Celebrating a half-century of service in Colombia

By David Connelly, KF10 Peru/KF11 Colombia

Fundacion Mario Santo Domingo (FMSD), Kiva’s first and only (for the moment) field partner in Colombia, is celebrating 50 years. To help them out, I’ve planned a short series of blog posts highlighting a few of the many projects and programs the Foundation has undertaken as it’s spanned 5 decades, 3 cities, and somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000,000,000 Colombian pesos* working to strengthen communities and alleviate poverty in Colombia.

This is a big deal down here. In fact, yesterday, July 13, outgoing Colombia president Alvaro Uribe released a 1700 word “thank you” letter to FMSD for its service to the nation that you can read here (in Spanish). His son was in attendance at a special presentation given a few weeks ago (pictured at bottom).

It’s main office is housed in a modest building in downtown Barranquilla

with an even more modest entrance

As it’s mission, FMSD has set itself to promote social and economic development by supporting educational activities, cultural programs, scientific research, technological development, income generation, employment, and just about anything else that will help improve Colombians’ quality of life, especially in the poorest communities. That’s paraphrased,** and it might seem a bit grandiose and overextended if the foundation didn’t have such an illustrious history. Just take a look at the figures listed below and you’ll see how seriously they’ve taken this pursuit. (It helps that they were founded by the man behind Avianca (one of the oldest airlines in the world) and continue to enjoy the billionaire family’s support.)

Some figures***:

25 years of operation for their microfinance program
290 thousand microloans made
133 thousand entrepreneurs received those loans
580 billion pesos lent
388 thousand training courses run for entrepreneurs (these usually run up to about 24 hours of class time for each course).
400 billion spent on social programs and initiatives apart from microfinance lending
4300 homes built through the sustainable community program
60 thousand homes in the coastal area is the scope of this project

Here’s a shot of one of those sustainable communities from a Colombian newspaper article in El Heraldo

Now, FMSD has done a lot of stuff over the years, but in my posts I’m going to try to stay on topic (mostly). I’m skipping over the research funding, university founding, and support for the arts to highlight two programs very intricately wound up with the work and life of micro-entrepreneurs (constructing communities and legalizing gray-market businesses). I’ll also do a more in depth interview of an FMSD borrower and, with a little luck, profile a small primary school in the Rosario Islands whose pedagogy incorporates large blocks of time for interpretive dancing.

Closing out, here’s a shot of loan officers mixed with borrowers at the celebration:

Interested in more? Here‘s FMSD’s field partner profile.

You can find FMSD loans here.


*The current exchange rate is approximately 2000 COP : 1 USD, but that’s varied wildly since 1960, when the rate was more in the neighborhood of 7 COP : 1 USD (see: the Colombian National Bank’s breakdown)

** “Promover el bien común y propiciar el desarrollo social del país dando su apoyo a actividades y programas de carácter educativo y cultural, investigaciones científicas y tecnológicas, de salud, beneficencia, generación de ingresos y empleos y todas aquellas que contribuyen a mejorar la calidad de vida de la población, especialmente de las comunidades más pobres.” http://www.fmsd.org.co/index.html at La Mision

***See http://www.lanotadigital.com/business/la-fundacion-mario-santo-domingo-celebra-50-anos-de-historia-19770.html

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