FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Date: February 1, 2010
Contact: Lea McCloud
Alternative Gifts International
Alternative Gifts International sends help for Haitians through micro-loan investment at Fonkoze
Wichita, KS – February 1, 2010 - Two non-profit organizations with strong ties to Haiti have found a creative way to take the next step after disaster relief toward helping Haitians build a successful future. By investing a small portion of AGI’s endowment funds, Wichita-based Alternative Gifts International (AGI) and Fonkoze will be providing micro-loans to help women in rural areas of Haiti. More people are migrating from Haiti’s devastated cities since the January 12 earthquake, which makes micro-loan organizations such as Fonkoze even more important.
AGI (www.alternativegifts.org) is a non-profit that inspires support for humanitarian and environmental causes. It offers donors the option to designate charitable gifts through carefully selected agencies, in the name of their relatives, friends and associates. Each year, AGI works on behalf of non-profits in Haiti by featuring at least four Haiti-based projects among the 40 projects included in their educational materials and “My Shopping List for the World” catalog. Lea McCloud, President of AGI stated, “After considerable study, AGI’s board decided that Fonkoze would be an excellent choice for us to actually invest in micro-loan programs, in addition to raising funds and awareness for other non-profit agencies that distribute such loans.”
Claude Thau, the AGI board member who recommended this action, summarizes his support like this: "I believe that micro-loans are the best foreign policy for the USA and that such micro-loans are a wonderful way to increase security throughout the world over the long term."
The name Fonkoze is the acronym for Fondasyon Kole Zepòl in Creole, which means ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’. Organized in 1995, it is Haiti’s alternative bank for the organized poor, and is that country’s largest micro-finance institution, offering a full range of financial services to the rural poor. Its mission is to build the economic foundations for democracy in Haiti. Fonkoze currently has approximately 200,000 depositors, donors who make micro-loans possible, and 60,000 borrowers - 98 percent whom are women.
“A micro-loan provides a gift of self-reliance to a struggling family. This is a responsible and sustainable approach to help relieve poverty,” said McCloud. Many Haitian families survive by selling things in local markets, but creating inventory first requires borrowing money. For most borrowers in Haiti, the only providers of loans apart from micro-loan organizations such as Fonkoze, are money lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates – some as high as 300 percent per year.
Fonkoze’s clients organize solidarity groups of five or more who pledge to cover a member’s loan repayment in the event of an emergency. Perhaps the most impressive statistic is that this organization’s average loan default rate has been less than seven percent.
AGI has been partnering with other agencies that assist the Haitian people for a long time. “For example, in the summer of 2007, we sponsored a conference in Jacmel that brought together representatives from at least 35 environmental agencies and peasant groups in Haiti. They formed a grass-roots collaborative network now known as the Haitian National Coalition for the Environment.
“In AGI’s 21 year history, more than 1.3 million dollars has been raised and distributed to Haiti-based projects. This passion was inspired by our founder, Harriet C. Prichard, and the board that shared her desire to help the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere,” McCloud continued.
For more information about Alternative Gifts International please visit www.alternativegifts.org. To learn more micro-loans and Fonkoze, you can visit their website at www.fonkoze.org.