Thursday, October 7, 2010

Microfinance – Steps Towards A Sustainable Future

Colleges and universities are a life stage the majority of teens and twenty-something’s in the U.S. go through. A recent study by TRU, a Chicago-based market-research firm, reports 80% of 18-19 year olds and 67% of 20-23 year olds are currently enrolled in a college or university. Given the time, knowledge, and influence higher education institutions provide teens and young adults, it makes them well-positioned to also teach this cohort about sustainable development. DePaul, a leading private university, recognizes this fact with its practices of sustainable development. DePaul’s efforts to educate on sustainability have ranged from environmental initiatives such as providing students a way to refill their water bottles, eliminating their use of plastic bottles, to building LEED certified green-buildings on its campuses.

An area that is of particular interest to me is DePaul’s investment in community development. According to the Green Report Card 2010, DePaul receives a ‘C’ for efforts focused on developing communities, which is below the average of “B+”. Once examining further, I found a particular community development initiative at DePaul in microfinance. This is a smaller partnership and was not mentioned in the Green Report Card of 2010, but should be taken into consideration as one of DePaul’s stronger leaps towards created a sustainable future.

In a partnership with Fonkoze, and The Haitian Hometown Associates Resource Group, DePaul has become a partner in
a micro-loan program in Haiti called “Zafen”. “Zafen” is creole for “It’s our business” and allows ways for Haitian citizens to develop their communities through investment in their workforce and economy. One of DePaul’s role’s is marketing the organization, and an easy way to read more is through DePaul’s social-network sites. Here, those interested in “Zafen” can read up-to-date news on the organization. They are also able to read about DePaul’s efforts to promote “Zafen’s” mission, and can see photos of events being hosted, or even on-the-ground operations. Up top, you’ll see a photo of DePaul Day for Haiti which was hosted in April earlier this year (2010). The events proceeds were donated to Fonkoze, which would support “Zafen’s” projects.

DePaul’s involvement with Fonkoze and “Zafen” are a great way to promote sustainable development. Microlending is a means to promote community development, and in Haiti, invest in their workforce and economy. Helping the Haitian community sustain their businesses is a step toward securing a promising future. Being a higher education institution, it is important that DePaul not only continue to support such microfinance efforts, but also educate their students about their efforts. An initiative such as “Zafen” will not only inspire many students to become involved directly with the Haitian community, but it also educates the student body about workforce development, community development, developing nations aid, micro credit and micro finance, etc. DePaul’s partnership and involvement with Fonkoze and “Zafen” is also something that seems to differentiate them from neighboring Chicago-area colleges and universities. I wasn’t able to find much information on microfinance partnerships other universities have, and for many students and community members, it’s something to be proud of DePaul about. Please view a recent news release which covers DePaul's involvement with "Zafen". You can also check out these videos of efforts being taken in Haiti.

DePaul’s efforts in community development internationally make them a key player in creating steps to a sustainable and brighter future, especially for the Haitian community.

Posted by Nidhi Singhal
Photo Credit: DePaul Facebook Account - Woman Singing on DePaul Day for Haiti
Photo Credit: Zafen logo

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