Faith in Action: Main Line Unitarian Church
The Work of MLUC's Latin America Task Force
Mimi Collins and Don Smith, LATF Co-chairs
As Unitarian Universalists, we are committed to peace and justice in the world. Our work is motivated and guided by a recognition of the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and a commitment to equity and compassion in human relations. The Latin America Task Force is one small effort in a part of the world that has suffered economic, political and military domination by our country.
For the past twelve years we have focused on micro credit as a way to help poor women start small businesses, and have founded village banks in Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Haiti. With the addition of a large grant from a private foundation we have now established 16 of these banks. Using the FINCA organization based in Washington, we can found a new bank for $5000. Typically, about 20 poor women in a locality get organized, hold regular meetings, and receive help in starting small businesses with a loan of $100, which is repaid with interest. We have met a number of these women, and there are many success stories. Overall, the repayment rate is 97%. The individual who repays the first loan has is then eligible for $200, then $400 loans.
In addition to our micro credit work, every year or so LATF organizes a tour in which about 20 participants, mostly from our church, are able to see problems in Latin America for themselves as well as enjoy the richness of the culture. On trips to Ecuador and Mexico, particularly, we have visited a number of village banks. We are also interested in a variety of other issues, particularly US policy in Colombia, NAFTA and CAFTA, and immigration across our southern border. Our annual fundraising luncheon in the church, usually attended by seventy or more, is an occasion for outside speakers to address some of these issues.