By Clare S. Richie
Cama Fina (short for Casa Materna Financiamiento or maternity home financing) is ready to change the way people donate. The nonprofit seeks to leverage the power of microfinance to fight poverty and improve infant and maternal health in Nicaragua.
Co-founder, Nishant Kishore, an Emory University Masters in Public Health graduate student, started working on this model in 2012, while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Quilali, Nicaragua. While volunteering for three years in the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, he saw how a system of maternity clinics, Casa Maternas, saved the lives of babies and their mothers.
Casa Maternas provided rural pregnant women with access to an institutional birth with medical supervision and educational sessions about breastfeeding, nutrition, hygiene, and family planning. By transporting a pregnant woman to a Casa Materna two weeks prior to her due date, she has time to learn how care for her newborn prior to the baby’s delivery and time to rest afterward.
“I live very far from away [3.5 hours] and it’s better and safer to give birth here in the hospital,” 23-year-old Adenia explained in her video interview.
Despite having a proven track record of reducing maternal and infant mortality, Casa Maternas do not have stable funding and were hit hard by the recession. According to Nishant, the Casa Materna Quilali is operating at half of its 2008 budget with a 50 percent increase in patient visits.
Individuals and families who use micro-loans for their businesses, even in remote areas with average earnings of less than a $4 a day, can create a better life. “Cama Fina would be the connection between these two – MFIs and Casa Maternas,” Nishant shared.
Pro Mujer (translated Pro Woman) came on board as Cama Fina’s MFI partner due to their focus on women, strong international reputation, financial services, business and empowerment training, and health care support. Over a quarter century, Pro Mujer disbursed more than $1 billion in small loans and reached more than 1.6 million women and their 6.4 million children and family members in Argentina, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru. A typical first loan is $100 with a business plan developed with a Pro Mujer credit officer. Because of the support received, Pro Mujer’s client repayment rate is more than 96 percent.
Here’s how the model works. Cama Fina secures donations. Pro Mujer converts the donations to capital that is lent primarily to rural Nicaraguan women to launch or grow small businesses. Interest paid back on the loans then funds Casa Materna Quilali’s operating costs.
“Every dollar donated is invested in the local economy, in women,” shared Nishant. Female business owners will improve their quality of life and rural women will have access safer birth experiences.
Once donation levels reach $50,000, Casa Materna Quilali will receive flat monthly payments to continue providing services to prenatal women. At the $150,000, it will be fully funded for the foreseeable future and Cama Fina can set its sights on replicating this model across Nicaragua.
“During this giving season, Cama Fina is beginning it’s fundraising push,” Nishant shared, To implement it’s innovative model, Cama Fina seeks donations and fundraising, public relations and marketing volunteers from Atlantans with a global moral compass to support healthy mothers, healthy babies, and a growing economy in Nicaragua.
For more information, visit camafina.org.