ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

A Loan…At Last!

With some help from CNEWA, small business owners in the Holy Land are able to help themselves – and their businesses – prosper.

“Give a man a fish,” says an old proverb, “and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for the rest of his life.”

Sometimes a hungry man needs to be taught how to fish. But what of the man who already knows how, and only needs a boat and a net to be able to provide for himself and his family? What about the man who has everything he needs to become entirely self-sufficient, except the down payment?

At its Jerusalem office, the Pontifical Mission – sister organization of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association – is helping many individuals start their businesses or keep them going through its small business revolving loan fund. Although the loans made are usually modest, they can mean the difference between financial failure and the chance to earn an independent livelihood.

The shaky economy on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has been particularly hard on ambitious young people who are trained in a trade or profession, but lack the necessary capital to set up a shop or an office. Inflation and rising prices also hurt those who already own small businesses; they may be unable to replenish their stock, purchase needed equipment, or comply with local by-laws that require them to make improvements. Shop owners or prospective businessmen who seek bank loans may not be able to afford the extremely high interest rates.

With nowhere to go for help, some businessmen have had to close their doors, and young men starting their careers have been forced to emigrate in order to establish themselves.

When a business fails or a young man leaves, more than one person is affected. The owner of a shop or a small factory probably has a wife and children who are dependent upon him for support. The young person embarking on a career may want to take care of aging parents, or help put a brother or sister through school. But family members are not the only ones who suffer; the communities where these men live are deprived of their services or their professional expertise. The local economy and standard of living may take a turn for the worse.

The loan that is granted to one individual therefore affects the lives of many others as well. The Pontifical Mission Loan Committee takes this into consideration when it evaluates the applications submitted by businessmen.

Each applicant is considered not just as an individual but as a breadwinner and a member of the community. The committee inquires about the welfare of his family, and whether he employs other local residents whose jobs may be at stake. It looks at the kind of service he provides in the community, the possibilities for improving or extending it, and the likelihood of new jobs being created if a loan is made. Working conditions, hygiene, the needs of the community and the businessman’s own need for financial independence – all these enter into the decision to grant a loan.

Many businessmen have already qualified and received loans, and the results are heartening.

Jamil and Emile are tailors. Jamil had a small shop; Emile started his business in the living room of his family’s home. They took loans independently, but later decided to go into business together. Now they own seventeen tailoring machines, and employ fifteen people in their small factory. Their loans have been completely repaid.

Nakleh, who has been a refugee twice, is a carver of olive-wood. He works in a tiny room in his home in Bethlehem. A loan enabled him to buy a machine which makes the forms for nativity-set figures. Nakleh then carves the forms by hand. Since he purchased the machine, Nakleh’s business has more than doubled, and he makes regular payments on his loan.

Emile Z. runs a barber shop in East Jerusalem. Local by-laws required him to modernize it in order to comply with new hygiene codes. Emile did not have the money for the modernization, and was in danger of losing his license. With the help of a loan, he was able to make the necessary improvements and save his business.

Feast days in Abu Dis are a little sweeter with the special cakes and candies made by Nabil in his bakery. A loan made it possible for Nabil to expand his business and hire a member of his family. Now he pays off his loan in regular installments.

There are many more stories of working people who are still in business – or whose businesses are growing – because they were able to borrow money when they needed it. They include carpenters, grocers, taxi drivers, coffee-shop owners, a book binder, a printer, and a pharmacist. In a variety of ways, they serve the people of their towns and cities as they work toward their own financial independence.

Almost all the loans made by the Pontifical Mission have been repaid completely or are being paid back regularly. The money that is returned goes back out to the next recipient. Because of the faltering economy, there is now a waiting list of people needing loans. One of the recent applicants is a young dentist who needs captial to buy modern equipment for his clinic. Although he and his family have been saving for years to set up his practice, prices have soared so high that they are still short of the goal. A loan will give him a good start in his profession, and provide better dental care in an area where it is greatly needed.

The small business revolving loan fund is one means by which the Pontifical Mission carries out its primary purpose: to help people help themselves. Loan recipients are capable, hard-working individuals who share the belief that independence and self-sufficiency are worth having and worth striving for. The Pontifical Mission agrees – and you can take that to the bank.

Catherine Coyne is a freelance writer and editor.

Get to know us and stay informed about the impact your support makes.

Nous constatons que votre préférence linguistique est le français.
Voudriez-vous être redirigé sur notre site de langue française?

Oui! Je veux y accéder.

Hemos notado que su idioma preferido es español. ¿Le gustaría ver la página de Asociación Católica para el Bienestar del Cercano Oriente en español?

Vee página en español