Sea Change is presently funding and working with microfinance partners in Haiti and India.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and suffers from a history of political instability, poor health care and high levels of illiteracy and unemployment.
Approximately 15 percent of the estimated demand for microfinance is currently being met, where over 5.4 million people [65 percent] live below the national poverty line.
Here Sea Change partners with Fonkoze, Haiti’s Alternative Bank for the Organised Poor, and is the countries largest microfinance institution. It offers a full range of financial and non-financial services to the poor, primarily the rural poor, through its 32 branches throughout the country. Its mission is to build an economic foundation for democracy.
Founded in 1994, Fonkoze is owned an operated by its members. Its innovative remittance program that allows Haitians living abroad to safely, affordably and conveniently send money home was honoured by CGAP’s Pro-Poor Innovation Award in 2003.
Fonkoze currently has almost 110,000 depositors and more than 45,000 active borrowers. The services offered to the poor by Fonkoze include group and individual loans that are used to start or expand a small business, savings products, money transfer services, and literacy and business skills training.
How it all started
In August 2005 after a visit to Thailand and the region of Khao Lak where over 3,000 people died in the Asian tsunami Paul Mitchell met a group of families who had lost everything, and although they were entitled to compensation for their loss, they never received anything.
He met the spokeswomen for the groups of families and decided to set up a microcredit project, where he gave these families grants and interest free loans to get their businesses back in operation, so that they could support and feed their families again.
Due to the scale of the disaster they were given 50% of the funds in grant form to pay for capital expenditure, and 50% of the funds as an interest free loan over 12 months.
These loans were set up under the Grameen principles and the families met monthly as a group to make their repayments, but also to discuss the challenges they were having as the tourist market which they depended on had all but disappeared.
The members of the group were told at the outset that if they repaid the loans the funds would be available for further borrowing.
The loans were repaid in full and have subsequently been reissued helping them to continue to recover from the devastation of the tsunami and rebuild their shattered lives.
He returned to Ireland and contacted a number of friends and Sea Change Foundation was set up in October 2005.