Micro-Economics & Pay-Day-Loans & Working Together – I had never heard of pay-day-loans until I attended the wonderful workshop facilitated by Patricia Hogrebe at the Vincentian Family Systemic Change Meeting in Bellville, IL this past November.

Patricia who is the Executive Director of the East St. Louis Council for the St. Vincent DePaul Society and her fellow Vincentians obviously had heard quite a bit about this pariah scheme to hoodwink people out of their hard earned money.

Pay Day Loan Sharks prey on people in need by offering them “quick” access to money. The Loan Sharks attach a person’s paycheck and can charge in excess of 250% (in some cases) until the loan is repaid! A great many of these deceptive practices are available thru the internet and are headquartered in countries outside the United States.

Patricia and her Council created a “Low Interest Loan” project whereby, clients can apply for a loan ($300 limits) thru the SVDP Council & a local Credit Union. The loan is guaranteed by the SVDP Council.

Within 2 days of my return home to Massachusetts, I had a call from a client who had fallen victim to this vicious cycle (the Holy Spirit works in strange ways!) – so #1, I knew what she was talking about and #2, I had an option for her problem!

Her story gave me all the ammunition I needed to spread the word among my Council about this wonder idea and just this week, one or our SVDP Conferences voted to start their own Low Interest Loan Project and another has asked for more information so that they might consider doing the same.

The SVDP RULE (Statute 22) states that “At least once a year, each Conference & Council must evaluate their service to the members, to the poor,……and explore ways to provide better service….”  And Systemic Change Strategy #2 states that we should “design projects, creative strategies, policies & guidelines that flow from our Christian & Vincentian values & mission.”

I consider both the Low Interest Loan Project and the ZAFEN (microfinance program for Haitian entrepreneurs) that I learned about at the Systemic Change Conference to provide the tools to accomplish the goals of the SVDP Society and the Vincentian Family. I am asked so often by people wanting to donate to the Haitian people and before I knew about ZAFEN – I had no answers for them.I feel confident when I recommend ZAFEN because it is a sanctioned project of the Vincentian Family.

Working together was one of the major themes of the November Conference – as exemplified by the booklet “Seeds of Hope” and while I cannot speak for the SVDP National Leaders, I do think that they came away with the same level of inspiration that I did. They are working on ways to increase our International Twinning efforts by encouraging our Conferences, Districts & Councils to pooling our Twinning donations and applying them to specific projects in politically stable countries.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to the next time the “Family” gets together.

Irene Frechette, Council President Fall River, MA Diocese

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