable and then he makes the loans.  We try to use a local administrator who is respected in the community thus ensuring repayment of the loans.

We are never present when the funds are given.  Thus we avoid the appearance of it being a handout and not a loan.  For this reason we will not work through a western missionary.  We do not know what business is viable or the local market.  Too many organizations try to dictate these types of things and thus they results are poor.

The loan administrator is then in charge of collecting the loan payments and once the loans are paid back they then redistribute the funds as new loans.

So the the control over all aspects are in the hands of Africans.  Thus giving them ownership and nurturing dedication.  This ensure that the funds go to the right people and a greater success rate and    the administrators get to help personally those that they know to be suffering.

This ownership goes beyond the administrators to the loan recipients.

Many organizations try to tell them what they are to do.  We don’t tell them that we are going to give them ten chickens that we want them to raise.  Se don’t tell them to make soap.  The may know nothing about raising chickens or may not have access to the raw materials to make soap.  Yet this is exactly what many organizations do.  Instead we want to know what they want to do, what they know to do, and what they have an interest in.  In so doing we find that they typically do one of four things.  If they have land they will either grow crops or raise animals.  If they have a skill they may buy equipment or tools so that they can capitalize on that skill or lastly they will buy product in bulk and piecemeal it thus making a profit.

No matter what they decide to do it is their choice.  They then own it and have no one to blame but themselves should they fail.  This ownership becomes an extremely important factor that determines if the business succeeds or fails.

In my next post  after Thanksgiving we will look at the benefits to the African churches.

Benefit #2

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Many African are continually told that they can not improve themselves without foreign aid.  That they are unable to help themselves.  They have been told this for centuries.  Which brings us to the second benefit that we have seen from The Gemach Project.

We tell them something completely different.  We recognize that they just need a chance to help themselves.   One first chance to make their own lives better.  We tell them that we will give them that chance.  We will not tell them how to do it nor will we tell them what to do.  They need to figure that out for themselves.  When they have we will give them an interest free loan and thus that first chance.

We are adamant that this is not a handout but a loan and that they must pay  back.  Not only do they pay back the loans but their entrepreneurship is astounding.  We have talked to those that have started a second business from the profits earned from the first business.  In Benin we talked to a lady who bought a grist mill with her initial loan.  With the profits from that business she bought a second grist mill.  With the profits from these two investments she has begun buying broken flip flops and putting the good pieces together, cleaning them up and reselling them.  Another man bought carpentry tools with the first loan and then with his profits started a fish market.  All they needed was a chance and someone to invest in their lives.

So what do we give them in addition to the monetary gain, children’s education and medical attention?  We give them a sense of accomplishment and self worth.  As one woman in Senegal told us “Before I was just a poor woman in the village but now I am a business woman”.  A change you could see radiating from within her in addition to her improved living conditions.  They have accomplished more than they ever envisioned that they would even have a chance to accomplish.

In my next post I will talk about another benefit: self control.

 

Benefit #1

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This is the first post in a series to outline the many benefits we are seeing as a result of Gemach loans.  Some intended, some not and others far more important than our initial goals.

This first benefit is the most obvious and the one that we set The Gemach Project up originally to address.  Lifting the poor out of poverty.

First, what is poverty in Africa?  We have all seen pictures of starving children on TV and then a plea for donations.  Lately we have seen images of people dying from Ebola in West Africa.  These are images of the results of poverty but how do we measure poverty.  Academics talk about GNP and other economic indicators but I like the way that our loan administrator, Pastor Josue Akowanou, in Benin assesses poverty.  When they apply for a loan they have to fill out a questionnaire.  The questionnaire asks them questions to determine a level of poverty.  The scores on this test tell them who the poorest are and thus who get the loans.  I think also gives here in the U.S. a clearer picture of what poverty looks like in Africa.

This system gives a score of from one to three depending upon the answers given.   The lower the score the more in need the applicant.  He asks questions about their home, health, education, food, economy, communication and what he calls administrative recognition.

I will give you some examples from each category:

Home:  Zero points if their house has bamboo walls, one point  for clay walls and two points for cement walls.  Zero points if they have no electricity, one point if they are pirating electricity and two points if their home is connected to electricity.  Zero points for one piece of furniture one point for two and two points for two or more pieces.

Health:  Zero points for no mosquito nets, one point for nets in poor condition and two points for nets in good condition.  Zero points for no vaccinations for their children, one point for partial vaccinations and two for full vaccinations.  Zero points for no access to medical care, one point for access to a clinic and two points for access to a hospital.

Education:  Zero points if illiterate, one point for primary education and two points for secondary education.  Zero points if none of their children are attending school, one point if some are attending and two points if all are attending.

Food:  Zero points if one meal a day, one point for two meals and two points for three meals.  Zero points if they get protein less than once a week, one point if they get protein a maximum of once a week and two points if they get protein more than three times a week.  Zero points if they cook with wood, one point for charcoal and two for gas.

Economy:  They earn less than $1 a day zero points, $1-$2 a day one point and over $2 a day two points.

Access to information:  Zero points for no access, one point for a radio or TV, two points for both.  Transportation;   Zero points none, one point for a bicycle and two points for a car or motorcycle.

Administrative Recognition:  Zero points for no official papers, one point for a birth certificate and two points for a national identification card.

This is a sample of the 30 questions that he asks them.  It should give you a picture of how we judge poverty on a practical scale.  Now that we have established what we consider poverty let us tell you what we consider “taking them out of poverty”.

There are three things that we are constantly told by those that have received loans and started successful businesses.  They  don’t have to worry about how to provide the next meal, they can pay all of the school fees so that their children can get an education and they can provide their family with medical attention and immunizations as needed.

I don’t know at what level one enters the middle or upper class in Africa.  I do know that one gets 70 cents a day in Kenya to pick tea leaves and that in many places where we give loans the average person makes less that $1 a day or less than $30 a month.  Time and time again those that receive loans tell us that they are making one hundred to two hundred dollars a month in profit after paying back their loans.

These recipients have gone from having nothing to making 3-7 times the average.  So yes I do consider this as giving them a legitimate chance to climb out of poverty.  All with just a hundred to two hundred dollar loan that they are expected to pay back.  The future prospects of the entire family are changed.

In the next post, Benefit #2, I will elaborate on something else we give them bedsides monetary gain.

6 Years

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Six Years ago this January we made our first loans in Africa.  We did so out of an urging by God to help the poor.  We also made these loans by following God’s Will as set forth in the Bible.  After six years we have come to realize that God had much more in mind than just helping the poor monetarily.  He has used us to bless the lives of thousands in many different ways as well as using them to bless us.  Over the next several days with perhaps a break on Thanksgiving Day I will place here on our web site an area that God has touched through The Gemach Project.  He has used us in ways that we never  envisioned and I am sure He will use us in new ways as we go forward.  Please take the time to read these posts.  It will greatly enable you to see the true value of what we are doing.

Najijenga

Staff at the Kehancha Hotel

Twenty loans have been paid back in full in the Kuria area of Kenya.  The funds from those loans have been given to ten young people in Kehancha, Kenya.  They have pooled their resources and opened a hotel in Kehancha.  Be sure you give them some business the next time you are in Kehancha.

 

The Gemach Project is pleased to announce that we have been able to make Thirty-Two new loans in Garbongou, Niger.  These loans will be used to raise and sell animals.  Please pray for their success.  Niger is 98% Muslim so I would also ask you to pray that through these loans the Muslim’s will see the love of Jesus Christ.

© 2014 The Gemach Project