I was impressed. When I first stepped into ASDIR´s office, I was confronted with half a dozen banners listing the details of all the services they offer. The first banner was for Seguros Columna: an insurance agency that ASDIR pays for to offer life insurance to its clients (essentially, if a client dies, ASDIR cancels the loan: a great service for the family of someone in poverty). A second and third advertised a service to send and receive remittances through Western Union and Sigue. A fourth advertised saving services through G & T Continental (microfinance institutions can´t accept savings legally here in Guatemala). The fifth advertised payment by check as well as bill pay for water and electricity, and the sixth advertised prepaid cell phones. All this on top of a wide variety of loan products from small Q1000 loans to women with only the idea of a business within village banks to Q70,000 loans to medium sized businesses; from loans being used to improve housing to emergency loans for personal consumption.
At first glance, most of these services don´t mean anything to us here in the U.S. In California, I can pay all my bills through my online banking account. If I want to transfer money, I do it with a click of a button, and I have a plethora of offers for new credit cards and saving accounts at different banks. (Personally, I have four different accounts which I all access from the comfort of my laptop). But in Guatemala, it is services like these that set ASDIR apart from the competition.
Recently, I accompanied the executive director of FAPE (the microfinance institution I work with in Guatemala City) to pay his credit card and then his water bill. And then I realized, for just about every bill, people have to stand in a new line. About once a week, I go to a store to add more credit to my prepaid phone here, and so does the rest of Guatemala. To open a checking or savings account and make deposits, another line. And when a client takes out a loan here in Guatemala, they wait in another line. After waiting outside the “muni” for two hours, I realized that the services offered by ASDIR weren´t just convenient for its clients, but truly invaluable. Each month, ASDIR could save its clients days of time traveling to pay bills and make deposits and make loan payments by facilitating all of these transactions in their branches.
I looked down the street in Aldea Nimasac to see an ASDIR sponsored school, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I avoided having meetings upstairs because of the twenty kids packed into a computer room learning how to use Microsoft Office and the internet. More than just a presence in the community, ASDIR is an influence. One of my fellow bloggers wrote “Kiva (morethanjust) microloans”. And it´s true, the depth of services offered by some of Kiva´s microfinance partners make them (morethanjust) businesses offering credit.
A Short Video With Some Shots of Aldea Nimasac and the Surrounding Valleys where ASDIR works:'
Eric Burdullis is a roaming Kiva fellow in Guatemala working with ASDIR in Aldea Nimasac and FAPE in Guatemala City. His recent activities include making it back alive through dirt roads, rain and mudslides from Totonicapán to Guatemala City and anything made with corn: atol, tamalitos, and pan de elote.