Open to Grow December 2020 Newsletter
In this open letter to friends and supporters of the Central American Microfinance institution Open to Grow, Bob Brown summarizes a ten year history and discusses the future plans.
Open to Grow is a volunteer-run registered Canadian charity focused on poor developing countries in Central America – first in Guatemala and more recently Nicaragua. We provide small loans (or micro-credit) to poor micro-entrepreneurs who have no access to the regular banking system. What we really like about micro-credit is that when these loans are repaid – and over 90% are repaid - we can then re-loan the repayments over and over again to existing or new clients for many years. The money you donate to Open to Grow has a powerful ongoing impact on people’s lives.
Over the years we have observed the resilience of clients in the face of change. Come rain or come shine, they rise to any occasion, be it political crises, Covid-19 or hurricanes. They just don’t quit. They pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get back to work. They change their businesses quickly to meet changes in what people need, want and are paying for. Many clients have several different businesses to diversify their risk. In a year of surprises like 2020, these qualities are essential. These clients are worthy of your support.
As you will see below, this year has had its challenges even though we were able to come through it pretty much intact. Your financial support this year is especially needed so that we can provide micro-loans to poor women entrepreneurs to help them build or re-build their small businesses.
Going forward together, we can continue to help our clients realize their dreams of a better future for their children and families. Please make a donation to Open to Grow now and help us make this happen.
Bob Brown, Founder
The Present (2020)
This year was one full of surprises. Towards the end of 2019, our on-the-ground partner became at odds with the government and this resulted in their forced liquidation over a four-month period ending in early April. While we were able to recover all of our funds, we lost a wonderful partner. It was time to start looking for a new on-the-ground partner (or partners).
We created a process for new partner selection when we moved our operations from Guatemala to Nicaragua at the end of 2017 and this came in handy now. In March we started our search. We selected two countries in Central America with the best economic growth prospects and the least gang and drug-related crime. Following research including discussions with senior officials at several microfinance institutions, Guatemala and Nicaragua became our countries of choice.
We analyzed all small microfinance institutions (“SMFI”) in our countries of choice based on more than 80 criteria. We then selected two SMFI from each of these countries as potential SMFI partners. The selections were made based on detailed financial data and social indicators.
Prior to the end of this process, Covid-19 became a worldwide health concern. In our case, we needed to select SMFIs where the impact of Covid-19 on their clients’ businesses was low. We added to the process monthly analyses of Covid-19 statistics in both countries, focused on the areas with the lowest possible Covid-19 activity.
Finally, we selected one SMFI from each of Guatemala and Nicaragua based on the above criteria.
From May to the present time, we have received from both potential SMFIs detailed monthly reports that provide operational, financial, portfolio and social data.
Finally, we are now assessing the impact of Hurricanes ETA and IOTA in the areas where clients of the two SMFIs operate. Our initial information is that the majority of clients that we would fund have not been seriously affected.
See the entire Open to Grow Newsletter:
December 2020 Open 2 Grow Newsletter
Our mailing address is:
Open To Grow: 16 Windsor Crescent SW
Calgary, AB T2V 1V3 Canada
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