Our Microenterprise Development Program assists rural women "self-help" groups develop and grow small business ventures. We have been active in helping set up small income-generating activities (IGA) for rural self-help groups since the early 2000's (primarily thru grants), but only recently began focusing our work on providing more advice, consulting assistance, and small loans to the groups. MDP volunteers work with the existing microenterprise groups to help them grow and improve their existing projects, as well as help newly forming groups start an IGA.
The 5 main areas of volunteer activity in the MDP are as follows: (1) Progress Assessment, (2) Facilitate Project Discussions and Evaluations and Provide Project Advice, (3) Facilitate Knowledge and Resource Sharing Within the Network of Groups, (4) Provide Small Loans, (5) Provide General Business Skills Training Seminars.
Most volunteers spend their time doing a combination of all the above 5 items. Our value-added is not just in the form of providing financial resources (loans) but includes project planning advice, basic management and accounting training, and (very importantly) volunteers act as facilitators between our vast network of groups in order to facilitate knowledge and resource sharing among the groups. Our microlending program has just gotten off the ground and we currently have about $10,000 USD in outstanding loans. The MDP volunteers will be spending a lot of their time over the next several months meeting with the loans groups to ensure that are on schedule with paying back their loans and that they are investing their money prudently (e.g., in productivity enhancing resources versus consumption items). The lending part of our program is very new and is growing rapidly.
As a volunteer in the MDP you would spend the vast majority of your time out in the field meeting and working with the women microenterprise groups, which is a very rewarding and educational experience. All of the microenterprise groups within our network are independent groups. We do not manage their day to day operations and do not charge any type of fee for our services. We are a strict volunteer non-for-profit organization. All interest that we receive from the microloans goes towards new loans for additional groups. We are now have a network of around 100 microenterprise groups within the western Kenya region.
As of June 2007, our organization has had over 400 volunteers since 1998 from over 6 different countries. Volunteers in our Microenterprise Development have come from a variety of backgrounds including undergrad business students (Duke, Rice, Miami, Indiana), MBA and graduate students on their summer break (Stanford, Penn, etc.), management consultants (BCG, McKinsey, CRA), retired professionals, and accountants. See www.volunteerkenya.org for more information.