As we begin to recognize more and more of our donors for the integral help that they provide in assisting our programs and our mission, we would like to recognize one person who has an intensely personal connection to Wisconsin Microfinance: Ruth Ohlrogge.
A Madisonian through and through, Ruth grew up just outside of Madison, Wisconsin in a township called Vermont and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Now a speech-language pathologist at an international language school in Bogota, Colombia, Ruth has incorporated a prosocial aspect into both her professional and personal lives.
Ruth’s connection to Wisconsin Microfinance can be traced through both of her parents: Her father is a Wisconsin Microfinance board member, and her mother is from the Philippines, a country in which we operate. Ruth says that her father, Paul, has always encouraged her to get involved with organizations that help those in need, ranging from microfinance to refugee resettlement programs. Due to the fact that she has family in the Philippines, Ruth also has a link and an understanding of the country that few people do. According to her,
“I feel a special connection to the communities that my donations are helping to support. Most of my mother’s family lives in the Philippines, and we have been making frequent visits there since I was a young child. I have seen extreme poverty and how difficult it is to break that cycle.”
Besides the familial connection to the organization, Ruth also believes in the power that microfinance has to empower entrepreneurs. She states that small business owners can create sustained success with access to capital, citing Wisconsin Microfinance’s over 1,000 successful microloans at a repayment rate of 98% as evidence of its viability.
“The majority of loan recipients have been successful in being able to increase their income and independence, support their families, and pay back the loans. I have been especially struck by how important these loans can be for women and their families–when women are successful, their families are, too.”
With over 80% of Wisconsin Microfinance loans being given out to female entrepreneurs, microfinance is one of the few industries that prioritize women. Not only does a successful microloan increase a recipient’s income, but their independence as well. The ability to not rely on loan sharks or anyone but themselves allows these tenacious women build and create freely not only for themselves, but for their children as well.
Ohlrogge also emphasized the role of microfinance in post-disaster areas. Given that Wisconsin Microfinance was founded in the wake of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, disaster relief has always been of a paramount importance. After a natural disaster occurs, many people turn their attention to one-time relief efforts through organizations like the Red Cross. Although their work is extremely vital and not to be discounted, Ohlrogge states that small, consistent donations can help provide much more stability in their daily lives, helping families get back on their feet and recoup their livelihoods.
Through her family and her education, Ruth Ohlrogge has firsthand seen both the difficulties of breaking the cycle of poverty and the benefits of allowing entrepreneurs to help themselves. Donations are translated into hope, which becomes empowerment, and eventually, self-sufficiency. And none of this would be possible without people like Ruth.