BLOOM Microventures, Vietnam – Jan 15

I went on this trip hoping to learn more about microfinance, a field that has intrigued me as a great way to be able help people in a way that is practical and sustainable. This field appears to me as a way to link my professional skills of accounting and finance with my professional interests of social work and philanthropy. On our trip we were presented with mini lectures of an hour a day in Hanoi teaching us about poverty in Vietnam and the ways that microfinance can be used to help alleviate this poverty. We learnt about what the typical day of a microfinance officer is like and how applicants are assessed. From a risk criteria sheet, we made a list of questions that were sensitive to the situation but allowed us to get a feel for the applicant’s home life, dependents, health, and financial security.
One day on our field trip we had an opportunity to speak with 4 new loan applicants, by asking general questions, as well as the specific questions we had prepared to gain an insight into the risk of each applicant. This gave an opportunity to see real life scenarios that allowed an insight into the structure and considerations of microfinance to be able to understand more fully how it works and see it’s effects. As we spoke to the applicants I found most were very forthcoming with information and were so grateful for the opportunities that BLOOM had given them to be able to grow their family businesses. Although it was confronting at times to see the living conditions of some of these poor villagers, with their simple housing and many without a bed to sleep on, talking to these people proved to me that microfinance is really such a powerful tool for these communities to use and it was remarkable to see what some of these women had been able to do with their loans. Hearing their stories gave a personal touch and being able to hear how they were making their way to a more independent living was at times very emotional as we sat on their cold, hard cement floor where they ate, socialised and slept at night.
The next day of our field trip we then visited 4 women who have existing BLOOM loans, as a part of the check up that a loan officer would do. This was a much poorer village to visit and we really saw some devastating effects of poverty. It was a sombre mood between us students as we listened to stories of disability and domestic abuse that had led these women into deep poverty. The only positive was hearing how highly they spoke of microloans in helping them to survive and have hope for the future. We left this village feeling very confronted by how hard these lives can be, but trusting in the ability of BLOOM microloans to be able to provide some comfort to these women.
I feel like I came away from the trip with a fuller knowledge of microfinance and it’s uses and effects on communities. I believe it is an area that shows much potential and one in which I want to continue to pursue as a possible area to apply myself to. During this trip we were looked after incredibly by Ly and her assistant Gina who were very hands-on, acting as interpreters, carers, and gave advice on great restaurants to eat at. I couldn’t have asked for a better organisation than BLOOM to do this trip. The villagers were welcoming and friendly, giving us a cultural performance night of traditional singing and dancing both times we visited the village.

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