Maria Otero: Transformation Trumps Charity
Rob Leveridge, Wide Open Thinking, June 24, 2007


Compassion ain’t just about hand-outs, baby.

Don’t get me wrong, benevolent, unconditional giving is very important.

But Maria Otero and Accion International are not just giving folks a hand, they are enabling folks to pull themselves up.

The project: Dismantle global poverty.

The Method:Microfinance.

Yesterday, Otero spoke to a gathering of thousands at General Synod about bringing the worlds of Global Finance and Global Poverty together. The masses of suffering poor have long been without access to means of saving and building wealth. And global poverty expands.

Accion is in the business of providing small loans (as small as $50, average about $600) to poor citizens of poor countries (Accion works mostly in Latin America, but there are similar financial orgazinations in other areas. Check out Accion’s partner, Unitus). folks who have nothing material to show for themselves.

Accion makes loans based on the collatoral these folks do have: Their character. They have a stalwart commitment to providing for their families, and to repaying their loans.

Accion boasts a 97% repayment rates among loan recipients, and on this front is the envy of financial institutions the world over.

Otero shared a profile of women in Bolivia whose lives and livelihoods were utterly transformed and improved immeasurably because they got a chance (an investment by Accion in 1980 of about $30) to create and build their own business.

Friends, this is God’s work. And this is the work that Chicago Theological Seminary chooses to be about, as well. It’s the work of transformation.