We woke up early to travel back to Managua yesterday and started our day with a visit to Agora Partnerships. Vanessa Castro greeted us and told us about Thriive Capital, a foundation that makes interest-free loans to businesses that are too large for microloans and too big for commercial loans. Thriive allows borrowers to use this money to purchase machines or equipment, and encourages payback by putting the title to the machines in Agora's name for the first year. Businesses repay these loans through goods or community services instead of cash. In this way, Agora promotes the greater good of the community. For example, a baker might donate bread to a local school, and the retail price of this bread will be deducted from the loan balance. A basket weaver might offer a workshop to a group of local women in order to pay back a loan. Thriive encourages loan recipients to offer workshops so that community members are left with a lasting skill that they can use in their lives and their businesses. Vanessa told us that Agora has found that once loans are repaid in full, recipients tend to continue helping the community because of the satisfaction they feel when providing these services.
After Agora, we went to Global Partnerships, an impact investor that works with Microfinance Organizations in several countries to help those living in poverty. They focus on five key areas: health care, rural livelihoods, microentrepreneurship, green technology, and women's empowerment. They told us about their model and we told them about GLOBE, and they offered some advice for operating in Nicaragua.
Finally, we revisited the daughters of charity that we had met with on our first night in Managua. We entered a room of about thirty women, all potential borrowers and recipients of GLOBE funds. They were enthusiastic about the program and very smart. Some of the women were calculating interest on a declining balance and asking us questions and others were telling us about the businesses they wanted to run. One woman wanted a loan to study mathematics in the local college, and told us the cost of tuition, books, and transportation. Some of the women were concerned about running businesses because they thought they needed to run them out of their homes, but they did not have houses. Another woman was there with her nine year old daughter. Her daughter wanted to start a crafting business to pay for her mother's treatment for ovarian cancer. We promised her that we would review this application with a priority, and were moved by the family's need and determination.
We left feeling very optimistic about Nicaragua. There is so much need here but so much potential. We hope that we will receive several loan applications from the area and that next semester's class can establish a great presence here.