Students to Conduct Global Microfinance

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Aug. 29, 2013 – Incoming students at Avila University have embraced the message of a summer book assignment and are raising money to make microloans to poor people around the world.

The unique initiative culminates Sept. 5 when the book’s author, Bob Harris, a broadcast personality and a Jeopardy! TV game show champion, speaks at a public lecture on campus as part of Avila University’s Harry S. Truman Distinguished Lecture Series.

Harris made $25 to $50 microloans via a website to lift up impoverished people around the world. He then followed his money and interviewed loan recipients to see the impact of the process. The book has received rave reviews from The New York Times and Boston Globe, among others. Avila’s first-year students read the book this summer as part of the college’s entrance process.

To blend the Common Reading Program with the Truman Lecture Series, those students on Sept. 5 will sell T-shirts to raise funds for their own microloan program. Ten classes will divide into working groups that will research loan opportunities on kiva.org and finca.org, two online microfinance charities formed to create opportunity and eliminate poverty worldwide.

“Our students have read the book and already have completed a reflective assignment,” said Sue Ellen McCalley, Ph.D., professor of education and psychology, and chair of the Truman Lecture Series.

“Students later will share views about how this initiative affected not only the people who receive the funds, but also how it affected them.”

The microfinance project not only addresses Avila’s mission to prepare students for responsible, lifelong contributions to the global community, but also it fulfills the legacy of the University’s founding religious order, the sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, said Sister Marie Joan Harris, CSJ, vice president of academic affairs and provost.

“In 17th century France, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet made lace as a source of income and as a tool for women to escape poverty, and St. Teresa of Avila is the patron saint of lace makers,” S. Marie said. “Microfinance does the same: Empower the impoverished to work their way out of their condition.”

Presenting sponsor Bank of Blue Valley’s President Bob Regnier said microfinance can have dramatic worldwide impact.

“A microloan helps a person start businesses, which helps them help their families,” Regnier said. “They are able to move up the economic and educational ladder. It might be the first step to world peace.”

As part of the Avila initiative, Kansas City-area finance and microfinance officials will conduct a panel discussion from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in Avila’s Whitfield Conference Room. Harris will speak at 5:30 p.m. at Goppert Theatre on the Avila campus. Harris’s presentation is free and open to all; registration is required at www.avila.edu/truman.

About Avila University Avila University is a Catholic, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd. in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.

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