By Jayme Mendenhall
The Word at Work non-profit in Belize is putting together a small scale sewing business. This non profit is teaching ladies how to sew and then providing the funds for them to purchase a sewing machine on credit, to help get their micro business established. They are also looking for some investment dollars that they can lend to the ladies to help purchase the machines. CREED is working to establish a fund that would provide the money for their growing micro-business lending project in Belize.
Pedro Perez, a Business Development Manager, at Atlantic Bank, Ltd. a local bank in Belize, is leading this project. “My initial focus is serving those who are currently ‘unbankable minitrepreneurs’ within the $400.00 range. It is my hope that with training, monitoring and support these could graduate into micro, and small projects. My main focus is to increase their capacity and skills to do business generally. We also saw that these trained persons needed the financial and business skills to be fully successful, hence our initial interest in Micro Enterprise development.”
The idea is new for Belize and they are open to play it by ear and adopt the best practices. The target market is single mothers and young women and men who are unable to continue their formal education. Pedro and his wife have been partnering with The Word at Work for sometime and they currently manage one of the sewing programs in Belize. There are three in Belize City, one in Corozal, and the Word at Work is hoping to start another at Holy Cross in San Pedro. So far they have trained many singles and mothers and sold them sewing machines to start a new life. Their immediate goal for this sewing project is: 20 single mothers at Centro, 25 at House of Refuge, and 8 in Corozal.
CREED is initially creating a $5,000.00 revolving fund for the initial pilot project. They have developed a complete framework for this program and they are working on developing the training material both in Spanish and English to implement with 3 of their local partners: Centro Vision Misionero, House of Refuge and Living Hopes Ministry Preparatory School.
The loans to help start the micro businesses are a maximum of Bze$ 400.00, but they have the flexibility of going above and below this amount. The total charges for the loan, including interest, registration and support and monitoring fees, are $100.00. The recipients are then given 5 months to pay with a grace of one month (six months). This makes the $25.00 weekly payments affordable.
There are some requirements the recipients must meet; they must take the training, develop a business plan, start saving, accept the monitoring and coaching and pay back on time. There is a committee that evaluates the business plans and decisions are based on:
Viability and need of project
Capacity to pay back
How it is going to impact the member and their family
References from the Pastor and others in the church they attend
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