Looking for an opportunity to take your engagement with Microfinance to a deeper level?

Global Brigades is the world’s largest student-led global health and sustainable development organization. Since 2004, Global Brigades has mobilized thousands of university students and professionals through nine skill-based service programs to improve quality of life in under resourced communities.

Microfinance Brigades in Honduras works alongside community members to provide access to savings, loans, and financial literacy programs through the source of a community banking system.

What is a community bank?

Prior to a brigade, the Microfinance Brigades Program identifies leaders within the community to form the community bank which is based on a shareholder model.

The shareholder model of the community banks is a model that is widely used throughout rural Honduras. The 10 initial community bank leaders must invest their own initial capital or shares to generate the seed capital for the initial lending process. As the community bank expands, additional members of the community who want to join the community bank must also pay their initial shares and monthly shares to maintain membership. At the end of the year, each member of the bank receives a portion of the profits through dividends.

The initial establishment of a community bank including training of the leadership board takes approximately 5-6 months. At the end of their training, the community bank leaders are prepared to evaluate the financial status of the community bank and begin receiving brigades in their community. The Microfinance team ensures that all of the executive board and general members have been provided with training focused on leadership, membership, budgeting, and the administration of their 5 control books (savings, loans, daily transactions, shares, minutes for monthly meetings).

What  is the primary source of income? The principal activity for all of the communities we work in is agriculture. The crops include corn, beans, coffee, sugar cane, plantains, and tomatoes

What happens on a Microfinance Brigade? During a 7 day Microfinance Brigade, volunteers spend five days in a rural Honduran community working alongside the community bank to provide improvement to the community’s current economic situation. On the first day in the community, the community bank provides the brigade with a welcome and introduction to each member, history of their initiation and growth, overview of roles that each member plays in the community bank, and a testimonial from one member explaining how the community bank has benefited him or her since its initiation. The meeting is followed by an agricultural activity where the volunteers learn about the community’s work life and experience firsthand how farmer’s plant, harvest, and process their crops such as beans, corns, coffee, and sugar cane. The next two days are spent doing household visits where volunteers conduct in home financial consultations with families.  In the evenings, the volunteers discuss amongst their group what they experienced during the day and determine economic solutions to help the families improve their current situation whether it may be by joining the community bank, opening a savings account, or taking out a loan.  The fourth day in the community, the brigade reunites with the community bank members to discuss their findings from the week including the result of the household visits as well as providing the community bank with suggestions as to how they can change or improve their policies in order to benefit the entire community.  On the final day in the community, the volunteers spend the morning conducting training or providing additional feedback for the community bank members based on the topic from their education manual which they receive prior to arrival in Honduras. In the afternoon, the entire community is invited to an educational meeting which can range from a variety of topics such as the community bank services, budgeting, the importance of savings, loans, and leadership. By the end of the brigade, volunteers and community members truly develop a connection through the merging of cultural backgrounds and financial education.

For more information or to start your on Microfinance Brigades chapter: Contact Megan Dunlop at megan.dunlop@globalbrigades.org

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