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Accion, Poverty and Local Financial Action

Bernard McGraw survived the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina in the summer of 2005. Without a job, McGraw moved his family—his wife and six children—to San Antonio, Texas. 

Upon arrival, McGraw opened Bernard’s Creole Kitchen in an abandoned shack. Hoping to improve his restaurant, McGraw received business counseling and two micro-loans from Accion’s local office. The first micro-loan was used to relocate his business to a local college campus. The second micro-loan was used to buy equipment and compete for a city contract to operate his business at Stinson Municipal Airport. McGraw states “If we hadn’t had the support of Accion, I don’t know if we would be here today.”

Many families similar to the McGraws fall victim to poverty worldwide. According to PBS, 1.3 billion people worldwide live in absolute poverty—living on less than $1 per day. Approximately 70 percent of those in absolute poverty are women. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die daily due to poverty.

Something has to be done.

Accion has been fighting global poverty since 1961 by giving micro-loans—small, short-term loans—to individuals and communities in need. The recipients of these loans typically do not qualify for traditional bank financing.  These people frequently live in underserved, remote, developing places. According to Accion, the average amount of a micro-loan is $998. Micro-financing brings financial services to the poor and marginalized. Accion clients include market vendors, sandal makers, artisans, and seamstresses.

Accion was founded by a University of California-Berkeley law student, Joseph Blatchford who began questioning how young Americans might be able to serve those in need globally while on vacation in Latin America.

What started as a group of student volunteers helping local residents improve their communities developed into a company providing financial assistance through micro-financing. From 1973 to 1977, Accion has provided 885 loans that have created 1,386 jobs. Realizing their success, Accion helped create BancoSol, the first commercial bank solely dedicated to micro-financing. Accion expanded to Africa, Asia, South America and North America.

Besides micro-financing, Accion offers client education and industry training. Also, Accion’s philanthropic business model reaches further by creating new micro-financing lenders. By educating clients on financial literacy, technical understanding, management skills and business logistics, borrowers receive more than dollars; they receive power to escape poverty.

Accion’s multi-faceted attack on poverty has granted more than $56.8 billion in loans. Additional successes include the following: 63 micro-finance institutions in 32 countries, 15.8 million people served, 97% loan repayment and 2.3 million active savers with $3.4 billion in savings deposits.

Eliminating poverty is a complex task. However, the commitment, diligence, and expansion of Accion have benefited millions of underserved, excluded, and impoverished human beings. That deserves acknowledgement from us all.

Leonard Wilson, Jr. 

Sources: PBS, NY Times, Global Issues
Photo: Blogspot