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Lending a hand: Houston students make microloans, gain a stake in global issues

BY Cristal Monta#241;éz Baylor [ February 13, 2009 at 07:00:20 ]

HOUSTON CHRONICLE Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lending a hand:
Houston students make microloans, gain a stake in global issues

College students, while recognized for their zeal to make a difference in the world, are not usually thought of as capitalist benefactors. They’re much more likely to be on the receiving end of loans and financial aid.

But several Houston students have found a way to change the world and use their own money to do it, by investing modest sums in small entrepreneurial ventures in impoverished countries. And it works.

Students from Rice University and the University of St. Thomas have begun working with the Houston-based Hashoo Foundation, which is active in economic development and educational programs in Pakistan. Their focus is on supporting projects that produce and sell honey in Pakistan.

The Hashoo project they will be working on, Women Empowerment Through Honeybee Farming, just won a prestigious international award, the BBCs World Challenge 2008, and a prize of $20,000, for its inventive, targeted approach to local communities.

Some St. Thomas students are already familiar with honey farming. The university’s microcredit program supports several projects in Mexico and sends its students there, reported the Chronicles Jeannie Kever, and will soon be involved in similar programs in Pakistan.

The St. Thomas microcredit program, now two years old, began with a $100 loan for a mixer to a Peruvian woman wanting to sell her baked goods. To date, the school has made loans to 125 borrowers, totaling $7,700.

The Rice students have pledged to raise $270 for the Hashoo project, covering the cost of three beehives. Their fledgling nonprofit, Owl Microfinance, has so far made six loans, and just recently received its first repayment.

Cristal Montanez Baylor, Hashoo’s executive director, told the Chronicle that she is excited to have the students join the project.

Its so important, she said, that they get an understanding of global needs, and to know that they are taking the most effective steps toward alleviating poverty and promoting economic development and sustainability.

Baylor stressed that by providing these small loans, the students are helping parents provide for their kids, so they not only give them an education, but the tools to survive. This way, they see that making a better world is not just theoretical, its tangible. And, she added, they see the return on their loans.

Sounds like a win-win situation.


Hashoo Foundation USA is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization chartered in Houston, Texas in 2007 with the mission of alleviating poverty through economic self-sustenance and education. The Women Empowerment through Honey project is one of various strategies that are being developed to fulfill the founding philanthropic principles of the Hashoo Foundation in Pakistan and beyond.


University of St. Thomas Micro-credit Program - The Mission of the Program is to provide UST undergraduate students with a unique educational opportunity to learn practical ways and means to effect meaningful improvement in the lives of the world’s poor through active management of the Fund. By participation in the Program, these students will have the opportunity to learn practical methods by which freedom, equality, democracy and social justice may be enhanced by small loans to the poor.


Rice University Owl Microfinance – The goal is to fundamentally improve the lives of entrepreneurs both locally through business training and abroad through microloans. We aim to promote tangible student activism among the Rice student body through both the facilitation of such loans and outreach to the broader community. Additionally, we hope to inspire the broader Houston community to take part in collaborative action towards furthering microfinance.


The World Challenge 08 is a global competition aimed at finding projects or small businesses from around the world that have shown enterprise and innovation at a grass roots level. World Challenge 08 is brought to you by BBC World News and Newsweek, in association with Shell, and is about championing and rewarding projects and business which really make a difference. The winner will receive a grant of USD $20 000 to put back into their project/business, and two runners up will each receive USD $10 000. Hashoo Foundation's Women Empowerment Honey Bee Farming Project - "Plan Bee" is the Winner of the BBC World Challenge 08.


Hashoo Foundation's Women Empowerment through Honey Bee Farming Project a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) "Featured Commitment" http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/NETCOMMUNITY/Page.aspx?pid=2759&srcid=2762

Cristal Montañéz Baylor
Executive Director
Hashoo Foundation, USA
Three Allen Center
333 Clay Street, Suite 4980
Houston, TX 77002
Direct: +1 (713) 483-4990
Fax: +1 (713) 759-0112


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