"Microfinancing aims for determination”

“Hi Mum!” She is certainly not his mum, but the warm reunion between KBC volunteer Reiner Van den Steen and Patricia Hollinger of the BRS Institute immediately makes it clear that they get on like a house on fire. In October, they spent fourteen days on a mission to El Salvador and Honduras. A newbie and an experienced BRS volunteer, on the road together for BRS.


Reiner: “It was my very first mission, but Patricia has tons of experience. She looked after me and the other volunteers as if we were her chicks. That’s why we liked to call her ‘mum’.” 


Patricia: “Until last year, I was a KBC volunteer just like Reiner. As a young retiree, I am now a member of the BRS Institute. And yes, in my role as coordinator, I also feel responsible for the volunteers. But I mainly work as a coach. And I make sure that what the expert volunteers have to offer meets the needs of the microfinancing institutions (MFIs). That’s how I found Reiner.”

Reiner: “I work in human resources at KBC. Not only AMC, but also the MFI in El Salvador and Pilarh in Honduras face challenges in this area. That’s why BRS asked me to work on this theme. In concrete terms, together with the MFIs, I went through all the possible topics in order to identify exactly what support they are looking for. In order to arrive at an action plan at the end of the week. That’s what they're going to do now.”


Patricia: “And Reiner did a fantastic job. With his dynamic approach and humour, he had the participants in the palm of his hand. Everyone listened with fascination. I was really impressed.” 

Reiner: “I learned a lot from Patricia, both in terms of content and in terms of teaching. She also establishes links between various working groups. For example, I contributed to the ‘Good Governance for Cooperatives’ workshop at one of the institutions because it involved the follow-up of the very first directors. HR at its best. Without Patricia’s overview, we would have missed that opportunity. And her engagement and commitment are incredibly inspiring!”


Patricia: “I am inspired by the MFI staff! Because they are so committed to their compatriots who are less fortunate. Ruth, a particularly talented Pilarh employee, could obtain a financial position abroad if she wanted to. But she consciously chooses to stay in Honduras, to help her country and compatriots move forward.”

Reiner: “I also found the meetings with the customers very inspiring. They may live in poverty, but they are anything but pathetic or pitiful. Quite the contrary, in fact. These are determined people who are starting an economic activity from scratch.”

Patricia: “Microfinancing is not a charity, is it? These are financial institutions that have to survive, even if they focus on people who will not get help from regular banks.”

Reiner: “And the results are encouraging. Think of the tortilla seller we visited in El Salvador. She started out with a small loan, but now she has a thriving business employing three people.”

Profit for all

Patricia: “I am happy to be able to contribute with my experience. From a human perspective, yes, but in a realistic way: so that people take control of their own future and help build their community.”

Reiner: “And we volunteers are showered with gratitude in return!”