There is no escaping our obligations: our moral obligations as a wise leader and good neighbor in the interdependent community of free nations – our economic obligations as the wealthiest people in a world of largely poor people, as a nation no longer dependent upon the loans from abroad that once helped us develop our own economy – and our political obligations as the single largest counter to the adversaries of freedom. – John F. Kennedy
What is International Aid?
In the simplest terms, according to Merriam Webster’s definition, International (aka Foreign) Aid is assistance from one country to another.
But it is so much more than that.
One of the most powerful and influential international aid organizations – USAID – was created in 1961, after the passage of The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.
When the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was created, it brought together several existing foreign assistance organizations and programs. Until then, there had never been a single agency charged with foreign economic development, so with the passage of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (pdf) by Congress, U.S. foreign assistance activities underwent a major transformation.
Leading this transformation was President John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy recognized the need to unite development into a single agency responsible for administering aid to foreign countries to promote social and economic development. (www.usaid.gov)
Since the passing of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, much work has been done worldwide to help others, to extend all possibly boundaries of international aid and development.
Motivated by our concern for the world’s most vulnerable children, families and communities, PCI envisions a world where abundant resources are shared, communities are able to provide for the health and well-being of their members, and children and families can achieve lives of hope, good health and self-sufficiency.
Self-sufficiency. That is a key term. It’s not enough merely to give money or resources to people in need. The goal is to provide for, educate and instill confidence in impoverished communities so that they can begin and continue to provide for themselves.
PCI has harnessed the power toward proactive change with its Women Empowered (WE) Initiative. PCI’s Women Empowered Initiative is a global effort to promote the economic and social empowerment of women through the formation of self-managed and self-sustaining savings groups.
PCI provides training to savings group participants in governance, record keeping, savings and lending, and entrepreneurship. Regular group meetings provide a platform for social support and individual leadership development, enabling women to become powerful agents of economic and societal transformation within their communities.
The Women Empowered Initiative is currently being implemented in five countries – Guatemala, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Botswana, and Malawi – with a current membership of 20,000. Please visit our website – www.pciglobal.org/WE – to read additional information about PCI’s efforts and successes in women empowerment.
PCI is playing an important role in the alleviation of global poverty with the Women Empowered initiative (WE), with some of the most dramatic successes occurring through a focus of microfinance as one bedrock of international aid. We believe that the economic empowerment – especially of women – is especially vital for the future development of these communities.
Microfinance is often defined as financial services for poor and low-income clients offered by different types of service providers. The term is often used more narrowly to refer to loans and other services from providers that identify themselves as “microfinance institutions” (MFIs). These institutions commonly tend to use new methods developed over the last 30 years to deliver very small loans to unsalaried borrowers, taking little or no collateral. These methods include group lending and liability, pre-loan savings requirements, gradually increasing loan sizes, and an implicit guarantee of ready access to future loans if present loans are repaid fully and promptly.
From a global perspective, microfinance organizations envision a world in which low-income households have permanent access to a range of high quality and affordable financial services offered by a range of retail providers to finance income-producing activities, build assets, stabilize consumption, and protect against risks.
In 2006, PCI started its first-ever microfinance institution, Planned Social Concern (PSC), in rural Rajasthan, India. PCI began PSC with a very small “seed capital” loan from the Grameen Trust of Bangladesh and, over time, significant amounts of donated capital from a group of San Diego-area private supporters known collectively as the “Jaipur Investors.” PSC is now a sustainable, pro-poor bank that has loaned more than US$2,300,000 to over 10,000 women entrepreneurs, including nearly 4,000 women over the past 12 months, leading to growth in local businesses, household incomes, and the health and well-being of participating families.
PCI’s Women Empowered (WE) Initiative is a groundbreaking economic development model that gives impoverished women more control over their future. PCI believes that through the opportunities of microfinance, women are the solution to poverty, poor health and vulnerability. Through WE, women can create social and economic empowerment for themselves, their families and their communities.
The WE Initiative’s savings-led microfinance model positions women as leaders, training 15-20 women to form a self-organized and self-managed savings group within their communities. Through these groups, women learn valuable social and business skills, pool their own resources, and are provided with opportunities to network and participate in community development activities. By positioning women as decision makers and facilitating connections within their local communities, we empower them as agents of transformation within their families, ethnic communities and broader society.
PCI believes that women who are empowered become solutions to poverty, poor health and vulnerability for their families and within their communities. Incredible potential is reached with the benefit of support, financial resources and ongoing encouragement.
International Aid – Africa
Maweta from Lusaka, Zambia
Maweta Tembo sits among her four small grandchildren in the village of Chiwala, on the outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia. A 72-year-old widow, Maweta has already raised six children of her own, but now she must also care for her grandchildren, whose parents died from AIDS. Each day was a struggle for Maweta. After attending a community orientation, however, Maweta began mobilizing women in her village to form a self-help group.
After only 9 months in the program, Maweta had learned how to read and write, perform basic math and accounting, and was able to save $60 by selling mangoes in her community. Maweta also received a loan from her group, which helped her start a business: buying fast-selling food items in bulk and re-packaging and reselling them in smaller units, at a profit. With the earnings from her business, she is now able to provide for the basic needs and education of her grandchildren.
PCI has been at the forefront of such global philanthropy and humanitarian assistance for over 50 years. Our mission statement – our vision – clearly defines our commitment to improving the lives of others through our international aid work.