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Open to Grow Newsletter – December 2016
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Letter from our Founder

Hola a todos!
 
Another year has just flown by! Our fourth Newsletter is on your screen! Thanks for taking the time to read it.
 
Open to Grow is a volunteer-run charity focused on providing small loans to poor micro-entrepreneurs to help them increase their business incomes and improve their own and their family member’s lives. Our geographic focus is Central America. With increased incomes, they can move themselves from poverty towards the middle-class. To do this, we fund the loan portfolios of small and medium-sized microfinance institutions (MFIs) and help our MFI partners in any way that we can.
 
Five years ago, we partnered with Namaste Guatemaya to jointly deliver a business development program in Guatemala, one of the poorest countries in Central America. The program combines micro-loans, group financial education, monthly one-on-one business consulting, and performance measurement to support poor women micro-entrepreneurs in increasing their incomes. It has done this in spades! Graduates of the program have more than doubled their incomes!
 
We’re about to take our next big step and are pretty excited about this! In mid-2017, we plan to add a second MFI partner in our focus area of Central America. Working with our Board Advisor, Dr. Francisco Barquero, we have developed our selection criteria and have reviewed the available public information on a large number of possible new MFI partners in two Central American countries.  We have reduced the number of contenders to around six. We will now continue this process with the gathering of specific financial and other information from these candidates. Once we have 2-3 possibilities, we will have in-depth interviews with them in the their countries. We expect this to take another 6-8 months. We’ll keep you posted so stay tuned!
 
Once again, thank you for your support and encouragement along the way. Together, we have positively affected the lives of many. Help us continue this work by making a donation now.
 
Sincerely,
Bob Brown, Founder

Why Support Open to Grow?

We are growing in many ways. We have now made over 3,000 loans totaling more than $1 million to the micro-entrepreneurs in the Business Development Program. Our loan losses over this period have been less than 3% of the total portfolio.
 
Up to now, we have offered three successive loan cycles. We recently discovered, through the data collected, that offering a fourth loan cycle could help a client increase her profits and make a real difference in her family’s life. We have therefore expanded the program to four loan cycles, or 36 months in all.

The Business Development Program continues to produce excellent results. Women who graduate from the program more than double their starting business incomes. They also receive financial education that they can use for the rest of their lives in continuing to expand their businesses.
 
There are important spin-off benefits to the family members of the micro-entrepreneur and to their communities. Increased incomes improve family health, education and housing. As a significant part of the increased incomes are spent in their local communities, other community members will benefit as well.
 
Finally, as noted above, we plan to expand our horizons in this coming year by adding a second MFI partner in our Central America geographic focus area. We will definitely need your financial support to make this happen!
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Recent Events

In February, we received our second Alberta Government Community Initiatives Program International Grant. We are most grateful for this support.
 
In October, we held the 2nd Annual Open to Grow Miles for Microcredit event  (our 5th fund-raising event) which was Chaired by Board Member Patrick McNaught. Once again, the weather was kind to us and we had over 200 runners, walkers and wheelers out to help us achieve our goal of collectively traveling from Calgary to Guatemala City! Together we traveled over 1,000 miles! Adding this to the distance we traveled last year, we made it to Guatemala City and are now on our way back to Calgary! Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, donors and supporters, we raised $30,000, up 50% from last year. These funds will be used to support our expansion in Central America.

One of our Exceptional Clients


Dona Adi is a hard worker. She goes the extra mile and then some. After a full day doing housework, taking care of her children and making handicrafts, in the evening she goes to downtown Antigua to sell her products to tourists.
 
Dona Adi’s monthly net profit when she started with us was $252. She is now in her fourth loan cycle and her monthly profits have increased to $815! By 323%!!
Motivated by the training received from Namaste, she has participated in additional local education programs to gain more knowledge to help her to improve her business and share her knowledge with others. Her dream is to continue building her home, wall by wall, so that she will have something that belongs exclusively to her.
Board of Directors
Bob Brown, Founder & CEO
Karen Brown
Michael Flatters, CLO
Heather Gore-Hickman, CFO
David S. Kertland
Carrie Lonardelli
Patrick McNaught
Thomas Vukovich

Advisor to the Board
Dr. Francisco Barquerro
Guatemala Team
Eugania Duran, Executive Director
Armando Garcia, Chief Accountant
Denise Lorenz, Operations Manager
Alitza Andreta, IT Manager
Sara Cojolon, Accountant
Paulo Mixteco, Accounting Assistant
Gabriela Lopez, Data Entry
Domingo Reguan, Business Advisor (BA)
Bayron Galdemez, Educator/BA
Geovany Estrada, BA
Mario Sakil, Educator/Loan Officer
Cleofas Sarat, Educator/Loan Officer
Felix Pindado, Assistant Operations Manager
Juan Carlos Hildago, Loan Officer
Jose Chay, Loan Officer
Carlos David Gallina, Educator/BA
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