munro_photo.jpgPeople that read this blog know I’m passionate about microfinance. And tonight I got even more inspired — my friend and I just sat through an inspiring presentation by Ingrid Munro. She is the founder of Jamii Bora, which is a microfinance institution (and more) in Kenya. The talk was organized by the Seattle chapter of RESULTS.

Ingrid’s story really made me realize anything — and I mean anything — is possible. She started her microfinance program with 50 beggars in Nairobi, Kenya in 1999. There are now 170,000 members bringing themselves out of poverty, with the average loan being $95. The goal is to reach 1.5 million Kenyans by 1010 (I think that was the year). Jamii Bora has disbursed a total of roughly $28 million dollars (US) to its members since the program began. Only .6% of the loans have been written off. Not only that, but Jamii Bora is more than just a lending institution; it provides health and life insurance, a business school, housing, tumaini (new hope), and levuka (become sober).

Jamii Bora’s motto is simple — “If I can make it — you can make it.” Part of every members’ time is spent talking to others in the community to share their story of how they brought themselves out of poverty — as a way to inspire others to do the same.

Here are some of Jamii Bora’s values —

It does not matter where you come from.

What matters is where you are going.

We don’t accept excuses.

The way to hell is paved with excuses.

We used to think the sky is the limit.

Now we know that not even the sky is the limit.

There are three main things that I really loved about Ingrid’s philosophy — she believes in the importance of everyone “climbing the ladder,” she doesn’t want you to feel sorry for those living in the slums due to the message it sends, and her belief that ANYTHING is possible.

1) You’ve undoubtedly head the saying “I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it” — the same applies to those looking to escape poverty. Individuals are the ones that have to climb the ladder out of poverty; no one can do it for them. If you continually give people money, you’re not really helping them in the long run. Yes, you may be extending their lives because they have money to eat for another couple days — but in 2 years, has that money made a difference in their lives? Are they any better off? Do they have any new skills? Microfinance is all about sustainable change by enabling people to bring themselves out of poverty.

2) She doesn’t want people to come visit or help because they feel sorry for those in the slums of Kenya; she wants you to visit and help so that those in Kenya can INSPIRE YOU. Feeling sorry for people is not the answer, as it sends the wrong message — that you are better than they are, which is obviously not true. Be inspired by what others are doing with fewer resources than you have at your disposal.

3) If you haven’t yet realized anything is possible, then get with the program and hammer it into your brain. Success is mental — and that starts with realizing there are no barriers to reaching your goals except yourself.

Thanks to RESULTS for bringing such a great speaker to Seattle and thank you to Ingrid for an inspiring presentation.

For those of you interesting, here is a google video with a 2006 presentation Ingrid Munro presented at the Global Microcredit Summit 2006 held in Halifax, Canada. Microcredit Summit Campaign Director Sam Daley-Harris briefly introduces her to the audience at the closing ceremony of the Summit.