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Microfinance - Transforming Lives Beyond the Client
Category: Microcredit | By BriggsB, 23-Sep-2011 | Viewed 3591  Comments 0 | Source By Barb Briggs
When Calgarian Kim Asman visited Colombia she suspected the trip would have some impact, but she didn't expect the dramatic changes it would have on her life.

In January 2010, Kim and 9 other women traveled to Colombia to see microfinance in action. The group of professional women had formed to focus on their spiritual development and to connect with others that shared a similar desire to give back to the world. Some of the women had heard about microfinance and how it was being used as a tool for alleviating poverty, and after much consideration agreed to take part in an Insight Trip through Opportunity International, an international organization that provides a range of microfinance services and training to over 2 million people in the developing world. 183_697330209_4.jpg
Asman (right) and Dorothy Anderson visit Antonio Pedro Ballesteros, at his home-based sandal-making business.

According to Doris Olafsen, Executive Vice President for Opportunity International Canada, "Insight Trips provide an chance for Canadians to walk in the shoes of those who are living the life of a microentrepreneur and lets them see firsthand how empowering people brings dignity, confidence and commitment to life."

On her 20+ Insight Trips with over 250 people, Olafsen has witnessed many transformations amongst the visiting participants, "Nearly every person comes back from their trip with, at minimum, a new view of the world and a desire to take action."

Kim Asman was no exception. "I had expected to see hopelessness and desperation in the face of such poverty," says Kim, "but instead I saw hope, laughter, dreams for the future and a fullness of life that is not quite present back home."

Upon returning home, Kim said she was filled with a burning passion to do something and to change her own life. She wanted to get back to the same basic values she saw evident in many of the families in Colombia. So, in June 2010, Kim left her lucrative16-year career in the oil and gas industry. No longer did the fast-paced, high-stress world of business fit her newfound worldview.

"At first my family was shocked, but they were very supportive. My co-workers joked that I would be back to work in just a few months," says Kim. "I had been very committed to my career for so long that it was hard for people to believe this change would last."

Over a year later, there is no looking back for Kim. She admits she does miss parts of her previous life including the social aspect with co-workers, but the benefits she receives from spending time with her family and advocating for microfinance outweigh everything else. 

Kim and the 9 other women formed a group called Amigos de Colombia — or Friends of Colombia upon their return to Canada. Their sole purpose was to raise $150,000 over three years to support a village in Colombia through microfinance. In less than 8 months the group raised $125,000 and is well ahead of their three-year target. 

Through her work for Amigos de Colombia and as a member of Opportunity's Governor's Council, Kim continues to raise awareness of microfinance and work on behalf of people living in poverty. She is planning to visit Colombia again in 2012 along with her husband. 

You can learn more about microfinance and how it works around the world by attending the Calgary Microcredit Conference on Saturday October 1, 2011. Tickets are $90 each (General Admission) and $45 for students and representatives from non-profit organizations. Visit www.calgarymicrocreditconference.com for more information and to purchase tickets. 
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