SALT Loan Client - Haiti
In May 2015, I was privileged to visit Haiti to help Christian Aid Ministries set up QuickBooks for their SALT Microfinance Solutions program. This was an exciting opportunity, as a volunteer, to put my QuickBooks knowledge and skills into practice for others. During this trip, I visited the cities of Port-au-Prince, Titanyen, and Petit-Goave.
I spent most of my time in Petit Goave, Haiti, where the office for the SALT program is located. My focus was learning about the SALT program, grasping the accounting needs for the program, installing and setting up a specialized QuickBooks company file, educating the SALT staff on how to use QuickBooks, and then providing technical support to the SALT staff.
It was exciting to help those who are working hard to decrease the problems of chronic poverty in Haiti. I have enjoyed helping with the SALT program because I believe it is helping to break the cycle of dependency in developing countries. This program is actually helping to solve the problems of chronic poverty by enabling impoverished people to use the resources already available to them.
What is SALT Microfinance Solutions?
You may be asking, “What is SALT?” SALT is an acronym for Shared Accountability, Lending, and Teaching. This program reaches out to people in material poverty through microloans, savings groups, agricultural programs, and Christ-centered teaching. The goal of the SALT Program is to walk alongside clients, helping them use the resources God has placed in their care and teaching them the importance of following Jesus in everyday life.
As clients develop small business enterprises, they often find that their increased income enables them to afford regular meals, improve their housing, and provide a good education for their children. As their businesses expand, the effects spread beyond their families into the local economy, as they learn to be contributors in their communities and churches.
How does the SALT Microfinance Solutions program work?
The SALT Microfinance program accomplishes its goals through several distinct approaches. The approach used depends on the particular needs of the population being served. Here are brief descriptions of each aspect of the SALT program.
The Microloan program provides loans that enable individuals to create or expand small businesses. Clients are placed in small groups where they learn to work as teams. Individuals within these groups are mutually responsible for loan repayment. If all team members are faithful with payments and meeting attendance, they can receive larger loans to enable continued growth of their businesses.
Before receiving a loan, each client must create a business plan. After the loan is issued, the clients are required to save small amounts of money on a regular basis. The goal is for them to save enough to eventually graduate from the program, using the savings they have accumulated to advance their businesses further. Our clients have responded very well to this program, and our average repayment rate since the program began is 97.5 percent.
Another effective approach is the Savings Solutions program. Clients form savings groups which meet frequently, and each individual contributes a small amount of their own money. As the group’s savings accumulate, clients can borrow from this fund to start or expand businesses or to help provide for their needs during times of the year when survival is difficult.
In a savings group, all the money comes from the clients themselves. Savings groups can be powerful, because they can show individuals in developing countries how to better utilize the resources God has placed into their care. Many of these people believe they can never succeed by themselves, and savings groups show them that they are capable of providing for their families without depending on ongoing foreign aid.
Saving is a valuable habit for young people to learn. Youth savings groups are helping youth in Haiti develop this habit. Each member of a youth savings group works hard to save for half the price of a goat. They then receive a loan to pay the remaining cost. They must go through training on animal husbandry and build a shelter for the goat. The goats or their offspring can be sold for a profit.
In some communities, the SALT Microfinance program focuses on agriculture. The Agri-Plus approach teaches improved farming techniques, helps farmers find better markets, and provides funding to help purchase equipment or fertilizer. By making better use of the agricultural resources around them, people are able to provide for their own families. The Agri-Plus program also helps families to provide work for their children and gives them opportunities to model and teach excellent work ethics.
How is QuickBooks making a difference in the SALT program?
The SALT program has grown rapidly since its beginning several years ago. The number of clients in the SALT Program has almost doubled in the past year. There are currently over 9,000 loan clients in various countries. Keeping track of these clients requires careful record keeping. The SALT staff, who are often busy with just the day-to-day operations of the SALT program, have the daunting task of keeping track of a growing number of SALT clients. The SALT program has struggled to establish an efficient record keeping and accounting system.
Since I introduced QuickBooks to the SALT program and helped set it up and taught them how to use QuickBooks, they now have an easier and more efficient way of keeping records. They also now have a quicker and more accurate means of reporting that is crucial to making management decisions for long-term and short-term planning.
Darvin Seibel, director of the SALT program in Haiti, says, “The problem of efficient record keeping was solved recently as Caleb Jenkins made a visit to Haiti and set QuickBooks up for
the SALT staff here. QuickBooks has saved our staff a lot of time in entries and improved our accuracy. The reports that are available now make it much easier for everyone involved with the program to be able to quickly access information. This is a tremendous blessing. We thank you!”
SALT representative Clint Bower works in Haiti and teaches farmers there better farming techniques to promote sustainable living. Clint reports that QuickBooks has made a big difference in his work. “I have worked with SALT’s Agri-Plus program since January 2013,” says Clint. “Since that time we had used excel spreadsheets to keep track of our finances. It was a difficult way to track finances with no good way to reconcile our books or get the reports that we needed.
Caleb Jenkins came in May to convert all of our bookkeeping over to QuickBooks. Since this switch, our time spent bookkeeping has greatly diminished. We are able to look at reports quickly and more efficiently than before. Caleb was a patient teacher and still is available to help anytime we have a need. His knowledge of QuickBooks makes our job much easier.”
SALT Microfinance Solutions is a program of Christian Aid Ministries (CAM). CAM is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Most of our support comes from Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist groups and individuals. For more information about SALT Microfinance Solutions or other aspects of Christian Aid Ministries, please call the CAM home office at 330-893-2428 or visit www.christianaidministries.org/salt.
Caleb Jenkins is a staff accountant at RLJ Financial Services, Inc. in the Modesto, CA area. He is a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor and uses his accounting experience as a volunteer to help Christian Aid Ministries setup and maintain accounting systems for microfinance work in developing countries. He can be reached via Social Media at QuickBooks ProAdvisor Site: http://proadvisor.intuit.com/quickbooks-help/caleb-jenkins