Today I took a bus tour with five other people to a remote area outside of Hanoi. The village, which we visited is called Phu Minh, and is situated in a poor countryside district . The very special thing belonging to this trip, is that we don´t travel for touristic reason only. There is much more complexity in it.
The trip was organized by The Bloom-Company and has scheduled tours once a week and is based on a type of economic work;
A short overview:
The firm is a “non-profit-organization” and is willing to give small loans with a fixed one-percent return-rate of the summary, which is more a symbolic worth compared to the normal credit-interests.
The loans are given to people which are called poor, because they must live with less than 19 $ per month.
Following reasons make micro credits important:
– people have no security, as for instance a regulary income, or land so they are not suitable customers for the big banks
– they live in remote areas, far away from any city where there are no banks
– microcredits are just not of economic importance for a common bank
For these reasons, organisations like Bloom are important for the development of rural areas in countries like Vietnam. As you can see from the name microcredit, it´s all about little amounts of money, about 100 USD, which can be payed back in one year. For Westeners quite a ridiculous amount, but for these average Vietnames families who make just about 19 USD in a month, this amount can make big changes in their lives.
Families are able to buy a pig, for instance, and build up a “micro company”, breeding pigs, sell them and pay back the loan with a part of the profit. That´s how it works.
The special thing about Bloom Microventures is that they connect this with the idea of sustainable tourism, while financing themselves.
Regulary tours start every saturday and today, I joined them. We leave Hanoi, driving on a brand new highway in the direction of Phu Minh, which means wisdom and intelligence. On our left side the rise of a new born country is visible, with cranes, half-finished skyskrapers and living-areas as far you can see. After a few minutes, the scene is changing. From buildings to ricefields, where people are working with their water buffalos. A lot of little green hills sourrounding us.
One hour later, we arrive at the borrowers house. We´re invited for tea in their living room. The house was built just one year ago, with help of the loan. Stable concrete, no extravagant furniture, no heating and the bed is wooden with a bamboo mat, but enough for living. In front of the house, there is a little vegetable-garden, on the other side several fruit-trees, two water buffalos, a rabbit and a lot of dog-babies. And not to forget the pig. It lies seperatly in it´s little house making painful loud noises. It´s pregnant and later, we will hear from our tour guide, that it has given birth to nine piggies. Things are going well for the familiy. Often, there is just the lack of a tiny help to give a family the possibility to take care of themselves in an appropriate way.
The man of the house, who served in the vietnamese war, wouldn’t release my hand. He insisted on drinking tea with me and so I sit down next to him in his living room. With a big smile and the cup in his hands he asked that our picture be taken together. After that I have to treat corn with him and he expressed so many good feelings that there was no need to speak the same language. Unbelievably loveable people. But then we have to go, he is trying to make me stay for a family portrait but our people were on the bus already.
We next went to the local hospital, where there is a big garden with herbs, used for medicine. Afterwards, we went to the local school. A building where there are old wooden seats and chalk is still used. Finally, we visited a broom-manufacturing shop for the export to china.
The program which Bloom Microventures created is quite clever, sustainable and human. The results is a kind of tourism that does not leave negative traces in the landscape, prevents mass tourism, refinances itself without punishing the weak people and least, but not last creates jobs. Such work needs a lot of bravery for innovation, stamina for the bureaucracy, hardiness against the critics and over all endurance.
The question is, if and how, faithful the management will stay behind it´s concept and it´s sustainability, when the public interest and the possibiliy to make money increase. Are the borrowers then forced to welcome the tourists every day? But I´m optimisic that the people who found this great programme, have the braveness not to betray their values, and will be a great benefit to the nature and a good example for the people of this world.