In order to provide effective assistance from outside the county, The Colombia Project relies on Colombian partners -- grassroots organizations working within Colombia to screen loan applicants, disburse funds and mentor loan recipients. As compared to most other types of assistance programs, successful micro-credit programs are relatively costly to administer as they require far more than just delivering goods or services. Before giving cash to people who have a multitude of very real and very urgent immediate needs for food, shelter and clothing, the administering agency must determine that the applicant has the ability, determination, wisdom and discipline to invest that cash in deferred rather than immediate gratification.
From the many people requesting loans, the administering agency must learn to identify the applicant who has a good business plan, the ability to carry it out and a core belief in the possibility of a better tomorrow. These are the individuals who have the ability to succeed and serve as role models for others in the community.
After screening the applicants and disbursing the loans, the local partners’ work has only just begun. Grassroots organizations working closely and effectively with displaced populations in Colombia provide the support system, technical training, and moral support that help displaced families to rebuild successful lives. Typically, The Colombia Project partners introduce their loan recipients to government training programs, university professors, lawyers and social activists who conduct workshops and provide consultation as needed. They offer their clients a host of services to increase their chances for success.
In the absence of a caring, knowledgeable agency, micro-credit might be extended to people who are not ready or able to set up a small business. In those cases, the un-repaid loan becomes an additional burden on the displaced person and adds to their sense of failure and hopelessness. Good partners are essential to ensure that micro-credit loans sent from abroad actually help rather than harm vulnerable populations.
The Association of Professionals for Business and Social Development in the Caribbean Region was officially established in Colombia in 2003 by a group of young professionals who felt the existing social programs did not meet the needs of the community. APDES was created to provide health, education, business and technological services in Ariguani/El Dificil. APDES President Aura Ines Aguilar Camilo was selected for a legislative internship program administered by the League of Women Voters in 2010. During a month-long home-stay with Helene Dudley in Miami, Aura learned about The Colombia Project, met several of the board members, and successfully petitioned to open a micro-loan program in her community.
MINICOL is registered in both the United States (Miami) and Colombia to support education projects in thirteen municipalities. Based on the success of the program at the first MINICOL site, which opened in 2007 in Quindio, a second site at Concordia was added in 2008, followed by Villa Maria, Obando, La Victoria, Puerto Tejada and Aguadas. MINICOL is an exciting partnership for The Colombia Project because it has provided an opportunity for expansion into multiple areas of Colombia, while providing the stability of oversight from the MINICOL board members who make site visits and hold an annual meeting of all MINICOL partners in Colombia.
Society of St Vincent de Paul
While The Colombia Project has not entered a formal agreement with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, it has entered agreements with site administrators of several St Vincent de Paul programs in Colombia, with the permission of the order. Several of those sites are also affiliated with MINICOL (Genova, Concordia and La Victoria) while the programs at Obando, Puerto Tejada and Aguadas are not affiliated with MINICOL.