Estoy yendo a Sud America!

I am going to South America to explore one of my long-time interests – international development!  Specifically, I will work in the rapidly growing microfinance sector.  I accepted an internship through the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Bolivia with the organization Pro Mujer and I expect to be in South America through August 2009.  The answers to a few questions I’ve recently received are below:

Why microfinance?

While working at J.P. Morgan I had the luxury to attend meetings hosted by the Social Sector Finance Group that included talks on microfinance.  A few notable speakers at sessions I attended include Fazle Hasan Abed (BRAC), Maria Otero (ACCION International), Elizabeth Littlefield (United Nations & CGAP), and Willy Foote (Root Capital).  I took a closer look and realized microfinance has a transformative potential.

The rich-poor gap continues to widen for various reasons including but not limited to lack of education, oppressive or unstable political realities, and limited access to health care .  Another major factor receiving less coverage is the lack of financial products and services catering to poor or low-income households.  Microfinance fills this gap.

Microfinance functions as a means for individuals to transcend the shackles of poverty. Microloans can expand small enterprises and allow for diversification of products.  Advisory services can bring together farmers to form a cooperative that reaps the benefits of shared overhead and increased leverage during negotiations with buyers.  Ultimately, access to financial products and services translates into more revenue generation allowing a greater ability to realize non-basic goals (education/health care/savings).

Who is Pro Mujer? (from the website)

Pro Mujer is an international microfinance and women’s development network whose mission is to provide Latin America’s poorest women with the means to build livelihoods for themselves and futures for their families through microfinance, business training, and health care support.

What is the itinerary for the trip?

Peru – 4 weeks mainly taking formal Spanish courses (1 week: Lima, 2 weeks: Cusco, 1 week: Inca Trail + Machu Picchu)

Bolivia – 16 weeks working in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Brazil – 2 weeks of pure vacation!

What I intend to do upon my return?

Assuming I enjoy the experience I foresee myself returning to New York or moving to D.C./San Francisco to continue my involvement in international development.  I am open to working at a non-profit organization, governmental institution or private sector company.

What will be the purpose of my blog?

This serves as an easy way to update individuals on the events of my life while I’m abroad and less accessible. Moreover, I would like to use this forum to share ideas regarding the work I encounter and hopefully spark an intellectual discussion on economic situations in developing and underdeveloped countries.

Until next time – cheers,

Tomas

[While in South America I will go by my last name rather than Shiju]

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8 Responses to “Estoy yendo a Sud America!”

  1. Sunil Says:

    Sweet. I’m going to try to join up in Peru. Bring a camera and take some pictures.

  2. Subin Says:

    Great. I look forward to hearing more. See if you can embed this video somewhere, it’s a good highlight of their work: http://www.change.org/promujer/videos/view/nbc_nightly_news_features_pro_mujer

  3. Sunjay Says:

    Shiju goes to South America…sounds like the name of a sitcom. Look forward to reading your updates man. Don’t forget about us little guys while you’re down there.

  4. Chase Says:

    Tomas? I like it. Keep the posts coming and be careful down there.

    Chase

  5. Shanthi Says:

    So glad you’re going to experience the wonder that is South America. You’ll love the Inca Trail– and it will kick your butt. Be sure to go relax in the hot springs of Aguas Calientes afterwards. I found this site and thought of you, http://www.peru-us.org. Its a site for a non profit promoting business opportunities as well as U.S. and international investments in Peru. Cant wait to read more. Enjoy!

  6. Annette Says:

    Hi Shiju, we hope that we are not to late to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you.
    We hope that there was a big special party for you in this week! Best wishes from all of us in old europe. We will follow your stay in south america through your blog. So we will be alway informed…..
    best regards from munich mum an dad
    Annette and Dietrich

  7. The *real* Thomas Says:

    Shiju,

    Great to hear you’re working on the Spanish skills in an awesome place. I too am working on improving my conversational Spanish skills (as you might know, my wife is from Ecuador). I’ll be down in Ecuador July 6-14th. We’re going to Quito to see Cristina’s family.

    Que te diviertas! Cuidaté amigo, ciao.

    Thomas McClure

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