Last Friday, I was invited to the community assembly in La Suiza, Costa Rica. This assembly takes place every two years to vote for the Credit Committee’s Board of Directors. A credit committee is similar to a village bank in that it is responsible for assessing and approving loan requests, disbursing loans to borrowers, collecting loan payments, documenting all credit requests and exchanges, and monitoring borrower progress.
When I walked into the community space, the President of the Committee, Doña Ethel called me over to sit next to her. Doña Ethel has been part of the Board of the Credit Committee since its inception. She acknowledged that the Credit Committee is a great advantage for the community for such resources available to the community.
During her tenure she has seen the community grow and develop, especially the infrastructure because of the access to money and FUDECOSUR’s support. We sat at the front table with the other board members, FUDECOSUR loan officer, and FUDECOSUR director of credit.
It was amazing to face the 65 plus community members – adults and kids - who were all engaged in the assembly. When I commented on the good attendance of the village members, Doña Ethel responded, “Of course many people would come!” Her reasoning was that the Committee provides a service to everyone in the community; it unites the community. And the community members confide in the Committee.
The assembly consisted of welcoming everyone, speaking about FUDECOSUR and its mission, reading of the minutes from the prior board meeting of the Committee and the treasurers’ report of the year’s activities, voting in board members of the Credit Committee, raffling off some prizes, and ending with refreshments.
La Suiza’s Credit Committee was founded 22 years ago and started with about $2,000. Today, the Credit Committee has approximately $50,000. With this money, La Suiza is able to fund 58% of the loans solicited by borrowers. The other 42% of loans is funded by other sources, such as Kiva. The assembly was a wonderful experience to see how the Credit Committee operates and how the community is involved to ensure they have access to micro-loans.