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NEF's Micro-Credit loans are helping in rebuilding Lebanon
Posted on: 3/9/2007 5:27:00 PM

One of the first things you notice upon entering Lebanon in this post-war period is the massive billboard campaign--"I Love Life"--appearing in English, French and Arabic.


As Eugenie Christo, a young woman from the Lebanese non-governmental organization, Le Secours Populaire, explained, "We love life, we love Lebanon--both in terrible and in good times."


Eugenia was one of 35 health care and social workers, educators and researchers as well as disabled people, all with one to 10 years of professional experience, participating in NEF's (Near East Foundation) intense, six-day, training workshop on micro-credit. They were there to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to help people earn a better living and have a better the spirit of this ubiquitous 'love for life' motto.




With Lebanon torn apart by last summer's war and the unemployment rate at over 40 percent, the workshop particularly aimed to assist young entrepreneurs with a fresh start (or restart) during this critical post-war period. Representatives of 24 new, local, non-governmental organizations came together to learn how to design, manage and strengthen community-based credit funds supporting productive, diverse, household-based enterprises.


Building upon over 10 years of successful experience in community-based credit in Lebanon, NEF was joined by Human Concern International (HCI) and the local Lebanese non-governmental organization, Al-Azem wal Saadeh. NEF-Jordan credit specialists Loay Assaf and Ghadeer Qasem conducted the training, assisted by guest speakers from five community-based credit funds previously developed by NEF, again with support from HCI and the US-based Jacobs Family Foundation. These credit fund managers had learned a lot in their decade on the job and had many lessons learned to share.


As Nada Ismaeil from the Caring for the Handicapped Charitable Association in Nabatiyeh explained, "We started in 1998 with US$15,000 in capital, provided by NEF and its partners, to set up a credit fund for landmine victims and people with special needs. To date around 100 persons have been granted loans--much beyond what we originally envisioned," she added.


Workshop goals ranged from the large to very specific, according to NEF staffer Loay Assaf: "We define community-based credit as a process and a need within the general framework of development...development that is both participatory and sustainable," he emphasized, adding, "These are core principles woven into any training NEF delivers."




The workshop was successful, judging from the final evaluation, including a 75 percent content score. Also, all participants showed significant interest in establishing credit funds. However, this was just the first step in a long process to expand NEF's community-based credit program to many more nongovernmental organizations.


Field-based institutional performance/needs assessment for each participating organization will follow. Those showing interest, commitment, and proven capability will be selected to join the NEF program. Then NEF and its partners will seek seed funding for the finalists, including a required matching share by each organization. In turn, field-based technical assistance will be provided on how to design, build and manage the fund. Both mid-year and year-end evaluations will be conducted before any organization takes over full responsibility for fund management.


There was a lot of 'love of life' demonstrated by participants at this January workshop held in the historic northern city of Tripoli, a location that has played a strategic role in the development of the region for over two millennia...yet more symbolism. (Reuters)


2007 Presidency of the Council of Ministers. All Rights Reserved.
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