November/December 2011


In This Update:


  •  WMI's Year in Review
  •  New booklet on the History Of Buyobo and WMI's Impact
  •  Greenlight Apparel joins the WMI team
  •  Alice Monje and her cash flowing chickens
  •  Thank you!



Borrower Progress: 2011 was a year of many accomplishments for the women in the WMI loan program.  Here is a quick review of their progress:

         99% of Borrowers doubled their income in the first 6 months of joining the loan program;


         100% of Borrowers increased savings;


         75% of Borrowers transitioning to independent loans report they are earning at least $3,600/year; 40% are generating very large annual incomes of over $6,000/year; and, a startling 10% are earning over $8,000/year.


         75% of Borrowers have acquired additional farm animals;


         99% of Borrowers have improved their household meals;


         85% of Borrowers have improved their business skills;


         20% of borrowers have begun to hire employees to help with their businesses;


         97% of borrowers indicate the loan program is having a positive impact on their family.  

Loan Program Expansion: During 2011, WMI expanded the loan program dramatically.  By the end of the last loan quarter of the year, WMI had funded its 4,000th loan.  A total of over $550,000 has been lent since WMI launched in 2008. A complete table of WMI's lending history is available on the web site at: http://www.wmionline.org/Borrower-Loan-Summary-October-2011.pdf.

Loan hubs were added in Konokoya and Gulu, Uganda as well as Shikokho, Kenya.  Additionally, all preliminary site work was completed on the ground to launch a new hub in Tanzania in January 2012.  WMI's Local Director, Olive Wolimbwa, and a dedicated team of experienced trainers from Buyobo, Uganda visit all new loan hubs, train the first borrowers,and orient the Head Co-coordinators.  Sometimes this means an arduous two day journey using erratic public transportation; but, the peer-to peer transfer of knowledge is crucial to the success of the loan program.  As the staff in these new loan hubs becomes more experienced, they in turn will be able to go out to mentor loan hubs added in the future.

 Local Capacity Building: WMI is not just about loans.  The program builds human capacity in the villages where it operates:

         Twenty new trainers went through the World Bank developed "Training-to-Train" program, increasing WMI's capacity to effectively train new borrowers;

         Advanced business planning training for experienced borrowers was arranged through Carmelo Cocuzza at FinAfrica in Kampala;

         Three new classrooms were constructed at Buyobo Primary School with volunteer donations, villager support and intern labor;

   A Bun and Tea Program for the teachers at Buyobo Primary School entered its second year;

   Vestergaard Fransden donated 100 treated mosquito nets to WMI;

        Reading and math books for 60 students, grades 1 - 6, were delivered to Buyobo Primary from a Williamson, NY school district;

         Fifty-eight boxes of children's books donated by WMI supporters were shipped for free and arrived in Kenya for use by village children in WMI's Siaya loan hub;

         Thousands of eyeglasses were donated to the larger Buyobo community through intern collection efforts;

Bank Partners: PostBank Uganda has proven to be an excellent banking partner for the transition to independence program.  It has worked closely with WMI's Local Director and loan hub team to streamline operations and make certain that the ladies transitioning to bank loans understand the banking process.  WMI is now working with Co-Operative Bank in Kenya to put a transition program in place for the ladies graduating to bank loans in the Kenya loan hubs starting in 2012.

Loan Program Accountability/Inpact/Validation:  Though small, WMI has run a very structured program since its inception.  In 2011, we continued to survey borrowers on a regular basis and analyze that data so that we remain accountable for program operations and so that we can measure loan program impact.  This year we expanded the fact book analysis and supplemented it with a presentation on the transition to independent banking program and a 3-year comparison of borrower baseline data. http://www.wmionline.org/dataanalysis/profile/profile.html

Financial Support: WMI continued to expand support from foundations, corporations, giving circles and other non-profits.  This year WMI was very gratified to receive a pledge of support from The Greater Contribution, a non-profit located in northern California.  WMI works closely with TGC's president, Karon Wright, who has organized a 2012 trip to Uganda for herself and other TGC supporters so that they can witness the WMI loan program in action.  In 2011, TGC generously contributed $50,000 to WMI.

The IMF Civic Fund, Towards Sustainability Foundation, Boeing Company and Global Giving all issued major follow up grants to WMI.  Additionally, the US Ambassador's Fund issued a major grant to install solar power in the WMI building in Buyobo.  In the fall of 2011, Greenlight Apparel joined the WMI team, pledging 12.5% of its profits to WMI (see separate article).  In 2011, WMI became eligible for the Federal Combined Giving Campaign and participated in presentations and charity fairs at a number of federal agencies.  Individuals distinguish themselves year after year as the mainstay of WMI's financial support.  This year two people made extremely generous donations to WMI of $15,000 or more.

 Honored with an annual cocktail party (a highlight of the WMI fundraising season), the WMI 500 - a group of women pledging $250 a year to WMI for at least 2 years - expanded its membership role in 2011 resulting in contributions of over $15,000 to WMI. (If you'd like to join just email: staudaher@verizon.net). Other giving circles were formed as well.  Donna Boxer of Chevy Chase, MD and her colleagues formed a giving circle that has pledged $3,500 a year to WMI for 3 years and a contribution of $2,200 for a fourth year.  Amy Berger marshaled a $750 donation from her book club in Vermont. Sally Kelly organized successful "friendraisers" at her home. (To find out how to host one, email: salkelly@earthlink.net)

Beth Tomasello, Alison Ewing, Kathy Staudaher, Lisa Mitnick and Vicki Dorman represented WMI at local gift fairs and community events to raise over $2,500.  The WMI Holiday Tribute Card was also a big hit this year, raising not only funds for WMI but raising general awareness of our mission. Individuals honored are listed on the web site on the WMI Tribute List. http://www.wmionline.org/WMI-Holiday-Tribute-List.pdf

WMI's strategy in 2011 was to seek partners to affiliate with particular loan hubs so that there would be multiple avenues of support for funding loans and developing administrative capacity in the hubs.  This has worked extremely well as WMI counted as partners: Arlington Academy of Hope, Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church, BIDE, Barbara Wybar and the Budduda Vocational Centre, Judy Lane and the Maasi Sustainability Initiative, Mpambarra-Cox Foundation, East Africa Center for Progressive Development, Child Development Organization (Uganda), and Laikepia Community Empowerment Centre.

These divergent streams of support converged into a mighty river in 2011: WMI has raised $190,000 this year. This is $20,000 more than in 2010!  These funds were truly a godsend for the women and families WMI serves:   $190,000 goes a long way in the developing world.  It was put to work effectively and efficiently by WMI's volunteer board and the dedicated local staff in the loan hubs (You can read about the local staff online at:http://www.wmionline.org/who/coordinators/local_coordinators.html)

Internships/Volunteers: WMI's unique economic model and collaborative structure drew increasing numbers of interns and volunteers who generously donated their time, effort and talents to improve loan program operations both in Buyobo and here in Bethesda.

Outstanding contributions were made by the eight Walt Whitman High School interns who traveled to Buyobo, Uganda this past summer.  The trip so inspired them that five of these committed young adults are returning to Buyobo again in the summer of 2012 with a new group of Whitman students chaperoned by teacher Bob Mathis. 

A dynamic group of college interns and recent graduates played an important role in strengthening WMI's infrastructure in Buyobo in 2011.  Eva Stevenson, Jacklyn Vouthouris, Erin Kelly and Ida Stuve each spent over a month in the village working on projects as disparate as sketching the wall murals for the new school rooms, revamping the loan hub budget and expense reporting system, and shooting top quality video biographies of WMI borrowers.  John Finch volunteered in Buyobo to interview villagers and prepare a booklet about Buyobo and the impact of the loan program (see separate article).  Local capacity for the loan program was increased enormously by the dedicated work of WMI's Project Directors Montana Stevenson and Ainsley Morris, who rounded out 9 months of service in the field in July 2011.  Their efforts resulted in the publication of a WMI Banking Manual, which is proving to be a valuable resource for the loan program. http://www.wmionline.org/Banking_Manual_FINAL.pdf

Not to be outdone, 10 high school and college students interned with WMI in Bethesda during the summer of 2011.  They entered and analyzed data and produced the annual Fact Books on the loan program's impact. http://www.wmionline.org/dataanalysis/profile/profile.html.  Additionally, Elizabeth Robbins, a senior at American University interned with WMI during the fall of this year.

On all fronts, 2011 was a marvelous year of loan program growth, internal development and increased financial support for WMI. 



  This summer WMI was fortunate to have John Finch, an anthropologist from George Washington University, travel to Buyobo, Uganda, WMI's first loan hub (established 2008).  He interviewed village elders and compiled a short history of Buyobo, including the way WMI loans have transformed the economy and culture of the community.  He published his findings in a booklet which will be distributed to primary schools and local libraries in the Buyobo area.  The booklet is online and we hope you will take a few minutes to read this fascinating study of Buyobo and the impact of the WMI loan program. http://www.wmionline.org/History-and-Culture-of-Buyobo.pdf  



In our newest installment in the Meet WMI Borrowers video series, created by Erin Kelly, we introduce you to Alice Monje, a mother of nine, whose WMI loan enabled her to start a poultry business that has transformed her family and her future. Alice lives in rural Buyobo, Uganda and was one of WMI's first borrowers. She has now graduated from the WMI program and transitioned to PostBank Uganda where she has an independent loan of $750 USD!  Take 3 minutes to check in with Alice, meet her family, and see how the chickens have created cash flow.   Click here to watch video:




Greenlight Apparel is an active lifestyle apparel brand with a mission to empower communities around the globe to rise above poverty. http://www.http://greenlightapparel.com

Part of that commitment includes a new pledge to donate 12.5% of its profits to WMI. With every like on facebook, Greenlight is donating an additional $1 to WMI. With a passion for a healthy and athletic lifestyle, Greenlight produces athletic apparel in a sustainable and ethical way. They start by sourcing organic cotton and technical fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles. Then they work with Fair Trade certified production facilities to engineer and produce performance products.

The leadership of Greenlight Apparel recognizes that when it comes to poverty, charity is not a sustainable solution. They believe economic empowerment and investing in women and children are the real pathways out of poverty. They believe in removing the barriers women face in accessing the financial services they need to support themselves, their families, and their communities.  The Greenlight business model is concerned about more than just the end result. The company delivers a product that offers something good from start to finish. Partnering with WMI allows it to do just that.



Pretty great, right?  That's what we think looking back on everything you have helped WMI achieve in 2011.  Sure, we're small - in fact we rank amongst the very smallest category of NGOs (less than $250,000 in annual revenues) - but, that doesn't prevent us from being extremely effective or from implementing big ideas. Together we are doing something no other microfinance initiative is doing - we are training impoverished women in business skills; giving them a chance to develop a two year credit track record; then, transitioning them to bank loans and the formal economy.  We are shifting the power center from the banks to the villages.  We are harnessing the borrowers' collective strength to negotiate favorable bank terms on behalf of one of the most disenfranchised populations on earth: rural African women. 

A dedicated volunteer Board of Directors has been together four years implementing, refining and focusing WMI's operations and expansion.  A very talented volunteer Advisory Board of experts has devoted countless hours to developing WMI's capacity and brainstorming growth strategies.  


None of this would be possible without the financial contributions and hard work of WMI's thousands of supporters.  Please accept our heartfelt thank you on behalf of the thousands of impoverished women and families in east Africa that WMI serves.  You are the heartbeat of WMI.  Every contribution, large or small, every act of kindness you offer and every outreach gesture you make is gratefully received and put to good use.  


There is a lot of discussion in NGO circles about the parameters of "North-South Partnerships" - the context in which developed countries offer aid in the developing world.  Numerous research studies and academic articles focus on how to develop a standardized framework for this outreach.  Your participation in WMI has helped us forge a distinctive path in how to reach out to women living in extreme poverty.  Working through village level organizations run by women lets WMI take a bottom-up approach that values the culture, point of view, ideas and input of the populations we serve.  By providing resources to the vibrant networks village women have built over decades of mutual reliance, WMI is leveraging traditional concepts of social capital to bring access to financial services to the poor in a very personal way.   Respecting the people and environment where we work has allowed WMI to develop a methodology that is equitable and effective.


 We hope that you have experienced the joy you have given to poor woman entrepreneurs and their families through the many videos and photos posted on the WMI web site.  WMI loans bring hope to areas of extreme rural poverty.  It's that indomitable spirit of hope we seek to capture in the plethora of web site media.  http://wmionline.org/media/power/power.html


Happy holidays to you and your family.  Know that your support has spread the joy of giving far beyond the holidays for impoverished women and families in east Africa.



The WMI Board of Directors



Robyn Nietert  rgnietert@aol.com  

Betsy Gordon betsygord@mac.com
Deborah Smith deborahwsmith@yahoo.com
June Kyakobye junekyaks@verizon.net
Trix Vandervossen bvandervossen@imf.org
Jane Erickson ericksonjn@verizon.net
Terry Ciccotelli teresa.t.ciccotelli@saint-gobain.com