Microcredit in Kolkata

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Prana International
City & State:
Fort Washington, 
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

“To be a conduit for economic development and social change in developing nations by creating and supporting programs that directly affect the disenfranchised”.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Getting out of the clutches of a loan shark and becoming financially independent from in-laws are two stories of the people that have been helped through the work of Prana International.

To date, 45 women have received loans and there are no defaults in repayment. Prana International was conceived with the mission “To be a conduit for economic development and social change in developing nations by creating and supporting programs that directly affect the disenfranchised.” We realized that what we consider “disposable” income, whether $20 or $100--can provide hope and the impetus for someone in extreme poverty to change their daily life situation.

Prana was incorporated in 2006 and a year later, our board was formed and had its first weekend meeting at our home in Fort Washington, PA. There are no paid staff and we currently fund one project in Kolkata (Calcutta), India. In our few years of existence – the stories we have heard from women who live in the slums of Kolkata, India, speak volumes.

After her husband died, “Seema” has lived with her in-laws and was dependent on them for a daily allowance. Seema used the microloan through Prana’s partner organization to start a trade, selling bangles and other accessories. She is now able to support herself and has started on the long road toward economic self sufficiency. “Kalpana” is a hard-working, middle-aged community leader who has been associated with Prana’s partner organization. A few years ago Kalpana’s son took a large loan from a loan shark to invest in a business which failed. Kalpana had taken on her son’s debt and was paying 1,000 rupees a month as interest on a principal of 10, 000 rupees. She used the Prana-enabled loan to increase her inventory of saris (the customary dress) which she sells door to door. The additional income allowed her to pay off more than 50% of the principal amount owed on her son’s loan. Kalpana can now get out of the debt to the loan shark. Her gratitude is humbling.

When women’s income earning potential is raised, it also influences their roles in nontraditional and domestic activities and, in the long run, that changes life trajectories for children, women, and especially girls. We are so excited about how this organization is going to grow over the next several decades! But for now we are very small. We have a small budget (started with 2K of personal funds), no paid staff and a volunteer board). We still know how much we spent at OfficeMax to get pens, notebooks, printing, binders, a 3-ring hole punch and flipcharts for our first board meeting! But we feel very rich in our impact.

For a start up organization with limited funding, every cent counts. Needing to purchase MS Office would have been a burden. The money saved on necessary software such as Microsoft Office, means being able to fund at least two more loans, two more women, two more families, and in all probability, a dozen lives. That is remarkable. As a young organization, we have committed ourselves to using majority of donations for program funds. Because of this commitment, the availability of free or reduced cost software is extremely helpful. “Prana” is a Sanskrit word which refers to life-the sustaining force of all beings. As fundamental and taken for granted as water is for daily life – so our small non-profit organization relies on the free Microsoft software made available through Techsoup.

The cost of the software is the tip of the ice berg. Functionality of the office suite has made the donation even more valuable. We have few funds appropriated towards operating costs. Thus, the technology available through Microsoft Office products have contributed to our ability to interact in a timely, efficient, and professional manner with our partner organizations, Board, and with potential and participating donors. Without word processing and spreadsheet capabilities, our lives and our work would be complicated and require far more time. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share with you the ways we rely on MSOffice from Techsoup for our on-going operations.

Without the capability we have through Word, Outlook, and Excel, we could not imagine initiating and sustaining this type of volunteer-based start-up. We could not be taken seriously as a professional organization without these capabilities. The most helpful MS Word function is the mail merge function. Mail merge was used to personalize our fundraising letters to potential donors. We use the mail merge function to send out the personalized receipt letters as well. The mail merge function has been particularly time-saving and makes our efforts both more professional as well as manageable. The fundraising letters, blogs, reports, and meeting minutes are also created and shared through MS Word.

Most of our communication with our grantee organization (which includes communication with 4 staff members in Kolkata), and internal communication with board members is done using Outlook. Other critical e-mail communication with IRS, our web designer and various legal consultants has been done with Outlook. We have also used Excel to create and maintain our membership database as well as our accounting records.

As “first-world” citizens, we wanted to use our US-based resources to offset a tiny portion of the global disparity. We believe that if given a chance, every human being will prove not only to be reliable and independent, but will take pride in doing so. We would like to facilitate that innate process. It’s great to partner with organizations like Microsoft and Techsoup, who enable organizations such as Prana international fulfill their mission.

To some the software donations may not seem like much, but to our organization, your donation it is life-supporting to us and our constituents. Many thanks for your innovative and generous support. To learn more about how our microloans have impacted individual women and their families, about our Board members, or about our partner organization in Kolkata, please visit our website and read the blogs (http://www.pranainternational.org).

Sincerely, The Board members of PRANA International

Submission Category
Stable and Secure Technology
Project Image