Monday, October 26, 2009

It's a Honkin' Whale!

LEAD Lands a Very Big Fish

The press release was from Washington DC. On September 29, 2009, The United States African Development Foundation released this headline:
USADF Signs Two Grants to Support the Under-Served in Liberia:
Grants Create Jobs, Enhance Quality of Life for Workers

It was big news, and even bigger for our "Little NGO that could," LEAD Inc in Liberia. A grant Renita had co-authored, one of only two approved for the entire country, went to that organization that just five years ago did not exist. The news release went on to say,
"After reviewing the grants, newly appointed USADF Chairman Jack Leslie stated, 'Funding economic development at the grassroots level is vital to USADF’s work and to the under-served people of Africa. These grants do just that – they provide funding that enables grassroots groups to grow and sustain their projects and give them the means to enhance their quality of life.'”

The three year grant is for $246,000 USD and will help LEAD do the following:
· Open two new offices – one in Grand Capemount County and one in Margibi County, bringing the total number of counties served in Liberia to six (other counties served are Bong, Grand Bassa, Montserrado, Nimba).
· Hire six new staff for these two counties, as well as one IT person for the main office, with salaries for these seven positions for 18 months.
· Purchase of new vehicle (Remember our 94 Red Pathfinder and that 2001 gray land Cruiser? These are all LEAD had to use, so now they will finally have something more trouble-free.)
· Purchase a motorcycle for each county to make it easier for the staff to get around to business clients.
· A little over half of this grant ($125,000 USD) goes toward LEAD’s revolving loan program. LEAD has three loan programs:
-- Providence Empowerment Initiative (PEI) designed for microbusinesses who have been in existence for six months are given a two day training, save in groups of five businesses, and start with a loan of $100 USD; upon successful completion, they can go to a $200 loan, and then to a $300 loan;

-- Nehemiah Empowerment Initiative (NEI) designed for for small and medium size businesses (SMEs) who go through a 36 hour training over the course of 12 weeks, saving for six months, and then receiving a loan for $300-$1800 US depending on their savings. (Graduates from the first program can move up to this program.)
-- Agricultural Empowerment Intiative (AEI) designed for agricultural development and is a new program that will be be launched with this grant.

The majority of the funds given from this grant are for the microbusiness loan program, and a much smaller portion for the agricultural development. Up until this time, all loan funds donated have been for the second loan program and we have been borrowing from this loan fund to help grow the micro businesses to the SME level, so this will provide great support.
· Some funds are also given for training, equipment and other supports.

A big question is how many people will be impacted by this? It’s difficult to say. The beautiful thing about this work is the idea of leverage – if we help one business, that business often supports many people – if the business owner employs three persons, and each person is responsible for five family members, that means that 15 people are now being helped with food, school fees, medicine, etc. What's more, the money that is given for loan funds gets used again and again. It goes out, comes back, goes out again, supporting, returned, supporting, with no reason to end. LEAD has trained over 1300 businesses and given out 1000 loans, so the people impacted already are potentially 5000 and multiplying exponentially.

Please keep this in your prayers as “to whom much is given, much is required.” It is always a challenge in places where poverty abounds to make sure every dollar goes where it is intended. Pray that the staff may be able to handle these additional responsibilities.
Weather: The hot season is looming, and temperatures are on the rise. Daytime temps in the 90's with evenings cooling down to the upper 70's to low 80's. SW Breezes are diminishing a bit, but still in the 10 to 15 mph range throughout the day.