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Oikocredit Support Associations are collectives of volunteers whose members are engaged in promoting Oikocredit’s mission. Volunteer associations are part of a long-standing tradition in Oikocredit’s work. In addition to being active volunteers for Oikocredit, Support Associations are members of the Oikocredit International cooperative.

Oikocredit has two Support Associations based in the US – the Western Pennsylvania Support Association and the Oikocredit Northwest Support Association based in Seattle. Click on the regions to learn more about how you can get involved in your local Support Association.


Microfinance in action: Kick-starting a table football business

BancoPymedelaComunidad.jpgNovember 07 2017

Oikocredit’s longstanding partnership with Banco Pyme de la Comunidad is enabling micro-entrepreneurs in Bolivia to build flourishing, sustainable businesses

In the bustling Bolivian city of Cochabamba, Felix Cardenas is busy at work, putting the finishing touches to a bright red table football table. He and his team have carefully crafted and painted the table by hand, using locally sourced wood and carving the miniature players from recycled diesel engines.

As he stands back to admire his creation, Felix reflects on the very first table he made in a make-shift shed nearly 40 years ago. His business has come a long way since then. With three successive micro-loans from our partner, Banco Pyme de la Comunidad, he has created a thriving small business from scratch, and now produces up to 24 football tables every month for customers across Bolivia and beyond.

Gaining access to finance for his project had initially been an uphill struggle. Having lost his job in the early 1980s, Felix was determined to find a way to support his family by starting his own enterprise. But securing a loan from a traditional bank proved challenging. Everything changed when he approached Oikocredit partner Banco Pyme de la Comunidad. A socially responsible bank and microfinance provider, Banco Pyme shares Oikocredit’s ambition to empower people to improve their livelihoods through inclusive finance. The bank is keen to support small businesses and entrepreneurs in developing countries, so they have an equal opportunity to flourish.

Felix invested his micro-loans in the tools, materials and equipment he needed to set up his workshop, and later in expanding to employ two more people. Banco Pyme has supported him every step of the way. Its credit officer met with Felix regularly and developed a strong understanding of his business, enabling the bank to offer loans that fit his requirements, as well as assessing his ability to make repayments. Importantly, the bank looked beyond finance to offer Felix training on important topics such as business development and accounting.

In this way, Felix gained both the vital funds he needed to establish his company, and a trusted financial and business partner whom he can rely on. Today, he is comfortably able to support his family of seven.

'With micro-loans from our partner, Banco Pyme de la Comunidad, Felix Cardenas has created a thriving small business from scratch.'

So how does Oikocredit work with Banco Pyme to support entrepreneurs like Felix?

In particular, Oikocredit is helping the bank to expand its offerings for entrepreneurs in rural communities. It’s doing this in two ways – by providing an equity investment as well as loans and supporting them through capacity building in creating loan products tailored to rural businesses. Oikocredit also shares best practice in measuring the social impact of loans, and how best to manage risk.

Eager to showcase Felix’s craftsmanship, Oikocredit brought the red football table to the 2017 Kirchentag (an event hosted by the German Protestant church which attracted over 100.000 visitors) in Berlin, where investors and other visitors were able to play a game or two. The Oikocredit team and volunteers enjoyed telling people the story behind the table. Meanwhile, some 6,500 miles away in Bolivia, Felix was delighted to know that his first export to Europe had proved such a success.

'Oikocredit brought the red football table to the 2017 Kirchentag...where investors and other visitors were able to play a game or two'

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