By Jennifer Marie Zeberkiewicz
For someone like Martha Rosas López, tough times are a way of life. The 36-year-old mother of 10 children from Xocotla, Mexico has constant home repairs she cannot afford. But instead of asking for handouts, Martha is part of a new assistance project called MatchSavings.org.
Perhaps you want to get involved.
Martha Rosas López is saving for improved housing. Click to meet other people with housing goals.
Saving is not common in parts of the world where access to financial institutions is limited. High interest loans from questionable sources are often the only option for community members to make ends meet. Difficult to pay off, these loans create a cycle of debt which prevents community members from improving their conditions and building wealth. MatchSavings.org aims to change all of that.
When you make a donation, MatchSavings.org transfers the contribution to a participating foreign credit union matching the deposits of individual savers. This matched savings encourages members of the credit union to save for their needs. The savers decide from the start what their savings goals are: improve housing, finance education, expand their microbusiness or pay medical bills.
In Martha's case, she is saving for sheets of cardboard needed to repair her leaky ceiling. Her credit union will match the amount she saves using contributions from the program, encouraging her to save regularly.
Not a handout but a new beginning
When our economy hits hard times, the trickle-down effect around the world can be devastating. Many young Americans have probably never experienced a recession like this before. You probably never had problems getting credit to buy a car or been in such a pinch that you can't save up for what you want.MatchSavings.org helps educate people living in poverty about the benefits of saving and provides them an incentive to get started. World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), the global trade association and development agency for credit unions and financial cooperatives, launched the program a few months ago in collaboration with its partner credit union in Veracruz state, Mexico.
In the introductory phase of the program, 120 people from remote areas of Veracruz participated and received matched savings at the end of six months. MatchSavings.org works with the Mexican credit union, Caja Yanga, to bring a full range of financial services to the rural poor.
José Isidro Morales Juárez is saving to open his own grocery store. Click to meet other people with business goals.
Jenny Bernhardt of WOCCU explained that only 25 % of people in Mexico have access to a financial account, compared with 91% in the United States. "People in these remote villages normally travel up to three hours to reach the nearest financial institution. Instead, credit union employees visit the community to help these people save.
"The people living in these areas are considered high risk because they've never had a savings account before. Financial institutions are just not normally available for them. Through this program, we're offering them education about savings and an incentive to save because we will match their savings dollar for dollar for six months. They are asked to make one donation per month. Our goal is to raise $10,000 total for this specific group of people and then expand the program to regions around the world."
MatchSavings.org is an ideal cause to support, especially for Generation Y because according to trends, "Our generation is especially savvy when it comes to researching causes and choosing a cause that doesn't just give money away but a cause that will make a lasting difference," said Bernhardt.