Newtown Quaker Kids Get a Big Bang for The Buck

Some say the dollar doesn’t go very far these days. 

The young people of Newtown Quaker Meeting think otherwise after getting a first-hand report on the impact of their dollars donated for microloans for poor women in India.  

Nine-year-old Lydia Ciccimaro had this to say: “I loved seeing the photos and hearing the stories about the community in India where we sent the donation. The faces of the people looked so happy!  We came together for just one night and the money we raised did so much good.  It makes me want to help whenever I can.”

Lydia and her friends raised $4,008 at their lasagna dinner last year for Right Sharing of World Resources (RSWR) and selected a group of 35 impoverished women in India as the recipient, the Jeyam Rural Women Children and the Handicapped Development Society (JRWCHDS).  They hoped somebody from Newtown Quaker Meeting might even visit the group. 

Retired professors, Jennifer and Tony Wolf of Newtown Quaker Meeting just did.  They met with the group in January while on a trip to South India where Tony served in the Peace Corps in the 1960s. 

and former Clerk of Newtown Quaker Meeting

The young Quakers’ project will be the second one for JRWCHDS. The first was for 35 landless women living in one room huts. They helped them start small businesses in broiler chicken sales, vegetable sales, grocery shops, milk products, and fish sales. The average loan to each was 10,000 Rupees (Rs) ($120.27). Each woman saved Rs.200 ($2.40) monthly and all beneficiaries repaid their loans with interest (12% per year), which provided funds for additional loans to 118 more impoverished women. 

After visiting the group in India, Jennifer and Tony Wolf sent this report to the young Newtown Quakers. 

“We were welcomed with garlands, rose petals and bright smiles by 35 participants of Newtown Meeting’s partner project in Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu, India.  

Our guides were Right Sharing country directors, Dr. Abi Murugesan and Mr. Purushothan..  A young woman of 30, Abi is herself the granddaughter of a Right Sharing project participant.

Assembled in a colorfully decorated community hall, two groups of children performed traditional dances. Then the women introduced themselves and told their stories.

A blind woman holding her infant explained how the program is helping her, with her blind husband’s support, purchase, grind and sell rice flour.

A widow in her sixties told how the program’s micro loan enabled her to start a tailoring business for which she received training on one of the center’s treadle Singer sewing machines.

A few women talked of their long bus trips to the town market where each purchased ten kilos of dried fish.  Loading their heavy baskets on to the crowded bus, they returned to resell the fish at a small profit in the village market.

Right Sharing enables micro loans to be made to poor women who repay with interest into a revolving fund to support more women.  By funding 35 women this year, more than a hundred more will be funded within three years. thanks to the repayments.

The project is managed by a dynamic village activist, Mrs. Jeya Kumari, who also provides job training, practical business advice, and assistance in obtaining health and education benefits.

As a symbol of Newtown Quaker Meeting’s partnership, Jennifer presented the women with a framed print of Edward Hicks’s “Peaceable Kingdom” and described how the lion, lamb and child live together in peace.  Hicks was a founder of Newtown Quaker Meeting in 1815.

Tony then brought greetings, speaking in Tamil which he learned during his two years in India with the Peace Corps.”

Jennifer and Tony Wolf promised the women that they would convey their gratitude and love to the Newtown Quaker Meeting community, especially to the young people 8,000 miles away who raised the funds by serving a Lasagna Dinner for voluntary contributions.

That’s a big bang for the buck. Impact investing at its best.

Norval Reece, international cable television entrepreneur, 
former Quaker Service Volunteer in India,
former Pennsylvania Secretary of Commerce, 
and former Clerk of Newtown Quaker Meeting

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