What’s up MPI Ecuador blog readers!? My name is Luke Shallenberger and I’m a current Program Director here in Ecuador and your guest blogger for this week, so get excited. I’ll start off with a little background information. I proudly hail from Big Ten Country. That’s right, the Midwest, where we say things like “pop”, which gets you scrutinized by the other 8 people in the Manna house. I grew up in Mahomet, IL, a small but fantastic town located in the center of the state. I graduated from Illinois State University in 2008 with a degree in business administration. After graduation I spent two years in St. Louis, MO before taking on this adventure here in Ecuador. I currently work with our agriculture, children’s art, cooking class, and microfinance programs. Due to some exciting recent developments, I’m going to be focusing on microfinance today.
Our microfinance program here in Ecuador is closely linked to our partner organization, Esperanza y Progreso del Valle (EPV), a small microfinance loan company. One of our main goals for the program is to strengthen EPV in order to make loans more available and affordable for the individuals in the communities that we serve. The ambiguity of our microfinance program makes it unique among Manna’s programs. It has taken on many new ideas and directions since our arrival in July. Some of these ideas have blossomed while some have remained stagnant not due to a lack of effort on our part but unfortunately a lack of resources. Needless to say, on some of these fronts microfinance has been a bit frustrating at times. However, I along with Jack and Brock have some good news regarding very recent developments with EPV and microfinance.
Jack, Brock, and I pulled an all-nighter last week (I must state that it was not due to procrastination but rather unforeseen circumstances) to put together a proposal for a small business class to present to EPV. The idea for the class was built upon the hard work of last year’s PDs, Erik and Chet, who conducted numerous surveys suggesting a need for such a class and produced a class outline. We proposed the idea of this class to EPV in the hopes of making it a collaborative effort, and they immediately jumped on board. The basis of the class is to teach basic business principles and practices to entrepreneurs and current business owners as well as to provide EPV with more clients. Upon completion of the class the students will present us with a business proposal which will be reviewed by EPV to be included in their loan application process. We hope to have this class up and running by October 25th, so between now and then we have much to do; but we are extremely excited about the promise of our new microfinance plans!
Hope you all have a great week! ¡Hasta lluego!