Microfinance organizes national summit in NYC


Karen Lu

Microfinance Club attended the National High School Microfinance Summit at the Explorers Club in New York City on Oct. 11. The club has loaned over $4,700 to entrepreneurs from 86 countries.

Prithvi Krishnarao, Staff Writer

Members of the Microfinance Club organized the first-ever National Summit in New York City, geared towards sharing ideas with other like-minded clubs. The summit took place Oct. 11.

“We were looking for other schools to collaborate with, and that’s how we started the national organization. We expanded the initiative from the initial three schools to around 14 schools, and so we figured a good way to facilitate this discussion-wise was to have a conference,” club leader Christopher Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman and fellow senior David Lu, who took over the club as sophomores, led a group of six other students to New York to listen to speakers and discuss micro financing on a national level. The club normally operates through Kiva, a website that allows people to loan money to low-income entrepreneurs and students.

“Our goal as a club is not only to alleviate poverty but also to raise awareness in students, and get them involved in doing something,” senior Natasha Gonzalez said.

Zimmerman and Lu began to seriously plan the conference in June. Collaborating with several other schools, including Greenhill School in Dallas, they collected resources through a crowd-funding website. Exceeding their 750 dollar goal, the group received $900 from 12 donors in less than a month.

“When I talked with David and Chris near the end of summer, they already had so many things in place for the conference that for me, it was essentially an advisory role,” faculty sponsor Nolan Harris said.

After a day touring the New York city, the Microfinance Club attended the summit. 

NYU professor and Managing Director of the Financial Access Initiative Jonathan Morduch spoke about the economics behind microfinance.

“We then had [Mara Mouráo] who made a documentary about microfinance talk to us about why she made it, how she made it, and how she got it out to the public,” Gonzales said. “Our final speaker was [Elise Racine] who works for Kiva, the program we use to do microfinance and she talked about what she does at her job.”

The summit provided an environment for microfinance clubs to connect.

“The thing that I think was the most important was creating bonds with people from other schools,” junior Austin Zhang said. “Because the club is in its early stages, it’s all about connections right now. Microfinance is growing very quickly, and David and Chris are definitely at the forefront of it.”

The discussions gave the club’s leaders and members ideas for future projects.

“As a result of the conference, we were introduced to the possibility of getting involved in microfinance on a local level, and as a result we hope to be a larger part of the University of Houston Microfinance Initiative, which addresses the issues of poverty in Houston,” Lu said.

The club hopes that the summit becomes an annual event and leads to more projects being funded.

“It is these kind of gatherings that create public interest in microfinance,” Harris said. “We all agreed that now, as we go back to our respective clubs and spread microfinance to the community, we can try and get more schools interested in the club, and maybe even eventually get those schools involved in the conference.”