The story of how Bamboo Micro Credit came to be reminds us of an important message in understanding why we should look to change the lives of others even from the smallest of beginnings
Bamboo was conceived from an idea by Peter Johnston in 2007. He had visited Indonesia regularly since 2004 and realized that there were many poor people there who had minimal income and that there was an absence of State funded financial support systems for people without income. He also noted, however, that many successfully operated small businesses. He became aware that finance for these businesses was difficult to access for the majority, unless they had significant assets. Banks were not interested in lending to poor people, who often resorted to seeking funds from illegal money lenders, who charged extortionate rates of interest. It was clear that relatively small amounts of money could make a significant difference to peoples’ lives.
Peter had many years of experience as a social worker and community facilitator and felt he could use his experience to develop a program to provide affordable loans to poor people in Indonesia. Indonesia is Australia’s nearest neighbour and while the island of Bali is well known to Australians as a tourist destination, the majority of the remainder of the country, its population of almost 250 million, its culture and religions are little known. It is a newly emerging democracy, with a growing economy, but it is still a developing country, with poorly developed Government support services for its population. Unemployment and under-employment are chronic features of the economy and it is estimated that approximately 20% of employable Indonesians are without full time jobs.
During a visit to West Sumatra in 2007, Peter met a local tour guide in Bukittinggi and respected community worker, Fikar, and between them, they agreed to put into place a trial program of micro credit to a small group of local people. Using funds initially donated by Peter, this trial proved extremely successful and Bamboo Micro Credit came into being. The name Bamboo was selected because of the ubiquitous nature of the wood and its remarkable flexibility reflecting the nature of the organization.
In 2008, another branch was established in Bandung West Java with the help of a local volunteer. This was discontinued in 2010, but in 2012 a partnership was developed with PESAT, an NGO established in 1993 which installs clean water and sanitation in villages around Bandung. This partnership, which expanded PESAT’s existing small micro credit operation, is funded by Bamboo and greatly increases the opportunities for Bamboo to offer loans to potential borrowers in rural communities.
A new partnership with Daya Pertiwi Foundation was more recently signed and Bamboo added a third location in Indonesia. Daya Pertiwi has extensive experience in managing micro finance and Bamboo funds are now targeted towards loans for the poorest people in Malang in East Java.
Whilst other possible partnerships are continually being explored, Bamboo continues to make new connections and form new relationships as the micro-lending organisation takes root as an organisation that makes a difference in the lives of some of Indonesia’s poorest people.
Bamboo Micro Credit – It’s not a handout. It’s a hand up.
About the Author.
David Cook is an Indonesianist, a technologist and an academic interested in poverty, social justice, CSR and Human Computer Interaction. He is a Director of Bamboo Micro Credit.