Global Social Event: East & Southeast Asia

Jackie Peterson reports on our August 19th event

wokaiThis month’s Global Social focused on East and Southeast Asia as well as China.  Ketty Loeb from Wokai was invited to present briefly on Wokai’s micro-credit work and poverty in China.

Currently the poverty rate is 8-10%, Loeb notes, and there is a growing divide between rural and urban populations.  According to Loeb 75% of the people in China do not have access to credit.  In China, it is not legal to loan to individuals so micro-finance organizations serve as brokers or intermediaries in that process, using a model somewhat similar to what KIVA does.  The micro-finance organizations in China are the entities to which outsiders can loan money and the organization matches funding with individuals.  The microfinance organizations also determine the loan rate.

The process has a number of challenges.  Those who loan will not be repaid in the traditional sense of recouping their money.  The loans are repaid to the micro-finance organization but the principle amount is then re-invested so the loans should be considered more as a donation rather than a traditional loan.  It is also a challenge to find reputable micro-financing organizations using sound training practices, transparency in lending and solid risk analysis measures.  Wokai has, to-date, found about 100 reputable organizations and continues to look for more.

There is also a general lack of a philanthropic culture directed toward those outside the family in China. Donations or giving in the way thought normal in the US is illegal in China but there appears to be some shifts beginning in cultural norms around that philosophy.  There is also some hope for banking reforms and that the high demand for credit may encourage opportunities.

As is true in many areas, the greatest poverty is in the rural areas and isolation and poor infrastructure contribute to the fact that less help gets to those areas and people.

About 98% of the money Wokai loans is to women who live on less than $1.00/day and they use that money for things like agricultural pursuits and purchasing animals etc. in rural areas and sales of textiles and establishment of produce stands in more urban locations.  The average loan is about $350.

Some of the other organizations represented at the Global Social who are also doing work in East and Central Asia and China include:

Lutheran Community Services,
Bridges to Understanding,
Peace Winds America,
Women’s Enterprises International,
The China Club of Seattle,
Sankara Eye Foundation,
Breakthrough Partners,
Prosthetics Outreach Foundation,
Crooked Trails,
Antioch University,

Representing Global Washington was Bookda Gheisar, Executive Director.  Gheisar encouraged attendees to access the Global Washington website,, to register their organizations and post upcoming events.  Gheisar also spoke to the benefits of membership in the organization.

Gheisar solicited input from the group as to how Global Washington can help facilitate communication between various groups doing work overseas and noted that the first annual convention for Global Washington members will occur in December of 2009.