Pakistani priest helps poor with loan scheme
Self-help groups are seeing their businesses prosper
ucanews.com reporter, Hakimpura
January 24, 2011
Through self-help groups he started in 2009, Father Joseph Louis is currently helping 40 married couples – 20 Christian and 20 Muslim - in small Punjab villages like Hakimpura in Lahore archdioceses.
Each member deposits at least 10 rupees (US$0.11) each week and can take out a loan of up to 2,000 rupees with 10 percent interest. They can later withdraw savings at the end of the year with equal distribution of the money raised through interest charges.
This helps sustainability and the empowerment of small groups, says Father Louis now Executive Secretary of Caritas Pakistan in Lahore archdiocese.
“The idea is to help poor and working class families to become independent and also raise their awareness of interfaith projects. Also, it is especially handy for mothers looking to take care of their children during increasingly hard times,” he told ucanews.com.
The loan scheme is one of several projects handled by the UMEED (Urban Mobilization for Education and Environment Development) Trust, which the priest founded in 1997. The organization also offers non-formal education to children, adult literacy, health and hygiene education and vocational skills development courses.
Working in rural communities has one major challenge, according to Venus Hameed, UMEED program coordinator.
“Having felt betrayed by several NGOs in the past, it is hard to gain their confidence. Volunteers involved in trying to set up self-help groups face a lot of suspicion,” she said.
But the priest’s loan scheme has been praised by those who tried it.
Perveen Yousaf helped her husband improve their small tuck shop after taking out a loan from a self-help program.
“We make more money making chicken nuggets,” she said.
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