This summer, Dordt University Instructor of Business, Accounting, and Economics Jesse Veenstra and Daniel Draaistra, a senior business major, are evaluating the Kendei Empowerment Microfinance Program. Draaistra is spending time this summer in Kenya and Liberia to conduct research.
Kendei Empowerment Foundation has provided microfinance loans to Liberia enterprises for the past 17 years. In 2021, a team from One Body One Hope connected with Kendei through Partners Worldwide
with a desire to offer microloans to church members of the Abide in the Vine Discipleship Church in Liberia; One Body One Hope has a longstanding relationship with the Abide in the Vine Discipleship Church.
This summer, Veenstra and Draaistra will begin a multi-phase project to conduct a full program evaluation of Kendei. The goal for this summer is to develop all the Institutional Review Board material and approvals to interview individuals in Liberia, develop a literature review, and create survey materials. During Draaistra’s visit to Liberia, he will go to Kendei and begin collecting information.
“The program evaluation will benefit Kendei by giving them insight into all aspects of their operations so that they may identify and highlight their strengths and weaknesses,” explains Veenstra. “The results of the evaluation will allow them to refine their process and improve their business.”
Veenstra chose to pursue this research project this summer in part to answer the question, “how do we measure success with microfinance?”
“I could quickly see the benefit of these loans in the businesses and the lives of those impacted – primarily women – but what does ‘success’ look like? It’s not as simple of repayment percentage, and they don’t do the type of bookkeeping and accounting we are accustomed to here,” he explains. “Second, our microfinance program is interwoven with the Abide in the Vine Church; all the loan recipients are members of one of the church locations. Understanding what role the church, pastor, and elders play in the loan process is important to understand. My goal in the research is to get a deeper understanding of how Kendei’s loan process works, and what the church’s involvement means to the process.”
In January, Veenstra was able to take an AMOR group to Liberia and spend a couple days with Kendei’s leader, Abide in the Vine Church’s pastor. “Getting to hear and see how they operate was an excellent experience,” recalls Veenstra. “Then they took us to visit about 20 different loan recipients. The average loan is around $200 USD, and seeing how impactful a loan of this size is for the business was great. Most of the businesses are tables set up in markets along the road, and we met with women selling dried fish, coal, soap, edible clay, fruit, and other goods. We asked them questions about their business and how the money has helped their business, their family, and the community.”
Dordt benefits from this research project by developing a better understanding of the impact of microfinance in developing countries and how it can be used to alleviate poverty, adds Veenstra. “Further, we can use the findings to learn best practices for microfinance as we consider future partnerships, donations, and support. Many of Dordt’s constituents have a deep passion for missions in developing countries, and I hope this study identifies effective ways to use microfinance for poverty alleviation.”
About Dordt University
As an institution of higher education committed to the Reformed Christian perspective, Dordt University equips students, faculty, alumni, and the broader community to work toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life. Located in Sioux Center, Iowa, Dordt is a comprehensive university named to the best college lists by U.S. News and World Report, The Wall Street Journal, Times Higher Education, Forbes.com, Washington Monthly, and Princeton Review.