2020 - #2 Why and How My Spartan Global Students Are Taking Action to Support The “Black Lives Matter” Movement
Continuing my theme related to the flexibility of our Spartan Global Development Fund (SGDF) members during this year of turmoil (See entry #2020-1), this blog post includes my SGDF students’ statement on Black Lives Matter. It expresses our respect for others no matter what their race, ethnicity, or background. This is deeply important to SGDF internally and in our interactions with others around the world.
As a preface, it is important to note that SGDF funds microloans around the world for people of diverse races and backgrounds. Our direct loans totaling over $30,000 have gone to indigenous citizens in Nicaragua and Guatemala. Additionally, SGDF and members of our KIVA lending team have made at least 2,947 loans totaling $78,525 to small businesses in 82 countries. (See https://www.kiva.org/team/spartanglobal/impact. ) Moving forward, we will continue to strive to be as inclusive and diverse as possible in all of our activities.
Here is the thoughtful statement compiled bymy SGDF students. I am proud of them for composing this statement and for their commitment to the plans described in it for this academic year.
Spartan Global is an economic development organization. This is our simplest definition. Its implication is that inequality not only exists in the world but that inequalities are often rooted in injustice, thus warranting action to rectify them. To be a member of Spartan Global, a student must accept this premise.
We are a cosmopolitan association. We do most of our work in other nations. However, moral consistency requires that we view injustices in the United States through a similar lens. For centuries, the United States has been riddled with institutional patterns of violence against the Black community. The protests following George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police officers are an unprecedented reaction to these injustices.
Spartan Global values diversity in opinion, race, ethnicity, and background. We will never discriminate against a partner or member based on such characteristics. However, there is such a thing as evil. What happened to George Floyd was evil, no political allegiance or neutral stance alters that fact. The actions taken by protesters in order to combat this evil are unequivocally justified and they have our total support.
Spartan Global will take action to educate its members and community about the importance of diversity as well as racial injustices that plague America. We will strive to improve our members’ awareness of these issues in order to create a more effective team. We are searching for an MSU professor who specializes in racial issues and Black history in America to give a guest lecture to Spartan Global’s members in the fall. We will also be revamping our New Member Program to include educational material on the topic of racial injustices Black Americans experience every day.
Spartan Global’s goals are to create lasting relationships, enable sustainable development, and do our part to foster a more equitable world through micro-finance. It is time for us to focus on what is happening in our own backyard. To continue doing business as usual and ignore these issues would be to undermine our mission. This statement is our promise to never settle and to always push our members and Spartan Global community to be more aware, educated, and compassionate. We will be composing letters to our local, state, and national government representatives illustrating the changes we want to see in our community, state, and nation.
These changes have been focused on our internal dynamics as an organization, however, we are in the process of developing external projects that will pursue our updated commitments. There will be updates when we are ready to unveil these long-term efforts. Until then, please educate yourself, your family, and your friends through the following resources.
Keep fighting for what is right.
The SGDF team
2020 - #1 fLEXIBILITY AND cREATIVITY - MEETING THE nEEDS OF sMALL eNTREPRENEURS IN gUATEMALA IN tIMES OF cOVID
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Spartan Global Development Fund (SGDF) students at Michigan State University have found ways to be creative and flexible in their service to others. (See www.spartanglobalfund.org.) Spartan Global works to expand awareness and support for microfinance while building lasting partnerships in the quest for permanent solutions to global poverty. We aim to educate, inspire, and enable tomorrow’s agents of global change by raising funds locally to offer interest-free microloans to aspiring entrepreneurs throughout developing regions of the world.
We founded SGDF in 2009 by making contributions to four different microloans through the KIVA.org online lending platform (See https://www.spartanglobalfund.org/.) Kiva works with field partners around the world, who administer loans on-site. In 2011 SGDF expanded its activities by forming a companion 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The 501(c)(3) enables us to make loans through our own field partners. Between these two channels (KIVA and loans using our own field partners), we have made over $110,000 in loans. As Covid-19 came upon us, we adapted our practices to meet the needs of many of microloan recipients.
This came about because I lead a study abroad program to Guatemala during spring break this year. The program complements SGDF, allowing MSU students to learn about the Guatemalan economy, the need for sustainable development, Fair Trade, direct trade, and microfinance. While there, we met with entrepreneurs in small businesses who have received microloans through SGDF. We returned to the U.S. on March 9, 2020, only days before borders were locked down because of the pandemic
After we returned, we learned of the hardships facing our microloan recipients. Borders between municipalities were locked down to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Citizens were under a strict 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew. And, with major food shortages and a stifled economy (meaning no income for many people), families resorted to hanging a white cloth from their doors to indicate that they had no food. (See https://www.theguardian.com/global-During the Covid-19 pandemic, Spartan Global Development Fund students at Michigan State University have found ways to be creative and flexible in their service to others. (See www.spartanglobalfund.org.)
Therefore, my students shifted their efforts from fund-raising for microloans to a campaign to make sure that our Guatemalan loan recipients and their families had food. As of October 2020, we have raised over $7,600 for basic food supplies, the majority of which were delivered by August, although fundraising proceeds to meet continuing needs. (See https://www.spartanglobalfund.org/donate to donate or for the current total.) The deliveries, costing about $50 US dollars, provide staples such as rice, oil, corn, and beans. That feeds a family of four for about two weeks. We also delivered small amounts of cash–$100–to some of our Guatemalan loan recipients to enable them to continue to meet basic necessities.
The photos above, taken at the time of the food deliveries, show members of the largest cooperative with which we work: San Antonio de Chacayá community on Lake Antigua, Guatemala. We have a special connection to the farmers and their families because they hosted our education abroad students in March.
Leonzo Vasquez, President of the Chacayá cooperative, responded to the food delivery as follows: “En nombre de los productores, muchas gracias por esa gran ayuda que nos mandaron en espacial a usted y Alós estudiantes mil gracias. “ (In the name of the producers, many thanks for this great help that you sent, especially to you and the students. A thousand thanks.) The farmers of the cooperative added a touch of sweet humor, too, teasing that their Michigan State friends are trying to turn them into Italians. Why? For a recent set of deliveries, beans were not available at the markets, so our on-the-ground partners substituted pasta and cornmeal.
As we became immersed in our fall 2020 semester, SGDF students renewed their focus on micro-finance education (here) and micro-lending around the world (with a focus on Guatemala). Yet, I am proud of them for stepping aside from "business as usual" over these past few months to respond with kindness and compassion toward "our folks" in Guatemala.
Copyright ©2020, by Paulette L. Stenzel, Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University
*Entry #32: Spartan Global Development Fund Reaches a Milestone and Honors SGDF Member Mitchell J. Taylor
One of the greatest joys of my life, personal and professional, is working with Spartan Global Development Fund (SGDF), our Michigan State University-based microfinance organization, and I am delighted to report that SGDF has reached a significant milestone: Since we made our first package of four $25 loans on July 4, 2009, SGDF has extended over $101,000 in loans to small entrepreneurs across the world. Our latest package of loans totaling $3,370 has been sent to Guatemala to assist five new or developing small businesses. This landmark set of loans is even more special to us because the loans are dedicated to the memory of Mitchell J. Taylor (pictured above), beloved member of the SGDF Fundraising and Development Team. With these loans, we celebrate Mitchell’s smile, laughter, and dedication to making life better for others.
Our latest package of loans assists five small businesses in Guatemala. First, Angel, an aspiring farmer focusing on coffee and avocado production, will use his $750 loan for crops and fertilizer. Second, members of the San Antonia Weaving Cooperative will use their $1,050 loan to create new textile patterns to stimulate sales. The funds will pay artists for their unique designs. Third, the Nahuala Cooperative is a small weaving cooperative that is experiencing high demand from wholesalers. A $625 loan will enable the group to market new designs.
Fourth, and finally, is a two-stage loan. SGDF has loaned $673 to Giovanni Caseres, an auto mechanic with many years of experience, for the purchase of an engine hoist. This equipment will enable him to offer full engine rebuilds as compared to only top engine rebuilds that he was able to offer prior to this loan. This loan is unique in that, when repaid by Giovanni after only three months, the funds will be loaned to immediately to pottery artist Elvira. She will use funds for two purposes: mentoring in business financial management and to purchase materials for unique collectible items related to coffee such as coasters.
These loans demonstrate SGDF’S careful and respectful approach to micro-lending. Working with As Green as it Gets (AGAIG), our field partner in Guatemala, we enable small entrepreneurs to help themselves. Loans are made to meet needs identified by the entrepreneurs themselves, and our terms are tailored to meet the specific needs of the borrower. For example, repayment terms for these five loans range from three months to five years according to the needs of the borrower and type of business involved. For example, the loan to Giovanni Caseres, the auto mechanic who is using is loan to purchase equipment, is for only three months. In contrast, Angel needs three to five years for newly planted coffee plants to yield a marketable crop, and it takes that long or longer for avocado seedlings to mature and produce fruit.
Beyond meeting the specific needs of borrowers, our loans are always interest-free. Moreover, upon repayment, funds are loaned to another aspiring entrepreneur to establish or expand his or her business. When each of these loans totaling $3,370 is repaid, we will lend the funds to another small business person in memory of Mitchell J. Taylor, providing a lasting memory of his contributions through SGDF. With a repayment rate of over 99.9% since SGDF made its first group of loans on July 4, 2009, we know that our programs are sustainable for the long run.
Copyright ©2018 by Paulette L. Stenzel, Professor of International Business Law, Michigan State University, and advisor to Spartan Global Development Fund.
*This blog post is also available on the Spartan Global Development website. Please visit www.spartanglobalfund.org to learn more about the passion, hard work, and accomplishments of our MSU students and young alumni who work tirelessly and with great passion to help small entrepreneurs gain access to capital through microloans.
Entry #31 Coffee Direct from Guatemala, Success for a Small Entrepreneur and His Family, and Joy for Michigan State's Spartan Global Students
This coffee was roasted and packaged by Sr. Victor Cataví of San Miguel Escobar, Guatemala in early January. He was assisted by our Michigan State University Spartan Global Development Fund (SGDF) students who visited Guatemala over the holiday break 2017-2018. Students learned about the intricacies of and hard work involved in planting, tending, harvesting, sorting, roasting, and packaging coffee. Several of our students stayed with Sr. Victor Cataví and his family while in Guatemala. This gave them an opportunity to nurture friendships and experience family life in Guatemala. I am advisor to the student-led SGDF and a member of the board of directors for its non-profit companion organization, so, of course, I traveled with the group.
Señor Cataví became involved in the coffee industry about around 2015 with the help of SGDF’s field partner, As Green as it Gets (AGAIG). Sr. Cataví did not have any land to grow coffee, so he decided to enter the coffee processing business. This is fitting because coffee is part of his family's heritage. The photo on the bag shown above honors Don Beto, Sr. Cataví’s father who was a coffee farmer.
In early fall of 2016, SGDF made a $1,300 loan to Sr. Cataví to help him purchase equipment to begin processing coffee fruit and to package it for sale. The loan period was set for 24 months, with one lump sum due in August of 2018. To our delight, during our visit in Guatemala, he repaid SGDF in person with $1,300 cash—six months early! What a surprise to receive early payment! And, it is a joy to see him and his family doing so well!
We tailor our loans to fit the needs of each loan recipient. A coffee plant takes about three years from planting to start to give a substantial yield. So, our loan terms gave Sr. Catavi time to find a supply of coffee from nearby coffee farmers, purchase processing equipment, and learn the ins and outs of coffee processing and roasting. In light of the facts that coffee is harvested only once each year and he had no knowledge or capital at the beginning of the loan period, he would not have been able to make monthly payments. Moreover, SGDF does not charge interest. A traditional lender would never have loaned money to a low-income small entrepreneur, and a loan without interest would have been unfathomable.
Moving on, SGDF has already signed a contract loaning some of the $1,300 Sr. Cataví repaid to us to a cardamom farmer. There are new markets for cardamom oil today, and our loan will help a small farmer enter those markets. Moreover, we are recycling our funds and working on other loans.
Thank you for supporting our SGDF students. They are making a difference in the lives of small entrepreneurs and their families and communities in Guatemala and beyond with every loan they make. It’s about giving a hand up, not a hand out. And, if you get a chance, please check out our website: www.spartanglobalfund.org.
Many thanks for your support!
Copyright c 2018 by Paulette L. Stenzel, Professor of International Business Law, Michigan State University
Entry #30 Group-lending in Tanzania
I visited the village of Naitolia in Northern Tanzania (near the Serengeti) in May of 2016 on a Michigan State University (MSU) faculty team. Our visit was part of an on-going Tanzania Partnership Program (TPP) that MSU has conducted for over five years, and our objective was to explore the potential to assist citizens of Naitolia through microfinance. During our visit, we learned that citizens of Naitolia are already involved in one of the most basic forms of microfinance: group-lending. It is a tool involving extremely small loans among members of a group. The loans are not enough to support significant entrepreneurial projects, but
Should we give rights to trees, rivers, and other entities of nature? Indigenous people in Ecuador, Bolivia, and New Zealand have convinced their governments to pass laws designed to protect Mother Earth.
I was introduced to the movement to protect Mother Earth through law by indigenous friends in Ecuador when I did research on sustainable development in that country in 2008. To this day, I continue my conversations with them. Ecuador is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world; its territories include Andean mountains and valleys, Pacific coastal zones, Amazon rain forests, and the Galapagos Islands. Vast numbers of endemic species, many of which are endangered, live in the Galapagos which is where Charles Darwin conducted research leading to his theory of evolution through natural selection.
Monarchs, Milkweed, and Sustainability
How many monarch butterflies did you see during the summer of 2014? Most people in Michigan and the rest of the Midwest would answer, “Fewer than ever before.” That is true, but they may not know why. In fact, their dwindling numbers are closely related to unsustainable activities and practices of humans. Did you know that the activities and practices that are killing butterflies also contribute to the rapidly accelerating climate change we are experiencing?
Can you name a cooperative? A presenter at the 2014 International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec, Canada, (October 5-9, 2014) reported that 78% of those people she surveyed in various countries could not name even one cooperative. In October of 2014, I gave a presentation on sustainability before a group of 119 undergraduate business students. In response to my written survey at the start of our session, 85% could not name a cooperative. Fortunately, that lack of familiarity is likely to change.
I love my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share! On Thursdays I pick up my CSA share from the Michigan State University (MSU) Student Organic Farm. I love it for multiple reasons. My share includes the freshest possible organic vegetables, varying each week according to the season.
“Coffee is just a vehicle to make positive economic change”- Matt Early, co-founder of Just Coffee.
In May of 2013, I visited Madison, Wisconsin to learn about cooperatives and Fair Trade in that city. It was my pleasure to meet with Matt Early, co-founder of Just Coffees. Matt is a close friend of Chris Treter, founder of Higher Grounds Coffee of Traverse City Michigan. (See entry #14 of January 11, 2011.) Both men are committed to Fair Trade as a vehicle for economic and social change, and each supports and speaks highly of the other. What is special about Just Coffees and Higher Grounds? There are many attributes, but as an introduction I will focus on the words of Matt Early: "It’s all about Transparency, Cooperatives, and Small Farmers.”
Entry #24 Elvia's Textile Creations
This is Elvia Minas of San Miguel Escobar. I met her on a research trip to Guatemala during the summer of 2012 when I traveled there to learn about the Direct Trade Coffee Cooperative known as As Green as it Gets. I was delighted by the beautiful patterns as well as the quality of Elvia’s creations and purchased several for myself and family members. After seeing mine, some of my friends even purchased items from Elvia, and I continue to put others in contact with her.
Entry #23: Love doesn’t figure on the balance sheet, but it’s the only thing that makes a difference.
Entry #23: "Love doesn’t figure on the balance sheet, but it’s the only thing that makes a difference."
I attended the national Net Impact Conference in Baltimore October 25-27, 2012. As a side note, I am grateful that I got out of Baltimore on one of the last flights on Sunday, October 28 before the airport closed because of Hurricane Sandy. Hurray! But, let’s continue to think about and help those on the East Coast who are digging out from the losses.
Meet Filoberto Salazár: He is a coffee farmer in Antigua, Guatemala as well as a barista in “Whiskey ADentro” Café (also called the “Whisky Den”) in Antigua, Guatemala. Sixty-year-old Sr. Salazár has been a coffee farmer all of his life. Additionally, in the spring of 2012, he became a co-owner of a coffee house in Antigua, Guatemala called the “Whisky Den.”
Entry #21: As Green as it Gets - and My Introduction to Direct Trade
Background: Earlier this year, Stephen Kelly, a Boston College law student contacted me to discuss a mutual interest: helping small entrepreneurs in developing countries throughout Latin America. My background is in Fair Trade and microfinance. Before law school Stephen volunteered with As Green As It Gets (AGAIG), a non-profit organization operating from San Miguel Escobar, Guatemala that focuses on “direct trade.”
Entry #20: Small Steps Get Things Done: Microfinance
Background: When I speak with student groups or give public presentations, I often hear individuals remark that they feel overwhelmed by the multiple economic, social, and environmental problems we face in this world. They feel that their contributions would be too small to make a difference. My students prove otherwise. Anyone can do something to make this world more sustainable.
Entry #19: Why should we bother with organic bananas?
An experience: While I was selecting my breakfast from a buffet table at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York last summer, a young lady was overseeing the apples and bananas. A woman approached and remarked, “Why would they bother with organic bananas?” The young lady responded that she wasn’t quite sure, so I spoke up.
Entry #18, September 10, 2011
Environmentalist in Process & the Second Anniversary of MSU’s Recycling Center
Reflection: Here is an example of my development as an environmentalist in process. Over the past several years, the amount of garbage I put out for pick up has dwindled as the amount I take to recycling has increased. Here is one week’s garbage and recycling: The white basket is for garbage and the two black bins are for recycling. I’m not perfect, but I’m getting better. I have a long way to go before I completely get rid of that white basket. Then again, perfection (no waste) may go beyond what I am able or willing to pursue at this point in my life.
Entry #16 – June 11, 2011
Don’t Let the Perfect be the Enemy of the Good – Voltaire
This photo includes my Business Law and Public Policy Students, officers of Spartan Global Development Fund, MSU Students for Fair Trade, and others from the Broad College of Business. The occasion was a visit by Dr. Kevin Danaher of Global Exchange for our Annual Fair Trade Bash. He spoke in my classes about “Green Careers.”
Entry #15 – March 13, 2011
Everybody Reads – and Promotes Sustainable Practices
This is my friend Scott Harris: caretaker, guardian, manager, and owner of Everybody Reads Bookstore in Lansing, Michigan. He has devoted over five years of his life to creating and nurturing a welcoming, community-based bookstore. The store offers reading materials for underrepresented topics and provides a gathering space for community groups. Books and magazines include topics related to sustainability, human rights, and diverse ways of thinking and living.
Entry #14– February 11, 2011
The Tool: The Talking Stick
Reflection: Native Americans use a talking stick to discuss important matters at their councils. The person who holds the stick holds the floor. It is a reminder to all to listen carefully to the speaker and to respect each other’s viewpoints. It is also a mechanism to ensure that everyone, from a small child to a one-hundred year old elder, has a voice within the circle.
Entry #13– January 17, 2010
Sustainability from Coffee, Cups, and Bikes to… a lot more!
A simple way to help make the world more sustainable and avoid filling landfills is to carry your own coffee mug or cup. My friends in Fair Trade at Higher Grounds Coffees (http://highergroundstrading.com) in Traverse City, Michigan pursue sustainability in many significant ways, including the usage of reusable mugs.
Entry #12– January 7, 2011
Highest Quality Chocolates - Produced in Michigan and Serving the World
I am a Fair Trade and sustainability advocate, and I love chocolate. So, it’s great to combine those passions. Mimi Wheeler is doing wonderful things with chocolates and foes them in sustainable ways at her company in Empire, Michigan: Grocer’s Daughter Chocolates. Walking into Grocer's Daughter is akin to walking into the wonderful smells and tastes of chocolate shop in the movie "Chocolat" but with the cheerfulness, inside and out, of bright colors typical of Mexico's Caribbean or Ecuador's coastal towns. The flavors vary including pear, ginger, apricot orange, sunflower seed, chilis, and more. Each handmade chocolate is gorgeous, too.
Entry #11– December 13, 2010
The Image and Message: The Peace Pole -- Que La Paz Prevalezca en la Tierra – May Peace Prevail on Earth
My wish for everyone is for peace as we celebrate Christmas and many other holidays around the world this month. This is one of many Peace Poles I have seen in Northern Michigan. I do not remember the rainbow being there when I took this photo, so its appearance is a fun surprise. According to the website for the Peace Pole Project, there are over 200,000 Peace Poles in about 195 countries. See http://www.worldpeace.org/index.html for the history of the Peace Pole, and stories and photos from around the world. I would like to plant one in my own yard in 2011.*
copyright© 2010 by Paulette L. Stenzel for text and photo.
P.S. I did add one to my yard after writing this blog entry. In answer to the comment by Leland Ross: Mine is in English, Spanish, French, and Hebrew. Sixteen languages? Fantastic!
Entry #10– December 6, 2010
The Image: De Un Corazón Roto Sale Nueva Vida – From a Broken Heart Comes New Life
A personal theme for my October 2010 trip to Chiapas, Mexico was “Ojos Abiertos, Corazones Abiertos” (Open eyes, open hearts).
Paulette L. Stenzel
I am Professor Emeritus of International Business Law and Sustainability at Michigan State University (MSU). I am also a mom, learner, writer, violinist, environmentalist -in -process, traveler, and avid reader. I continue to teach part time at MSU and coordinate the Broad College Ethical Leadership program Additionally, I advise Spartan Global Development Fund - a microfinance organization.