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The Scarlet & Black

Microfinance group SEG celebrates first repaid loan

Social Entrepreneurs of Grinnell (SEG) recently received a reward for their work. After becoming a non-profit organization, they are thrilled to have their first microfinance loan paid back.

“It’s very rewarding that your work has gone towards something good and it’s worked out the way you wanted it to work and you get to look back and use that to do more work,” said SEG Member Noah Most ’13.

Cecosprocaes, one of the international partners of SEG, repaid their loan of $1,000 on time. The SEG loan helped farmers in Nicaragua grow bananas.

SEG aims to raise money, which it then loans to people in developing countries who want to open small businesses. According to their website, “The Social Entrepreneurs of Grinnell (SEG) seek to foster mutually empowering connections between the developed and developing world. SEG works to give agency to individuals in order to sustainably address the self-perpetuating social and economic problems of inequality.” They are currently loaning $25,000 to over 25 countries around the world.

“We’re trying to help people help themselves through the loans that we make,” Most said.

Based out of Jinotega, Nicaragua, Cecosprocaes is a parent organization to six separate cooperatives. One of these, América Unida, built a general store located in a “rural town outside of Jinotega at which farmers can both buy farming supplies and sell their products to the community,” according the SEG’s website. The store makes a tremendous difference—before its construction, “farmers had to travel up to 40 kilometers to buy supplies and sell their product.”

“One thing we look for [in an institution] is a Grinnell connection because it’s easier that way to stay in communication,” said Bianca Silva ’11. Bianca is the liaison for the company Cecosprocaes.

Once they initiate contact with the institution, they arrange a member of SEG to serve as a liaison. Their liaisons speak English, Spanish and French. After sending the money to the institutions, they keep contact and check up on how the money is used.

“We do ask that each organization to send us monthly updates about the progress of the project so that we keep in contact and we know how our money is being developed,” Silva said. Cecosprocaes has also sent them photos of their new developments and thanked them.

“It’s really exciting for me personally but also as a group because it’s just great to see that the money we lend out is really being used and being used in a positive way that helps people,” she said.

They also work locally, serving community meals and running a local loans project.

“We try to reach out to the campus and to also the community, which is what the local loans project is all about,” Silva said. “It’s about community outreach in the Grinnell area, not just the campus.”

The government officially recognized SEG as a non-profit Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) last year (see S&B 10/2/09). As a non-profit, SEG must screen its members. However, anybody can go and attend the meetings, volunteer, or donate. After showing commitment and interest, interested students can become members of SEG.

“Our short-term goals are working on the website, looking for international partners, strengthening the local loans project and creating institutional memory,” Silva said. “One thing we kind of whisper about is the idea of getting an office for people to walk in and out, get information, or people to donate.”

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