Strong ties to local communities not only allow microfinance institutions to build enduring relationships with borrowers, but also to invest in socially-driven community projects. In many cases, the non-financial services an organization provides can be as valuable as the microcredit it offers. Kiva’s Lebanon partner, Al Majmoua, is an excellent example of how the resources and commitment of a microfinance institution can positively impact and empower an extremely important segment of the population—young people or “il shabab” in Arabic.
Al Majmoua was originally started by Save the Children. It has since become an autonomous organization, but continues to implement youth initiatives in conjunction with Save the Children. In Lebanon, Al Majmoua oversees the Siraj program, which is a leadership initiative designed for young people in Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine.
The most recent Siraj project was a short documentary film created by a group of 25 students from the Lebanese International University (LIU). With the help and guidance of Al Majmoua, the students decided to create a film that illustrates the challenges of Lebanon’s poor people. They spent nearly four months to do the necessary research and visit poor people all over Lebanon. The result was a compelling documentary with high quality cinematography and well structured interviews featuring several low-income people in Lebanon. I thought that the mix of Arabic music and excerpts from the “Slumdog Millionaire” soundtrack were fitting for the film. The students were able to articulate the realities and individual challenges of poverty in a dignified way. I resonated strongly with this point as Kiva aims to achieve the same objective.
Although he was busy running around for the event, the student group leader, Ali, managed to share his comments on the film (please see video):'
“The film is very important for us because it is a way to show a real picture of the suffering and poverty in Lebanon for the students and the young people. In Lebanon it’s only the politicians and people with power who talk about the suffering of the poor. Through this film we are letting poor people express themselves”.
As a result of Al Majmoua’s work serving low-income borrowers all over Lebanon, it was able to connect the students to many local contacts and resources for the film. The fact that Dr. Youssef Fawaz, the Executive Director of Al Majmoua, participated in the event as a speaker was extremely telling of the value Al Majmoua places on such initiatives.
Although the film was presented in the middle of a busy work and school day, the student group successfully recruited more than 50 of their peers from LIU to attend the event, as well as the Representative of the Minister of Youth and Sports, the Director of Public Relations of LIU, and an economic development expert from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). ESCWA comprises 14 Arab countries in Western Asia: Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
When you invest in Kiva, you invest in local field partners.
Please remember that when you lend to Kiva borrowers, you are also investing in Kiva’s local field partners. It is in large part due to the trust and confidence that Kiva partners instill in local communities that they are able to provide much needed financial and non-financial services to low-income borrowers all over the world. And when you take the example of Al Majmoua in Lebanon, it is easy to see how these partners can play a major role in shaping the next generation of leaders. It is a sad reality that we must continue to address poverty in our communities and countries, but there is something uplifting and reassuring when young people are actively engaged in the discussions and the solutions.
One voice and one story at a time, the future is yours to change, “ya shabab”.
Nishita Roy is a Kiva Fellow (Class 10) serving in Lebanon. Get involved with Kiva’s Lebanon partners, Ameen s.a.l. and Al Majmoua, today! Make an impact by lending to an Al Majmoua entrepreneur today!