Hello family, friends, and everyone else,
It’s my turn to finally update you on our India travels. For a while I was struggling to think what I would blog about, but after today’s wild experience my decision was easy. This morning Jeff, Stephanie, and I, Grant, woke up at 5:00am to travel to the neighboring state to visit two villages that Share Microfin is working with. We were accompanied by Mala, our manager, and Mr. Charmar, the head of operations.
Before I tell you the objective of our trip I should explain to you what SHARE is doing in these villages. Stephanie explained in an earlier blog that SHARE gives out small loans to poor women. For SHARE to give out these loans, they must have an established branch in the area. SHARE has hundreds of branches spread out all over India. Once a branch is open and operating it will hand out loans to hundreds of women in the various villages surrounding the branch. When the loans are in action, the collection process must begin. Every week, a SHARE field staff member or the SHARE branch manager will hold a meeting in each village where women will make loan payments in cash. This is where Jeff, Steph, and I come in. Our objective for the day was to witness the collection meeting, make sure SHARE is abiding by the Fair Practice Code set by the industry, and see what awareness or development programs SHARE provides or could provide in these communities, in addition to loans.
The first village we visited was very rural and about 12 km outside the main city of Bidar. We met with about 35 Hindu women in front of a house in the village and watched as the SHARE branch workers walked through the collection process with the women in their common tongue. Without understanding a word they were saying, we could tell that these women were very happy with their lives. We went through our checklist to make sure the SHARE workers and documents complied with the Fair Practice Code and then interacted with the women a bit more. We were given a little tour around the village and were able to see what the women were purchasing with their loans. One lady purchased a cow, which produces 9 liters of milk a day which sells for almost $5 a day. Another lady showed us that she makes her living off of a purchased autorickshaw and a sewing machine. The second group we visited was 30 Muslim women on top of a building on the outskirts of Bidar. This meeting went much like the first meeting but one thing stood out to me. The Muslim women all had their faces unveiled. Over the past couple weeks I had never seen anything more than the eyes of a Muslim woman. The fact that their faces were unveiled showed that they trust and are comfortable with the SHARE workers.
After the meetings we went to the branch office and talked with Mr. Charmar about the procedures SHARE must follow through the loan process and we asked him a lot of questions. We talked in depth about the current workshops and awareness programs SHARE provides to these communities. We discovered that every week the SHARE field staff members talk to the women about different issues, which can be anything from sanitation, health, education, budgeting, banking, and etc. Tomorrow, Jeff, Steph, and I have to complete a project on how SHARE can improve or add to their current awareness and development programs.
Overall, today was a very humbling experience. This entire trip to India has been a humbling experience. I used to think that America has a lot of poverty, but it is nothing compared to the poverty in India. Although all of the women we met today live in poverty, you would have never guessed it by the big smiles they had on their faces. I think it goes to show that independence and self-reliance can make a huge impact on an individual and a community.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. Mom, my inner-you came out this afternoon on our 3-hour drive back to Hyderabad. I almost had 50 heart attacks in the car. Indians like to turn a 2-way road into 4 lanes while constantly weaving in and out of oncoming traffic to pass the cars in front of them. I’m alive though 🙂
P.S.S Mom, I know you were praying I wouldn’t get sick. Well the other day I did (not from the hand bowl), but the poison is gone and I’m back to normal. No worries 🙂