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VIDEO: But you don't have to take MY word for it!

Kyrgyzstan, August 11, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mary Tam/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed when violence broke out in southern Kyrgyzstan in June. Photo: Mary Tam/Mercy Corps

The decision process that goes into making a charitable contribution is different for each person. Still, most responsible donors have one thing in common — they want to know that their money is being used to help the intended recipients and that the programs being provided are beneficial.

Organizations can talk up a good storm about the scientific studies projects are based on, or the philosophical theory behind specific programs. However, concerns often come down to one simple question, “But, is it working?”

The same question can (and should) be asked of the equity grants that Mercy Corps is issuing to micro-entrepreneurs who lost their businesses due to the recent violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. “Provide start-up capital to help people get back to work” — sounds great, real catchy. But, is it working?

When I first arrived in Kyrgyzstan, I was eager to put my Mercy Corps elevator speech to the test. Today, I can say I have seen our work first hand and can answer the question posed above with confidence. Today, I want to personally vouch for the people who desperately want to be in control of their lives and for the program I believe will help them do this.

Yes, it’s working.

How do we know? Mercy Corps is conducting follow up progress assessments with equity grant recipients. For example, Mamashakir is an equity grant recipient whose magazin (a corner store business) and home were badly damaged in June due to burning and looting.

In his interview he was asked, “What are the first few purchases you’ll make with the money?” He responded that he would buy a refrigerator and inventory. When a follow-up assessment was conducted less than two weeks later, Mamashakir had done exactly what he had planned to and was back in business.

I was inspired to create a fundraising page to support people like Mamashakir. However, I realize my “street cred” only extends so far. As LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow always said, “But you don’t have to take MY word for it!”

This short video explains how equity grants work logistically and demonstrates what Mamashakir was able to do with the help of Mercy Corps and Kompanion.