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Ashley Armstrong is a junior at Santa Clara University with a major in Anthropology and minors in Economics and International Business, and she is a scholarship player on the women?s basketball team.
Michelle is a senior Sociology and International Development major who found her passion for Latin America and working for social change while studying abroad in El Salvador.
Amanda Nelson is a junior majoring in Economics with a minor in Philosophy originally from Bellevue, Washington.
Fundacion Paraguaya Team 2012
Fundacion Paraguaya Final Report
In this report, the team critically examined the strengths and weaknesses that they observed at Fundacion Paraguaya in several areas: organizational structure; market demands and consumer behavior; education, support and relationships; and poverty impact measurement. Read the PDF.
Microfinance: A Tool for Diminishing Food Insecurity, Ashley Armstrong
This research looks at the primary factors affecting food insecurity in Paraguay, and it examines how microfinance alleviates food insecurity and how it can make an even more significant impact on the problem. Read the PDF.
Applying Lessons from Women's Economic Behavior to Create MFI Savings Products for Women's Committees, Amanda Nelson
Poor women face unique financial pressures - they are often the "managers" of their household and carry greater parenthood responsibilities. Understanding the "uniqueness" in the way women save can be used to create saving products specifically for women's committees served by MFIs. Read the PDF.
As part of the Global Social Benefit Fellowship, Amanda Nelson, Michelle Maddex, and Ashley Armstrong interned for Fundación Paraguaya in the summer of 2012.
Established in 1985, Fundación Paraguaya is a social enterprise that promotes entrepreneurship and provides services aimed at helping people overcome poverty. It is one the originators of the education that pays for itself model where poor teenagers go to school part time and they run businesses affiliated with the school such as a restaurant, hotel, organic vegetable farm, and dairy farm the other half of the time so that they incorporate their classroom lessons into practical experience. The profits from these businesses, in turn, go back to the school to cover operating expenses so that the students do not have to pay anything. Fundación Paraguaya also runs junior achievement programs through which it teaches entrepreneurial skills to underprivileged youths, and it has developed a microfinance branch for which fellows worked.
Microfinance provides small loans to poor people who are excluded from the formal banking sector. The loans offer the opportunity for poor people to grow their businesses and secure basic necessities. Fundación Paraguaya loans primarily to women and uses a group-based model where women who receive loans are part of a committee that is responsible for each individual member repaying their loans. At these committee meetings, Fundación Paraguaya offers educational lessons designed to help women manage their loan resourcefully.
The fellows experienced first handed the challenges microfinance has of catering to the base of they pyramid while remaining financially sustainable. Their duties included shadowing representatives to the field, observing committee meetings, assessing poverty levels among rural clientele using an interactive survey, and creating educational material about nutrition, hygiene, and savings to help clients. When they returned, the fellows worked on a SWOT analysis for Fundación Paraguaya that evaluated areas where the organization can improve such as stressing quality of loans over quantity of loans and strengthening its educational sessions. They also conducted individual research projects focused on various topics such as how microfinance alleviates food insecurity and the lack of savings products offered by microfinance institutions.
In addition to learning how social entrepreneurship functions in the real world, the fellows had the opportunity be immersed in Paraguayan culture, witnessing the impeachment of Paraguay's president, living with host families, and taking weekend trips to see Iguaçu Falls and the Jesuit mission ruins.
Ashley Armstrong is also part of the SCU Women's Basketball team. She documented some of her thoughts on the Bronco's Athletic blog. Read the article.