WHAT MAKES US DIFFERENT?
Investing Hope currently focuses on Colombia, and its model takes into account the country's economy as a whole. Although Colombia is considered a middle-income country, more than a third of its population continues to live in poverty. Further complicating the situation is the fact that Colombia has the third worst level of disparity between the wealthy and the poor in Latin America (only Haiti and Honduras are worse) and is in the bottom 10 countries globally. According to UN Agency for Human Settlements, when disparity levels are extremely high, there is a considerable job deficit and a large labor informality affecting mainly youth and women. Recent studies confirm that youth between the ages of 14 and 28 represent 27.6% of the Colombian population and of these youth, 41.5% of the men and 45.7% of the women live below the poverty line. In rural areas the numbers are even worse with 61.2% of the rural youth live below the poverty level.
Investing Hope was founded to be able to help take away the barriers that prohibit the poor from advancing economically through church-based financial education, hands-on income generation and creative lending and savings products. The foundaion understands that traditional financial tools need to be appropriately designed and executed for poor women and youth. Organizations that will truly bring lasting change to the poor need to be flexible and innovative, willing to take risks in order to find the combination of assistance that will propel the low-oncome youth and families forward.
Investing Hope's assistance begins around Biblically based money management training and savings. Both adults and youth are taught the importance of savings and then given the opportunity to put their learning into action through the Adult Savings Group and the YES Programs. The Adult Savings, or Group for Entrepreneurship and Savings Program (GEMS), facilitates a simple process and tools where individuals can save together not only to encourage each other, but by saving together can establish a fund that can provide loans to members of their group or their community. The group benefits from the interest earned on the loans. Additionally, Investing Hope provides the group with a convertible non-interest loan from their “idea” fund to finance a group income generating activity that brings more funding to the group and also exposes group members to entrepreneurship. Throughout the program staff is encouraged to share the message of God’s love and grace.
Since the youth in impoverished communities have very little opportunity to generate income, or money to save, the Youth Entrepreneurship and Savings (YES) program allows youth to test the waters of business by providing them with products they can produce themselves and sell within their community. The program purchases the materials for the products up front and teaches the youth how to make the different products. Each week YES participants take product, sell it and then pay back the foundation for the materials used. Students are encouraged to save part of their income. Once every three months, the foundation organizes “market days” where the youth are given an opportunity to produce and sell more products. During that time, the youth are accompanied by adult volunteers who take advantage of the time together to listen to the youth and provide counsel.