MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Before concerns about the global coronavirus outbreak were in the public consciousness, a Baha’i-inspired community banking program in Nicaragua took initiative to implement safety measures for the handling of money and made arrangements for transactions to take place online and by telephone.
“These banks are founded on the Baha’i principles of service and care for the well-being of all,” says the program’s national coordinator. “So, with the economic challenges and the evolving health crisis, we have not only been conscious of continuing vital services that support the economic life of the community but also of ensuring that our operations do not put people at risk.”
The way the program works is by offering training to groups of 10 to 30 people, who then begin to save small sums and make modest loans available to bank members at a reasonable rate. The banks are managed entirely by the members themselves and interest earned is divided proportionally according to the amount each person holds in savings. As a bank grows, it is also able to provide financial support for social and economic development initiatives in the community.
Over the last 15 years, the program has grown in Nicaragua to serve several localities and is recognized in the country for its distinctive approach.
“The banks’ experience and underlying principles have informed their response to the global health crisis,” says the national coordinator. “We recognize that we are not just businesses looking to our own affairs but are here to serve the common welfare. We have the responsibility to be an example of sound and safe business practices during these times.”