Microfinance: Making families resilient in Nepal

In today’s highly connected world, people’s opportunities are less and limited by their geography. The flow of migrant workers, which is as old as civilization, has grown with the advent of technology and brought both new challenges and new opportunities.
Kamala Dhungel, a forty-year-old resident of the Subba Chowk, Birtamod Municipality, is well acquainted with the demand for migrant workers from Nepal that pulls their loved ones away from their homes and many times from their lives. Migrant workers are driven by poverty and economic hardships in their home countries. They search for income from more prosperous countries so they can send money back to their families. They struggle abroad for years to build a better life at home.
Kamala’s husband, Hom Nath, spent ten years working in Saudi Arabia, while she raised two children without him in a small mud-plastered hut with cracked bamboo walls and a leaky corrugated iron sheet roof. The family was dependent on the small remittances he sent home to supplement Kamala’s irregular and underpaid work as a daily wage laborer. He arrived home only three months ago to stay, then handed the mantle over to his twenty-two-year-old son, Aashish, who now works in Dubai as a migrant worker.
Life in Subba Chowk is not easy; they moved from their village Kafle Tar eleven-years ago in search of a better life, but they struggled to find work even in the more prosperous Jhapa district. Their current rented hut is downright dangerous; the rooms are small and are often overrun by pests. There is no toilet, and the family is forced to resort to the practice of open defecation. During rain, the roof leaks leaving a puddle of waters on the floor.
In our new house, we no longer have to fear snakes getting through the holes in the walls, rainwater leaking from the roof or food stocks getting damaged during rainfall or flooding.
In the nine years since Kamala joined Sahara Nepal Saving and Credit Cooperative, she has worked hard to build a savings account. She attends regular group Kamala Dhungel and her husband, meetings and has, over the years, borrowed loans ranging from NPR 10,000 (AUD 131) to NPR 50,000 (AUD 657) for livelihood activities and her children’s education and also for their health care. Kamala is a hard worker: she has repaid every cent through her hard labor and money sent from her husband and son. Still, after using her savings to buy land on which to build her own house in 2016, she needed help to pay for the construction. Sahara Nepal happily accepted her application or NPR 300,000 (AUD 3,944) to build an RCB (Rod, concrete and brick) house!
Unfortunately, even this has not been enough to complete construction. Kamala and her husband managed additional funds from their friends and relatives, and today their house is eighty-percent complete. They are expecting to finish it in two months.
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“In our new house, we no longer have to fear snakes getting through the holes in the walls, rainwater leaking from the roof or food stocks getting damaged during rainfall or flooding,” Kamala says, proudly. She plans on opening a small eatery out of the house to offset the money she has borrowed to pay for their home. Soon, thanks to the hard work of her son and husband in the Middle East along with her hard work and planning, Kamala will be able to live in a secure and safe home with her whole family.
This support could not have happened without Habitat for Humanity Nepal’s partnership with Sahara Nepal which allows organizations to design housing loan products that meet the needs of low-income families and gives them a chance to own safe and sustainable housing. Families like Kamala’s are now able to have greater security, higher resilience to natural disasters, and significantly more opportunities for home-based livelihoods such as small businesses. These loans play an essential role in building a place for families to thrive and to reduce the social and health risks of poor living standards and also in the global economy in aiding people’s rise out of extreme poverty. Perhaps, Kamala’s grandchildren will never need to know the life of a migrant worker as her family slowly steps out of the cycle of poverty.
It’s amazing how little it costs to change a family’s prospect.

For as little as $5,000 you can fund a house in rural Nepal.

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