By Helene Dudley
Peace Corps taught me to be comfortable in a diverse and interesting world. It taught me not to just tolerate differences but to embrace them. Peace Corps also taught me to care what happens in other countries, so when Colombia led the planet in murders, kidnapping and internal displacement 20 years ago, I joined Colombia RPCVs to seek a way to help – to really help – not just prayers and good wishes and a check, but to actually DO something.
At an April 2000 meeting of displaced people, lawyers and social workers in Bogota, we learned the best thing we could do from the safety of afar was provide resources to help people rebuild their lives. The Colombia Project (TCP) initially funded micro-loans for displaced families, but soon included any marginalized population. For the first seven years we perfected our model, then replicated it for seven more before evolving as TCP Global and expanding to Guatemala, Niger and Peru in 2015.
Today we have 21 sites in 8 countries and are looking for more. TCP Global loans are for entrepreneurs with no collateral and no credit history, on the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Loans range from $27 in Niger and Senegal to $670 in Peru with the average being $230. After a borrower repays several loans, we urge partners to help open the door to traditional banking services. Colombian banks have a mandate to reach underserved communities. Good track records of our borrowers help banks safely comply with that mandate. Our mission has always been twofold – obviously to help small entrepreneurs with affordable loans, but also to empower change-maker organizations in poor communities.
The TCP Global team currently supports over 600 loans per year. In order to reach 6,000, we look to the Peace Corps network to connect us to change -makers in the small and rural communities where volunteers often serve. RPCVs introduced us to loan partners in Guatemala, Peru, Niger, Senegal, Kenya and Nigeria. We have six sites supported by currently serving Peace Corps Volunteers. Working through the Peace Corps community is our path forward. The pro bono TCP Global team will help current and former Volunteers build sustainable loan programs in their sites.
Micro-loans will not solve the world’s problems but they are an important part of the solution. By empowering change makers in the developing world, we enlist many more hands to address the towering tasks facing the planet — from migration to food security. To learn more, please visit the TCP Global FACEBOOK Page and the NPCA affiliate group website for TCP Global.