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June 28, 2022

SIO hosts panel on microfinance, poverty

By ELI WALLACH | April 25, 2013

Students gathered in the Charles Commons Multipurpose Room this past Tuesday to watch a panel of speakers discuss microfinance in a Dinner and Debate hosted by the undergraduate organization Social Investment Outreach (SIO).

Microfinance is a type of banking service that authorizes loans for people who would not normally be able to take advantage of financial services.

The discussion was framed by the question of whether microfinance represented a developmental fad or a turning point in the fight against global poverty.

Professor Eric Rice, Director of the Engineering Management Program, spoke first on the topic. Rice stressed the importance of microfinance to local economies. In comparing the benefits of microfinance and investment in large manufacture, he noted how microfinance provided a much more stable local economy since it promoted a variety of small businesses rather than a dependency on one firm.

Kevin Kelley, Managing Director of East Coast Diversified Corp. Enterprise Development Group, spoke next. Kelley talked about his experiences with the innovative financial instrument and the importance of offering enough loans to stay financially afloat while maintaining intimate relationships with borrowers.

Last to speak was Rebecca Spradlin, Director of Communications for MicroRate Inc. Spradlin described the role of her company in providing transparency to microfinance.

While the event was largely informational, it also was part of a larger fundraising campaign for SIO. Attendees of the event were charged five dollars at the door. All of the proceeds went to the club’s KIVA account, providing micro-loans to people around the world. Other SIO fundraising events include an annual barbeque and frequent bake-sales.

Sophomore Jonathan Fong joined SIO as a freshmen.

“I love to travel and I have been on a few service trips to Belize, Guatemala and China and I have seen what these people have to go through and its rewarding in that way,” Fong said.

Last year, the organization was able to raise approximately a thousand dollars. By splitting the money into loans of fifty dollars, SIO has been able to help out a variety of people around the world.

“We come together as a group and we find other specific people, either in a specific country or in a specific industry that we want to help someone in,” Fong said.

Fong noted that the loans so far have been largely successful and that a few of last year’s recipients have already paid the loan back. The money made back on the loan is then reinvested in loans to other people.

Beyond maintaining a KIVA account, SIO also participates in Stocks in the Future, a program that teaches financial lessons to middle school students in and around Baltimore.

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