Portfolio Partner Profile
VisionFund International, World Vision’s microfinance subsidiary, has been improving the lives of children in the developing world for over 17 years. By offering small loans and other financial services, clients develop successful businesses, enabling their children to grow up healthy and educated. In FY2020, VisionFund International’s network of microfinance institutions provided loans to one million clients, with nearly three-quarters of these going to women and over a third to clients actively involved in farming. Repayment rates were 98%. Also, in FY2020, 3.6 million children were positively impacted through its MFI network located across 28 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.
Featured Impact Story
Helping businesses recover during the COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause massive economic disruption around the world, especially harming the extreme poor. Throughout COVID-19, most VisionFund clients have experienced a loss of income, as lockdowns and public health initiatives forced many sectors to close. This can lead to impaired livelihoods, and damage prospects of accessing further financing, as a result of the inability to repay outstanding loans. VisionFund is changing families’ ability to recover, and even thrive, through innovative recovery lending programs.
Josephine (41 years) is one such client. Widowed, she provides and takes care of her late brother’s children. She owns a stationary business in Tanzania, that started as a small shop that gradually grew into a larger business. Due to the global pandemic and closing of schools, Josephine’s business was greatly affected – schools cancelled orders for items like report books, diaries, printing and copy services, and she had to close her shop and use her savings to feed and care for the children.
“This was one of the hardest and most challenging times in our lives, since I had to pay rent and to continue my repayment schedule of the loan to VisionFund as well” explained Josephine. She visited the VisionFund branch and explained her predicament and was helped by her loan being rescheduled for four months until the lockdown situation was more settled, and schools and offices reopened.
Her shop is now open again. “With this business so far, I am able to pay rent, schools fees, top up the loan amount and repay it,” she says.
Teamwork making the dream work in Kenya
“Before COVID-19 our lives were busy and we were happy,” says Simon, a 47-year-old father of two girls and a boy, and supportive husband by the words of Penina, his wife. Simon is a retailer dealing with mobile money deposits and withdrawals commonly known as M-pesa and also sells gas for cooking. Together with his wife Penina, he also runs an outdoor catering business as a trained professional and owns PA systems that he hires out during events.
He used his first loans with VisionFund to purchase outdoor catering equipment and to put up a retail shop, which went a long way in curbing the expenses of renting out a shop as he used to. The major challenge Simon experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic was the decline of sales in all his businesses. This was the saddest season for his family due to difficulties providing food for the family, something they hardly anticipated. With gas sales declining, reduction of stock, no outdoor catering, and no float to carry out M-pesa transactions, Simon could hardly feed his family. To add to that, his cash flow had drastically declined, making it more difficult to repay his outstanding loan balance.
“We wished our two children were at school because then we were assured that they wouldn’t miss a meal. This was the worst it could get,” said Penina. “But our lives have taken a different turn now,” Simon interjects optimistically as he helps Penina record the morning sales in their sales book.
In 2020, in addition to the moratorium offered to clients, Simon received a VisionFund loan that enables clients to recover their livelihoods from the adverse effects of COVID-19. With this product, clients affected by COVID were given the opportunity to refinance the outstanding loan balance and get additional funds, to recover their business. The maximum term for this product is 12 months.
With a recovery loan of Ksh.100, 000 (approx. USD927) which was his second loan with VisionFund Kenya, Simon managed to purchase 18 new refilled gas cylinders as well as increase the M-pesa business float. “This loan saved our family, not just the business,” says Simon. He explained that the gas sales had picked up faster than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Together with his wife, they have ensured that their customers have a variety of cylinders to choose from, something they did not have before.
“My wife and I are a team,” says Simon, “I owe her for being my business partner.” The couple find joy in working together and they attest that teamwork as well as the recovery-lending loan they received were the two key drivers that helped them rise from the grip that the pandemic had had on their business. “Initially we wondered how we would feed our children, repay our loan, and restock our businesses. However, with this loan, we can see real transformation in our lives and businesses. Our sales have picked up and we don’t struggle to repay our loan,” says Simon as he smiled for the camera outside his retail shop.
Where there is passion, there is progress
Dhammika is a single-mother and has been providing for her two daughters on her own since they were ten and thirteen. She lives in Puttlam district, western Sri Lanka, where the majority of communities depend on agriculture for a living. She recalls trying her best to make ends meet, surviving on just the vegetables produced by her garden. Her eldest daughter had been with World Vision’s sponsorship program at the time.
Today, as she walks through her banana and turkey-berry (locally known as thibbatu) cultivation that spans 3 acres, she points out surrounding land that once used to belong to her but that she had sold-off to pay for her children’s education. A microfinance loan from VisionFund helped her pull through an especially difficult time during the dry season where her water-line had been cut-off due to unpaid bills. She had almost given up her cultivation and had been struggling to manage everyday expenses.
Her sister had told her about a new women’s loan product offered by VisionFund Lanka at a lower interest to support single-mothers and widows needing financial assistance for small businesses, and she applied. A loan of 40,000 LKR (USD 220) helped her reconnect her water supply, and hire some women workers to help reinstate her cultivation land. She is now expecting her first harvest of turkey-berries and is excited about the profit that they will bring her.
Her eldest daughter is now married, and her youngest is soon to be, and she happily points out a banana tree carrying a large bunch that she intends to lay out during the wedding celebrations. Single-handedly educating and providing for her daughters had been no easy task and she continues to maintain different small sources of income to fulfil her responsibilities to them. She has a few trees that produce cashew nuts, she sews clothes for her neighbours, and she also sells chilli powder.
“Do what you can do and what you like; not what others tell you to do, even if they may bring more income,” is Dhammika’s advice to other women struggling to find the right livelihoods. “You have to be comfortable with what you’re doing to succeed.”
Globally, over 71% of VisionFund’s clients are women, and with special loan products that cater to the unique needs of women in rural areas, women like Dhammika are empowered to build successful businesses and provide for their children.