October 2, 2015

ADRA, Recognized as a Top Lender in Peru, Finds Women Repay Loans

, news editor, Adventist Review

ADRA may make headlines for feeding refugees and providing shelter to people after disasters, but in Peru it is known as a leading lender.

Peru’s government, praising the Adventist Development and Relief Agency for 50 years of work in the South American country, has recognized it for distributing about $110 million in microloans to more than 17,000 people, mostly women, over the past 19 years.

“The women do repay their loans,” ADRA spokeswoman Natalia Lopez-Thismon told the Adventist Review on Thursday.

The lending service, called the Microfinance Program, is ADRA’s largest and longest-running program in Peru and doles out about $5.8 million a year. It is ranked No. 1 among Latin American lenders, including major banks, in terms of portfolio quality, according to the Microfinance Information Exchange, a nonprofit organization based in Washington that tracks microfinances. The ranking means ADRA’s borrowers are the most likely to repay their loans in Latin America.

“They are the No. 1 microfinance organization in all of Latin America,” said Jonathan Duffy, president of ADRA International, who attended daylong celebrations in the capital, Lima, late last month. “Their work here in Peru is greatly appreciated and acknowledged by the government.”

The Microfinance Program started with a matching grant from U.S. government-controlled USAID and has a mandate to assist women across Peru build their own businesses while at the same time provide literacy, business, and leadership classes. Less than 10 percent of the loan recipients are male.

One entrepreneur, Hermilia Quispe Ramos, purchased a copy machine and a few other supplies with her microloan and opened a shop, ADRA said. With the money that she earned, she put herself and her son through law school. Both graduated and today the mother is a successful lawyer in Peru’s southeastern city of Juliaca, specializing in defending the rights of impoverished women and children in her city.

Read Hermilia Quispe Ramos’ story on ADRA’s website

“The program not only trains women in sound business practices, but also teaches the importance of savings by requiring that the entrepreneurs save a portion of the loans they are provided,” ADRA said in an e-mailed statement.

The training is key to ensuring that the women are able to repay their loans, Lopez-Thismon said.

“That’s a really important part of the program,” said Lopez-Thismon, who saw the lending program first-hand during a visit to Peru last October.

The loans may be as small as US$50 or $100, but they go a long way in the right hands, Lopez-Thismon said. She spoke of seeing women who once sold gum on the street use their loans to open ice cream shops or even start selling clothing to Europe.

“The women for the most part are already entrepreneurs,” she said. “They already have that drive.”

The Seventh-day Adventist Church started humanitarian work in Peru with the Seventh-day Adventist Welfare Services, an organization that was renamed ADRA in 1973.

Peru’s Congress recognized ADRA for its contribution to the development of the country during the 50th-anniversary celebrations. ADRA marked the anniversary by distributing 50 wheelchairs to children outside the Congress building in Lima.

The day concluded with a thanksgiving ceremony at the Miraflores Seventh-day Adventist Church.