Open to Grow Newsletter – November 2015
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Letter from our Founder

One more year has just gone by! Our third Newsletter is on your screen. Thanks for taking the time to read it.
Open to Grow is a micro-credit charity peopled entirely by volunteers. We partner with Namaste Guatemaya to deliver a basic business development program to poor women micro-entrepreneurs in Guatemala. Our goal is to help them increase their incomes! This enables them to move themselves from poverty towards self-sufficiency.
The program is unique in the micro-credit world. It combines micro-loans, group financial education, monthly one-on-one business consulting, and performance measurement to support micro-entrepreneurs in increasing their incomes.
Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. 75% of the population lives below the poverty line. 58% of the population cannot purchase a basic basket of food. It has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean. The 2014 Human Development Index ranks Guatemala at 126 out of 187.
Why support Open to Grow? As you can see below, we have made amazing progress working together over the last four years! We have had the support of many - donors, grantors (Alberta’s Communities Initiative Program & the Fig Tree Foundation), event sponsors, event attendees, event item donors, board members, volunteers, and our partner in Guatemala. We are grateful to you all.
Thank you for your support and encouragement along the way. But there still is a lot more work to do. Please help us continue this work by making a donation now.
Bob Brown, Founder

Why Support Open to Grow?

We are growing (as our name suggests). Since our first loan made four years ago, we have made over 2,600 loans, totaling more than $900,000, to our women micro-entrepreneurs, with a loan payback rate of 97%.
We have increased the number of women in the program to 500. The length of the program has been increased by 50%, and the average loan size has doubled to respond to our clients’ needs.
We are helping our micro-entrepreneurs to increase their incomes. Two-thirds of the women who stay in the program for 12 months or longer more than double their incomes. (The remaining one-third leaves the program at various stages, often due to heart-wrenching circumstances, primarily relating to personal and family illness).

There are important spin-off benefits to the micro-entrepreneurs’ family members 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, others in the communities benefit as well.
We are focused in the coming year on increasing the number of women in the program from 500 to 600 (or more). Help us continue this work by making a donation now!

Your donation will help many hundreds of poor Guatemalan businesswomen along the road from poverty to self-sufficiency.

Recent Events

We have spent a lot of time this year in streamlining the financing side of our micro-lending activity. This will significantly reduce the time spent on financial review, and allow us to spend more time on raising funds and building the loan portfolio. In addition, we introduced an electronic deposit recognition system that will when fully implemented reduce input errors and assist loan officers in managing their client loans.
We have applied for a second grant from the Alberta government, and hope that we have a happy result in the beginning of 2016. We are also applying for a second grant from the Fig Tree Foundation, as well as working on others.  We are very grateful for the support of these organizations.
In October, we held our fourth fund-raiser, the Open to Grow “Miles for Microcredit” event chaired by Board member Patrick McNaught. On a warm sunny day, 254 participants set out at various times to collectively walk, run or wheel the 2842 miles from Calgary to Guatemala City, a daunting challenge. The participants traveled 2031 miles, the distance to Mazatlan, Mexico, which was an incredible achievement!  Along the journey, thanks to our sponsors, donors and supporters, we were able to raise $20,000 for our micro-loan program.

An Update on Urda

In last year’s Newsletter, we featured the story of Urda, one of our clients, in video. She is now in her third loan cycle and is doing very well. As this video is a great way for you to get a picture of the life and challenges of one of our clients, we have included the video below. Please watch and enjoy.

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
Denise Lorenz, Operations Manager
Domingo Reguan, Regional Coordinator
Felix Pindado, Assistant Operations Manager
Armando Garcia, Chief Accountant
Sara Cojolon, Accounting Assistant
Paulino Mixteco, Accounting Assistant
Gabriela Lopez, Data Entry
Jose Chay, Loan Officer
Cleofas Sarat, Loan Officer
Juan Carlos Hildago, Loan Officer
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