It was immediately after the devastation of Hurricane Andrew that Ellen Kempler Rosen and Kathleen Gordon Close made the decision to help their fellow South Floridians rebuild their lives and communities. The two women had just returned from Bangladesh where they had traveled with International non-profit RESULTS to learn about the micro-lender, Grameen Bank, and better understand the conditions that cause poverty.
In Bangladesh, they met with Grameen Founder and Economics Professor, Dr. Muhammed Yunis, and traveled to rural villages to meet the poorest of the poor, the Grameen borrowers. In this male dominated society, they were amazed to discover that 97% of the borrowers were women entrepreneurs with little or no education. Their loans, as low as $30, were acquired through peer groups and boasted an astounding 98% recovery rate. Grameen Bank was eradicating poverty, educating its borrowers, and inspiring the world, one small loan at a time.
Rosen and Close had witnessed the power of micro-lending, and the dignity and confidence that comes with self-sufficiency. Experiencing such an incredible sense of hope where there should have been none, compelled them to action in their own backyard. They wanted to see that same sense of empowerment restored within their fellow South Floridians who had lost so much from the Hurricane. Acquiring funding through a Hurricane Recovery Assistance program they created Partners for Self Employment, Inc. in 1993 and became recognized as one of the country’s first small- business micro-lenders. For individuals and businesses that would otherwise be unable to qualify for a traditional loan, there was suddenly hope for a fresh start.
To ensure responsible giving, accountability and repayment of loans, PSE established peer-lending groups and require clients to complete financial and entrepreneurial training programs as a means to qualify for specific loans. It is the training that has made PSE truly unique. Education has been and remains the driving force behind each loan. This acquired knowledge serves as a guarantee that the loans are spent conscientiously.
To better serve neighboring communities, PSE has satellite offices in Homestead, Little Haiti and North Miami while maintaining all of its training programs at its original Biscayne Blvd address. Since opening its doors, PSE has provided invaluable training, access to credit, financial counseling, savings programs for future homeowners, peer support to small businesses, as well as loans to more than 8,000 clients in Miami-Dade and South Broward Counties. 95% of our clients maintain a part-time home-based business, which provides additional income; averaging $10,000.00 per year to help with the skyrocketing costs of health care, education and housing.
A tireless staff and a dedicated volunteer board led by community leaders have helped many South Floridians enter the middle class and successfully remain there. The United States Treasury Department has certified PSE as a Community Financial Institution and is a designated Microloan Intermediary for the Small Business Administration, as well as an Individual Development Account program by the U.S. Office of Community Service/ PSE is a 501(c)(3) supported by organizations, community partners and donations.
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