QUEENSHIP OF MARY PARISH ENTERS SECOND PHASE OF PARTNERSHIP IN MICROFINANCE LOAN PROGRAM WITH PARISH IN GUATEMALA
For immediate release
Plainsboro, NJ For further information:
1/23/2014 Call: 609.915.2349
Queenship of Mary Roman Catholic Church recently commenced the second phase of its mission in the village of La Morena in the parish of Santa Cruz, Guatemala, to further an ongoing, mutually-enriching partnership between the people of the two parishes. The second phase focuses on further developing a microfinance loan program, Amistad y Fe, which was established in 2010 in partnership with the people of La Morena. Amistad y Fe, which means “Friendship and Faith,” is made possible by the investment by Queenship of Mary parish members in share certificates in the program. Through Amistad y Fe, loans are made to the people of La Morena to start and expand small agricultural and non-agricultural businesses.
The people of La Morena, a farming community composed of 230 families (about 1,000 individuals), face substantial issues relating to inadequate and interrupted access to education, limited employment opportunities, and challenges to agricultural production from adverse weather and crop disease. Historically, private lending institutions have not provided financial services to the area. By qualifying for microfinance loans available from Amistad y Fe, the people of La Morena obtain resources to improve their standard of living through their own efforts.
Through the share certificates, the Amistad y Fe fund first received about $23,000, allowing it to begin operations. With its recent second phase of issuing share certificates, the total amount invested has risen to $48,000. In the past four years, Amistad y Fe has made about 200 loans, averaging $325, with a repayment rate of 94% - atypically high for micro-finance loans. To date, the majority of loan recipients have been women. In order to become eligible for a loan, an applicant attends a series of formation sessions which cover topics such as agricultural "best practices," savings strategies, self-esteem, and human rights.
The Amistad y Fe fund is administered by a Leadership Body consisting of representatives of Queenship of Mary, Santa Cruz, La Morena, and a professional administrator in Guatemala who is responsible for the implementation of the mission of Amistad y Fe through the day to day operations of the loan program. By entering its second phase, the goal of the Leadership Body is to form Amistad y Fe into a program that is self-sustaining in the sense that the people of La Morena become more actively involved in the leadership and administration of the loan fund. The second phase will also involve larger and more numerous loans, with a new round of loan applications starting in January, 2014.
"During the first phase of our partnership we have had great success, not simply seen in the ability of the loan recipients to repay their loans, but most especially through the deepening of our faith and the friendship and sense of community that has developed among the loan participants and the partners of Amistad y Fe. It is this success which led us to believe it was time to grow the fund!" – Monsignor Robert Medley, Pastor, Queenship of Mary Church
Queenship of Mary parish, composed of more than 1,200 families living in Plainsboro and Cranbury, developed the partnership through a series of visits by delegations to the parish of Santa Cruz beginning in 2008. Queenship of Mary was partnered with the parish of Santa Cruz by the Catholic Charities Solidarity Team of the Diocese of Metuchen, which applies Catholic social teachings and selected global solidarity activities to reduce social and economic injustice faced by those in other countries and in the diocese. Santa Cruz is part of the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Lima, and it is based in the city of Chiquimulilla, which is located in the southernmost part of Guatemala, about 20 miles from the Pacific coast.
Visits by parish delegations to Guatemala over several years allowed in-depth consultations, ongoing dialogue, and a process of discernment among representatives of Queenship of Mary, Santa Cruz, and La Morena, resulting both in the original consensus to form Amistad y Fe, and in the expansion of the program into its second phase. In addition to the delegations, many more members of Queenship of Mary have participated in developing and supporting the partnership through various activities focused on building fellowship with the people of La Morena and a greater awareness of the history and culture of Guatemala.
"The partnership we share with the people of Santa Cruz and La Morena has been a blessing for our parish community. I believe that we benefit from this partnership as much as, or even more than, the people of La Morena!" – Monsignor Robert Medley, Pastor, Queenship of Mary Church