Small loans create new opportunities in Jordan

Ratiba Abdula’s garden in Wadi Rayan, Jordan, is divided into eight sections to ensure a continuous and year-round crop of thyme. She dries the leaves of this aromatic perennial herb in the sun and sells the dried thyme in the local market, giving her a monthly income of $35 – a new source of income made possible through a $70 loan provided by the Wadi Rayan Women’s Benevolent Society through a fund now supported by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

The success of this revolving loan fund and the demand for larger loans prompted the benevolent society to invite MCC’s support. MCC responded by providing a one-time financial grant of $24,500 in 2008. Twelve loans were approved in 2008 for projects such as irrigation systems, beehives, communications equipment, sewing machines, products for grocery stores, and student loans. Most loans are under $1,500 and recipients pay a service fee of 2 to 3 percent. The maximum repayment period is 20 months.

“Life has been bitter and sweet – mostly bitter,” said Abdula whose family was forced to leave their ancestral village in 1948 in the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli war. In 1959, they settled in the Jordan Valley through a United Nations resettlement program. She has been a widow for 12 years. “Now that I have my garden of thyme, life is much sweeter.”

—from report by Gladys Terichow, MCC

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