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Weekly Speaker Program

February 6, 2017: Ken Montgomery, Honduras Economic and Community Development.

President Terry introduced our guest speaker, Ken Montgomery, who spoke on the HECD Project (Honduras Economic and Community Development Phase IV).

The HECD project goals mirror the UN 2030 initiative which is to end poverty, end hunger, provide clean water and education, as well as ensure gender equality globally by 2030.

The main focus of HECD is microfinance addressing poverty, with a secondary goal to provide clean water to small towns and villages.

The project is funded by Rotary clubs near and far, district, provincial and federal governments and Rotary International. IDH in Honduras are stewards of the funds and make small loans to the local population. All funds go to the local community business that generate revenue and thus is sustainable, as loans are repaid with very few defaults.

The loans provide employment, which means a stable income for families, resulting in better food, better education and improved standard of living: a very positive example of how microfinance reduces poverty.

Why Honduras? It is the third poorest country in Central America with 65% of the population living below the poverty line. Women are especially challenged, often making less than $1 or $2 US per day.

500,000 Hondurans are trying to start businesses without access to affordable and safe financing.

HECD is a ten-phase program. We are now starting Phase IV in partnership with various Rotary clubs, RC Real de Minas in Honduras, Opportunity International Canada, and the local IDH financial company.

Duncan Stanners spoke on Phase I ($130,000 for Microcredit) which established relationships and partnerships.

Phase II ($600,000) was led by Duncan and focused on water and microfinance. IDH was able to improve their technology and grow the business. They are still not a recognized bank but continue to open more branches to help more people. The implementation of technology also enabled them to do transactions electronically rather than physically in a country with a high crime rate!

Phase III focused on sustainability, as there was a greater than 97% payback rate on Microcredit loans. Every dollar given gets recycled every four months: it's a hand up, not a hand out.

Providing clean water was achieved in Phase II also. The villages need to own the water. This is an asset-based community development, with villages providing labour to dig trenches and lay piping. One village laid 14 km of pipe from source to village. The systems are maintained by a small fee of $1-$2 per family per month. Because clean water is now available, people are starting to return to their villages and start business, build schools, etc. The impact has been life-changing.

Phase IV will address the need for SME (small and medium enterprises) financing. Small loans of $5,000 US are made to clients of SME. It is anticipated that results will be achieved by July, 2017.

15-20 clients will receive $5000 US loans. It is anticipated that these loans will generate 30-80 jobs in the first twelve months. The ripple effect of the benefits is continuous and sustainable.

Phase V will led by Bill Fitzsimmons and continue focus on SME microfinance and potentially another water project. Bill is leading an insight trip April 17 - 22, 2017. If you are interested, please contact Bill directly: bilfitz@shaw.ca

President Terry thanked Ken for a most comprehensive presentation.

reported by Les Morgan

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