Micronesia: How to raise funds for microfinance? Raffle a pig.

Microfinance institutions have been crunched in the global recession. This island has responded with raffle parties to raise money.

•A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

POHNPEI, MICRONESIA – Banks are facing tough times all over, including on the West Pacific island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. With credit getting tighter and Pohnpeians learning firsthand the harsh results of defaulting on loan repayments, communities here are combining resources at raffle parties to raise interest-free capital for families in need.

“This is a new trend that’s really become popular in just the last year,” says Adelino Lorens, Pohnpei chief of agriculture with the office of economic affairs. “Now many people are not approaching the banks applying for small loans.”

Island-wide, fundraisers have become a focal point of social life, as families gather to buy raffle tickets on goods donated by friends and family. With the prizes ranging from a few yams to large pigs worth several thousand dollars, some events yield significant sums in one night.

“Fundraisers are easier than going to banks nowadays,” says Wetsin Beleb, while emceeing a recent fundraiser in Madolenihmw, Pohnpei’s largest municipality.

And, with their abundance of food, drink, and music, they are no doubt more enjoyable than
applying for a loan.

At the Madolenihmw fundraiser, about 150 people gathered under a palm-thatched nah, or hut, to bid on several large piles of firewood, bananas, sugarcane, and colorful local skirts. The money will be used to help send the host family’s daughter to college in Hawaii.

Albert Augustin, principal at a local high school, also helped raise $2,800 with a fundraiser to send his brother to Honolulu to attend his son’s college graduation. In addition to education expenses, funds are being used to finance everything from buying a used car to paying off medical bills.

As more families only recently introduced to Western banking practices lose their traditional land to creditors, fundraising allows communities to donate items within their means to help, knowing that they will have the favor returned if they need it.

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