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A Visit with FINCA Peru, Piloting the PPI Standards Certification Process >

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Having escaped the stifling heat of New York City, it seemed strange to think about winter in August. I landed in Lima, Peru in the heart of the coldest winter in nearly 50 years. As could be expected, weather was a popular topic of conversation; though not everyone was worried about warm coats.

I first met Iris, founder and executive director of a local microfinance institution (MFI), FINCA Peru, at headquarters in downtown Lima. She too was concerned about the weather because the temperatures had dropped to a point where livestock, the primary source of income for her clients, were literally freezing to death. Her concern for her clients, not for her collateral was evident.

As a volunteer for the Grameen Foundation Bankers without Borders® program, my goal in Peru was to conduct a Grameen Foundation certification of the use of the Progress out of Poverty Index™ (PPI™) at FINCA Peru.

The PPI is a 10-question poverty assessment tool that helps poverty-focused organizations to understand the poverty distribution of the their clients and target clients, track poverty over time, and to adjust their products and services to best serve their clients in moving out of poverty.

It was encouraging to see that Iris had learned as much from the PPI questionnaires completed by her clients as I did. She was surprised to glean from a PPI sample study that fewer than expected of her clients sampled were below the poverty line. The information reinforced FINCA Peru’s strategy to focus on more rural clients to reach the poorest in Peru.

This trip to Lima has confirmed that giving my time is much more inspiring to me than simply mailing in a check. The ability to see the poverty assessment tool in action and evaluate FINCA Peru’s implementation of the PPI to better understand the clients they serve and enhance the way they serve them was well worth the shivering.

Mia Feldman is an associate at J.P. Morgan in New York. She traveled to Peru in August 2010 to work on the PPI Certification (Progress out of Poverty Index) pilot project with FINCA Peru in Lima, Peru. Mia's participation in this project is part of J.P. Morgan's partnership with Bankers without Borders as the program's presenting sponsor.