By Kelly Wilkinson and Jessica Maudlin, PHP Staff
“The human help or hurt, the witness accomplished through investment, is part of what Presbyterians get for their money.” —PCUS Investment Policy, 1976
As Christians, we’re called to share our wealth – to give compassionately to those in need. I would guess that in the past year, you made several donations to charitable organizations. The fact that you’re reading the PHP Post means that you have probably given to the One Great Hour of Sharing or directly to the Presbyterian Hunger Program, and we thank you for that. I would also guess that you have at least ten times the amount that you gave to charities sitting in a bank account or an investment. And that’s wise; we all want to retire someday. But your savings could be doing so much more than just sitting there.
Most investments make money; few make a real difference. Through organizations like Oikocredit yours can make both.
Oikocredit is an international Christian credit organization that turns investments into loans that bring hope. Their philosophy is simple, “the world’s poor can build better lives for themselves – if only given the chance.
In our global economy, credit is often prohibitively expensive for self-help groups, and it often comes with strings-attached that can lead to outside control of developing economies. Oikocredit offers an alternative: affordable loans that encourage self-control. The projects financed are often small – a sewing machine to start a new shop, an improved market facility, machinery for processing crops – but they are critically important to the people who seek the loans to support them.
Through financing, poor people gain vital access to credit. With it, they are able to generate income, support their families and sustain their communities. It is a formula that has been proven time and time again.
The financial return on your investment with Oikocredit may be modest, but the impact can be life-changing: a job upon which to build a life; small business to support a family; enough extra income to send a child to school.
Take the story of Rajeshwari, a 38-year- old woman from India who started a small shop with her husband. Her first loan from Oikocredit’s microfinance partner in India was used to buy two sewing machines and employ two laborers making bags. Their business started 10 years ago and is now flourishing and diversifying. The shop has doubled in size.
Before her microloan, she was forced to borrow from moneylenders, and she was unable to plan for the future. The loan has made a real difference to the family.
The increase in their revenue has allowed them to pay for their eldest son’s bachelor’s degree in IT and buy him a computer. They are proud of their two sons, and their neighbors admire their success. Today, Rajeshwari and her husband provide valuable business advice to their friends.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) has a long history of responsible investing. It is the second largest denominational investor in Oikocredit. The Presbyterian Foundation, Presbyterian Women, SDOP and PHP together hold investments totaling over $2 million. In addition, the Presbyterian Hunger Program has long encouraged PC(USA) congregations to invest in Oikocredit. Since 1973, the Committee on Mission Responsibility through Investment (MRTI) has been engaging corporations in which the church owns stock to encourage a faith-based approach to investing.
Churches can make an investment with Oikocredit for as little as $1,000. That can put the dollars in your church’s Building Fund or Contingency Fund to work in a way that witnesses to Jesus Christ, who came to bring good news to the poor. The investment will be available when you or your congregation needs it. The fixed interest rate is 2% (or less if you choose). The benefit is knowing that your investment helped people in poverty build better lives for themselves, their families and communities.
Oikocredit recently began offering smaller scale investment opportunities for individuals. You can get started today by investing as little as $20.
To learn more about investing, visit http://www.oikocredit.org or contact Oikocredit USA at 202.265.0607 or firstname.lastname@example.org.