PAB - News and Information

PAB News

rss

Click on the link above to return to the latest update.


Speaker Tells of Organization's Efforts to Help Haitian Women Climb Out of Poverty

February 13, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Many people equate Haiti with poverty – with its reputation as the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. But Leigh Carter, who has worked with Haitians for nearly 20 years, sees signs of hope in the women who have climbed out of poverty and now provide a decent life for their families.

Leigh, founder and Board Member Emeritus of Fonkoze USA – the U.S. non-profit organization that raises funds and awareness for Fonkoze – gave a special presentation on the work of Fonkoze February 6 in Weber Auditorium at the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse. Her presentation, “The Adrian Dominican Sisters and Two Decades of Partnering with the Women of Haiti,” followed a meeting of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB).

Founded by the Adrian Dominican Sisters more than 40 years ago, the PAB helps the Congregation to use its resources to bring about economic justice through socially responsible investing in corporations and communities. The Adrian Dominican Sisters were among the first to grant low-interest loans to Fonkoze, and have been partners with the organization since 1997.

Leigh became director of Fonkoze USA at the invitation of Father Joseph Philippe, a Haitian priest who founded Fonkoze in 1994 to address poverty in Haiti. She attributed her connection to the Adrian Dominican Sisters to Sister Maureen Fenlon, OP, who encouraged Leigh to apply for a low-interest loan from the Congregation. Fonkoze USA received $200,000 in loans from other congregations of women religious after the Adrian Dominicans approved an initial loan.

In 20 years, Leigh said, Fonkoze has become “Haiti’s largest microfinance organization,” offering loans and other banking services to individuals – mostly women – in their efforts to become self-sufficient. Fonkoze now has 45 branches throughout Haiti, with $65,000 outstanding in loans to Haitian market women, and more than 200,000 people who are saving their money through Fonkoze.

Leigh spent much of her talk describing Fonkoze’s “staircase out of poverty” program. The first step, “Chemen Lavi Miyò,” focuses on the “ultra-poor,” women who “basically haven’t managed money ever or touched money – they’re basically begging at the marketplace.” The women receive $25 loans to help them get started in a business. In addition, Leigh said, their homes are upgraded to include a cement floor, a tin roof, a latrine, and a water filter. They are also expected to send their children to school.

After two years of group training, Leigh said, the women are “arguing over who’s going to speak at the graduation in front of 400 people” – a drastic change for women who, at the beginning of the program, “can’t look you in the eye” because they feel ashamed. Not all of the women who undergo the most basic training program move up the staircase, Leigh noted, but they have still found their lives to be “amazingly improved.

Higher up the staircase, Leigh said, women are organized into groups of five or six, forming “credit centers.” Currently, she said, some 65,000 women are organized into 2,000 credit centers. The women meet twice a month – once to meet with their credit agent or to repay their loan, and the second time to receive education on anything from cholera prevention to improving their businesses.

Leigh pointed to success stories of women who began as “ultra-poor” and became successful market women. One such woman, now in the business development stage of the program, works in wholesale, which loans in the thousands of dollars. “Instead of her husband sending her money from Miami, she sends money to him,” she noted.

Fonkoze thus focuses on “meeting women wherever they are in this journey out of poverty,” Leigh said. “Some people don’t make it,” often because of challenges such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires. Nine Fonkoze branches and about 14,000 clients were affected by the recent Hurricane Matthew. Fonkoze has been monitoring all of these clients to determine who has repaid their loans, who needs to restructure their loans, and whose loans need to be written off, she said.

  

Photos courtesy of Fonzoke, USA

In the question and answer session, Leigh noted that Fonkoze has been able to make a difference in the lives of individual Haitians – but that Haiti, as a whole, could be in “worse shape” than when she arrived 25 years ago.

“We’re dealing with the informal sector, and for Haiti to really, really succeed, there needs to be a thriving middle class and a thriving formal sector, and people who are creating jobs,” she said. In addition, she would like to see Haiti invest more in its infrastructure, such as roads. “That helps everybody.”

In the meantime, Leigh said, Fonkoze will continue to help individual women who are striving to climb out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. “We hope to have 100,000 loan clients in the next three or four years,” Leigh said. “We’ll just keep doing what we do.”

Feature photo at top: Leigh Carter, of Fonkoze USA, gives a talk on how her organization has helped women in Haiti on their journey out of poverty. Photo by Jessica Havens.

 

View Leigh Carter's presentation:


 

View "Saincia's Journey Out of Poverty" on YouTube: https://youtu.be/5mAa1x3QiQQ

 


New Loan to Fonkoze USA for Hurricane Relief

October 25, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) is sending out a new loan to Fonkoze USA for its efforts in securing financial and technical support to its Haitian partner, Fonkoze. The loan was recommended by the PAB and approved by the Congregation’s General Council.

The Adrian Dominican Sisters have been involved with Fonkoze since 1997, when it first received a loan from the Congregation. Sister Maureen Fenlon, OP, served on the founding board of Fonkoze. 

Fonkoze is a family of organizations that work together to empower Haitians – especially women – to move their families out of poverty. The organization’s 45 branches cover every area of Haiti and are the only access to financial services for many Haitians. It envisions a Haiti where “people, standing together, shoulder to shoulder, have pulled themselves out of poverty.”

“As a Haitian institution, Fonkoze is adept at navigating the complexities of working in a failed state with limited infrastructure, insecurity, economic instability, and climactic crisis,” according to Leigh Carter, founder of Fonkoze USA. 

The organization is working to mitigate the damage brought about by Hurricane Matthew on October 4, 2016. The hurricane brought “near total devastation” to some areas, and coastal areas continue to suffer from flooding, Leigh Carter reported. Communications channels and the efforts of rescue teams were hampered by the effects of the hurricane.

Before Matthew struck, staff members of the Fonkoze branches had taken precautions by securing files and equipment. The day after the hurricane struck, 27 branches were operating online to assist the people who desperately needed financial help in the wake of Matthew.

Staff members of Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM), a Fonkoze program that serves the ultra poor, immediately began to visit the households of their clients. CLM’s budget includes an emergency fund to support its clients in the current crisis. The nurses in Fonkoze’s Community Health Store reached out to the local community health entrepreneurs. In addition, they will hold a campaign between October 17 and October 31 to train the entrepreneurs on hygiene and cholera prevention, making antibacterial soaps and chlorine solution tablets more readily available. 

Fonkoze has learned from its experience in several disasters that have struck Haiti: Hurricane Jeanne in 2004; Hurricanes Faye, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike in 2008; and a 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. In those situations, Fonkoze took the steps necessary to help their clients recover from disaster: forgiving the outstanding balance of loans, offering special loans to help in their recovery, and offering money transfer services to people who desperately needed the immediate financial help.

Founded more than 40 years ago, the PAB was a response to the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ vision for social change. Firmly rooted in the tradition of Catholic social teachings, the PAB helps the Congregation to advocate for social justice in two ways. Through Community Investments work, the PAB offers low-interest loans to non-profit community organizations that benefit low-income people and underserved communities. The PAB Corporate Responsibility arm monitors the Congregation’s investments and engages in shareholder activities on matters of justice involving corporations in which the Congregation invests.

Feature photo: Hurricane Matthew wreaks devastation in Les Cayes, Haiti. 161014-F-MQ799-0385 by The 621st Contingency Response Wing on Flickr, CC BY 2.0


Presentation Focuses on Finance Tools to Mitigate Effects of Climate Change

October 4, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – Numerous aspects of the issue of climate change and its effects on Earth have been discussed and analyzed in recent years. A presentation, sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB), focused on a unique but vital slant: how finance can be used as a tool in the fight against climate change.

Geeta Aiyer, CFA, founder and president of Boston Common Asset Management, spoke on “The Climate Finance Landscape – Mitigating the Impact of Climate Change” in the auditorium of Weber Center, before an audience of PAB members, Sisters, Associates, and Co-workers. Geeta has worked closely with the Congregation for about 20 years as an investment manager.

She began by setting her talk in context, noting the urgency of climate change, which can bring about “disruption of climate cycles” and severe weather, as well as “food scarcity, the extinction of species, and the displacement of populations.” 

For many years, faith-based organizations have tried to persuade people to address climate change and to change from using fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar. Financial motivation also plays a role, Geeta said. “I firmly believe there is no sustainability without finance,” she said. “Hence, your role as the Portfolio Advisory Board remains central.”

During her talk, Geeta focused on how finance tools can be used as part of a strategy to persuade corporations such as energy companies to lessen the effects of climate change on our planet. 

Geeta gave a mixed review of the effectiveness of one popular tool: divestment, selling off your stocks and having nothing to do with a fossil-fuel company, for example. Divestment is a “values statement that says you don’t want to participate in it.” However, she added, the stocks could then go to other owners who don’t care what effects the fossil-fuel companies are having on the environment. In addition, other companies besides fossil fuel corporations put carbon into the air through their operations.

Geeta pointed out that activist shareholders — those who want to make a difference to the environment or social justice through their investments — have a range of tools to persuade corporations to take the environment into account, from dialoguing with the companies to engaging in shareholder resolutions. The PAB, through its Corporate Responsibility arm, engages in those actions to bring about greater social justice and enhance the common good. 

Geeta noted the powers of persuasion that shareholders have with the corporations that they invest in because the shareholders would want to make decisions that benefit the corporation as well as the world. As shareholders, “we have a very different voice,” she said. “We want [the corporations] to do well. …We’ll sit with them and talk with them in a voice that can be heard.” 

Dialogues between activist shareholders and the companies in which they invest can take many forms, Geeta said. She emphasized the importance of working with fossil-fuel companies to begin to produce renewable energy, with other companies to reduce their use of carbon and to be more efficient, and with insurance companies and banks, who enable continual construction that can increase the use of fossil fuels.

Geeta expressed her own optimism that fossil fuel companies and other corporations will eventually act to make the environment more sustainable. “When we know people are watching, we change how we do things,” she said. For example, if fossil fuel companies realize that the demand for carbon-based energy has been reduced, they might supply more energy through renewable sources. Companies in every sector could become aware of opportunities to make a difference through more efficient use of energy or through technology that helps consumers to measure their own use of energy. 

To hear more about this complex issue, watch the video of Geeta’s entire talk.

 

 


Geeta Aiyer, CFA, to Speak on Finance and Climate Change to PAB Board

September 2, 2016 -  A well-known asset management specialist will be the featured speaker in a presentation hosted by the Portfolio Advisory Board.

Geeta Aiyer, CFA, founder and President of Boston Common Asset Management, will talk about "The Climate Finance Landscape — Mitigating the Impact of Climate Change" at 1:15 pm. September 8 at the Weber Retreat and Conference Center.

Aiyer uses her extensive experience in finance to fuel leadership and innovation in the areas of environmental sustainability and social justice.

More details about Aiyer and the upcoming talk are available here.

 

 


Portfolio Advisory Board Announces Two new Loan Partnerships

August 25, 2016 - The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) is pleased to announce two new loan investments for August 2016.

Working Capital for Community Needs (WCCN) invests in community-based partners that help improve the lives of the working poor in Latin America through finance, service, education, training, employing or doing business them. WCCN currently operates in six countries: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Peru.

WCCN assists workers such as Fidelia Gama, an Ecuadorian coffee farmer.
photo by Michael Kienitz 

The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ loan will be pooled with other funds and lent to microfinance institutions and democratically controlled cooperatives. These organizations provide credit to the poor in addition to other services such as health care, business training, empowerment and environmental education.

The Sisters are also investing in LiftFund, a nonprofit organization that has helped new and existing entrepreneurs grow their businesses by providing loans to those who do not have access to capital from typical lending sources. Along with vital business loans, LiftFund provides educational services that are essential to foster self-sufficiency.  

 

LiftFund Client photo: Roxana Collazo, Firefly Dual Language Academy,
Houston, Texas

Over the past 22 years LiftFund has successfully fulfilled its mission by providing more than $210 million in over 17,400 loans to clients in 13 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.  

The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ loan will be pooled with other mission-minded investor funds and used as lending capital for small business owners. Loan capital provides LiftFund clients with opportunities to build their business, provide for their family, and make their community a better place.

Founded more than 40 years ago, the PAB was a response to the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ vision for social change. Firmly rooted in the tradition of Catholic social teachings, the PAB helps the Congregation to advocate for social justice in two ways. Through its Community Investments committee, the PAB offers low-interest loans to non-profit community organizations that benefit low-income people and underserved communities. The PAB Corporate Responsibility arm monitors the Congregation’s investments and engages in shareholder activities on matters of justice involving corporations in which the Congregation invests.  



PAB Makes Site Visit to Organizations Serving People in Need in Detroit

August 8, 2016, Detroit, Michigan – Many people might write off Detroit as a “lost cause” because of the well-known poverty and violence afflicting this town. However, Lura Mack and Kristine Cooper, director and executive assistant, respectively, of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB), spent a day visiting a variety of organizations that have made a difference for the individuals and communities in this troubled city.

Lisa Johanan, Executive Director of CDC (Central Detroit Christian Community Development Center), speaks with Lura Mack and Kris Cooper during the IFF Detroit site visit.

For more than 40 years, the PAB has helped the Adrian Congregation to use its financial assets to further the values of the Gospel in the economic realm, through the wings of corporate responsibility and community investment. During a recent tour of Detroit hosted by IFF Detroit. The PAB has granted low-interest loans to IFF Detroit for its work, in turn, in lending to organizations that “create opportunities for low-income communities and people with disabilities.”

During the tour, Lura and Kris visited three organizations that have received low-interest loans from IFF Detroit:

  • The Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation (DHCD), begun in 1979 by Angela Reyes in response to the violence in her community, serves more than 5,000 low-income people. DHCD’s first initiative was the Gang Retirement and Continuing Education and Employment Program (GRACE),which helps gang members to turn their lives around and work in local Hispanic-owned manufacturing companies.  The organization also provides bilingual support, child care support, community organization, and advocacy to bring about a change in policies that affect the people in the local community. Through a loan from IFF, the organization was able to refinance its existing debts.

  • Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation (CDC), founded in 1994 by six local churches, provides people in the community with positive opportunities through education, employment, and economic development. The CDC purchased 11 businesses and now operates eight of them to create jobs and provide needed goods and services. A loan from IFF helped to cover renovation costs for a vacant church that now serves as CDC’s home.

  • Detroit’s Downtown Boxing Gym (DBG) Youth Program, founded in 2007 by Carlo Sweeney, helps urban boys and girls to develop good citizenship through a “demanding boxing program, strong academic support, and volunteer work.” Children in the program – ages seven to 18 – receive tutoring, mentoring, physical training, transportation, and a daily meal and, in turn are required to continue improving their academic performance. The loan from IFF allowed DBG to renovate a vacant building to provide services to more youth. 

“The trip reminded me of the ‘bus trips’ the Adrian Dominican Sisters used to provide when they first began doing this work as a way to educate the members about where their dollars were being invested in the community,” Lura said. “What a great experience and inspiration to see first-hand how the investment dollars are being used to benefit these organizations as they provide creative opportunities and hope to individuals.”

 


Lura Mack (fourth from right) and Kris Cooper (fifth from right) with members of
IFF Detroit who went on the site visits. The bus was from the Detroit Bus Company.



Top Feature Photo: Lura Mack (far left) and Kris Cooper (second from left), along with members of
IFF Detroit, visit staff members at the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation.


PAB Announces Loan Investments to Four Community Organizations

June 15, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – The Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) of the Adrian Dominican Sisters is sending out low-interest loans to four community service organizations. The loans – sent to organizations from Oklahoma and California to Maryland and South Carolina – were recommended by the PAB and approved by the Congregation’s General Council. The funds are scheduled to be sent out on June 15 to:

  • Staff members of the Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation, located in Shawnee, Oklahoma. 
    Citizens Potawatomi Community Development Corporation (CPCDC). This certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) provides several kinds of loans – from microloans and business loans to asset-building Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) to Citizen Potawatomi Tribal members and other Native Americans throughout the United States. The loan from the Congregation will be pooled with those from other capital investors to make small business and micro-loans to at-risk Native American households in Oklahoma. CPCDC, founded in 2003 and headquartered in Shawnee, Oklahoma, also offers financial education workshops and small business development services. The organization’s mission is to “promote, educate, and inspire entrepreneurial growth and financial well-being of the Citizen Potawatomi National tribal community.”

  • Morro Del Mar, a 21-unit tax credit rental project for seniors, is located in Morro Bay, California.
    San Luis Obispo County Housing Trust Fund (SLOCHTF). Founded in 2003, this non-profit organization makes loan funds available to very low through moderate-income residents of San Obispo County, California, filling a niche between financing offered by banks and government housing programs. The Housing Trust Fund offers more flexible and favorable terms than banks and is generally more responsive and flexible than government housing programs. The Congregation has already made a loan to SLOCHTF; the recently-approved loan will be used as loan capital to finance affordable housing projects for lower-income households. Since 2005, when the organization first offered loans, it has provided more than $17 million to finance 641 units of affordable housing.

  • Families take part in National Night Out in August 2015.
    St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center. St. Ambrose aims to “create, preserve, and maintain equal housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income people primarily in Baltimore City and encourage and support strong and diverse neighborhoods.” The loan from the Adrian Dominican Congregation – with loans from other sources – will support a multi-year, multi-phase project to preserve, stabilize, and expand St. Ambrose’s rental portfolio to provide quality affordable housing to low-income Baltimore households headed by single women with dependent children. The 310 affordable rental units owned and managed by St. Ambrose are a significant source of stability for hundreds of households in Baltimore City and County.


  • Midlands Housing Trust Fund Executive Director Brian Huskey at the groundbreaking of Phase II of Village at River's Edge, a 124-unit, multi-family tax credit development in Columbia, South Carolina.
    Midlands Housing Trust Fund (MHTF). This non-profit organization provides financing, technical assistance, and advocacy for the construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of affordable housing in the Midlands of South Carolina. While the Congregation has already invested in a low-interest loan in MHTF, the additional loan will be used to expand the organization’s service area to include 15 counties, most of which are rural with high rates of poverty. The Congregation’s loan will be used in areas which have no other funding. When formerly rent-burdened households receive access to affordable housing, they have more money to spend on other necessities, such as transportation, health care, food and clothing. Midlands places high priority on lending for the creation of permanent service-enriched housing for individuals and families who are homeless.

Founded more than 40 years ago, the PAB was a response to the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ vision for social change. Firmly rooted in the tradition of Catholic social teachings, the PAB helps the Congregation to advocate for social justice in two ways. Through Community Investments work, the PAB offers low-interest loans to non-profit community organizations that benefit low-income people and underserved communities. The PAB Corporate Responsibility arm monitors the Congregation’s investments and engages in shareholder activities on matters of justice involving corporations in which the Congregation invests.  

Feature photo: Members of the St. Ambrose community get ready to volunteer for YouthWorks.


Shareholders Kept Silent at Dow's Special Meeting

On July 20, 2016, a Dow shareholder meeting was called for members to vote on the company’s merger with DuPont. The Adrian Dominican Sisters — shareholders who also represent shareholders from Pesticide Action Network, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, and Trillium Asset Management — attempted to present their concerns about the risks and impact of the merger. However, the meeting was tightly controlled and no one other than the CEO and the Corporate Secretary were permitted to speak.

Read more in this PAN press release, which also includes comments from Margaret Weber, member of the Portfolio Advisory Board for the Adrian Dominican Sisters.

 


PAB Newsletters

Insights, the Portfolio Advisory Board’s electronic newsletter (published quarterly), features stories about the socially responsible activities of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, including community investments and shareholder resolutions.

JANUARY 2017
LiftFund: Empowering Diverse Entrepreneurs, Businesses

OCTOBER 2016
Shareholder Advocacy News

JULY 2016
PeopleFund Working for Economic Justice

APRIL 2016
ICCR Conference Brings Opportunity to Study Issues of the Day

JANUARY 2016
Changing Lives Through Business

OCTOBER 2015
Con-Way Held up as Socially Responsible Corporation for Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking

JULY 2015
Meet the Florida Community Loan Fund


 

Email List

Receive our quarterly eNewsletter by clicking below. We will never share your email address with others, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Join our Email List



Recent Posts

Read More »

 

Portfolio Advisory Board,  Adrian Dominican Sisters | 1257 E. Siena Heights Drive | Adrian, Michigan 49221
Phone: (517) 266-3523 | Email: