ABOUT NAMASTE DIRECT
Namaste is a small but mighty NGO with an unwavering focus on economically empowering Guatemalan women to achieve financial security. We do this work because it has a profound impact in the lives of our clients, their families, communities, and Guatemala as a whole. When women in our program increase their earning power, they unlock a new world of possibilities where they can make their own choices and break free from machismo norms. When women earn money, they strengthen the economy, stem the flow of irregular migration to the US, and break generational cycles of poverty.
OUR STORY STARTED WITH EXPERIENCE AND COMMITMENT
It all started in 1973 when Namaste Direct founder Bob Graham visited Guatemala during his Kellogg Foundation Fellowship. He was struck by the tragic circumstances endured by so many Guatemalans. He promised himself one day, if he could, he would help these people with both resources and money.
Fifteen years later, Bob was one of the first “social entrepreneurs” for microfinance in Latin America. In the 1980’s he was a founding pioneer for one of Central America’s first microloan NGOs, the Katalysis Partnership, which received early support from USAID. In 2004 when Bob turned Katalysis over to its regional non-profit partners, Bob’s microfinance work encompassed 21 NGOs in 5 countries with more than 200,000 borrowers and a loan portfolio of $60 million. By now Bob has had 25 years of experience doing development work throughout Central America, the Eastern Caribbean, Mexico, India and Africa.
For microfinance to work best, Bob recognized not just the need to make money available to people in poverty, but also the critical need for effective mentoring and education to accompany loans. With this goal Bob, joined by Bob Ilse and Sherrie Ilse, started Namaste Direct in 2004 (and later its sister organization Fundación Namasté Guatemaya) to work with low income women entrepreneurs in Guatemala.
Namaste’s work is guided by the following values:
- Relationship-based approach. Our authentic connection with our clients is rooted in respect and supports them to grow their businesses and pursue their dreams.
- Driven by impact. We measure our clients’ change in profit, learning outcomes, decision-making power and hundreds of other data points to analyze our impact.
- Rooted in social justice. FNG is not your average charity. We level the playing field for hard-working women in Guatemala to achieve economic security and equip them with skills to earn more money throughout their lives.
- A healthy ecosystem of women’s empowerment. FNG seeks to partner with mission-aligned NGOs that provide other critical women’s services to create a healthy ecosystem of women’s empowerment in Guatemala.
- Power of proximity. FNG’s programs are locally-run by a dedicated Guatemalan team, well-versed in the languages and cultures of the women we serve.
Namaste’s staff and board all bring unique talents to the organization and share a commitment to women’s economic empowerment.
Our programs are implemented by Guatemalans who have an in-depth understanding of local culture, customs, challenges, and opportunities.
Bob has been a businessman, CPA, philanthropist, and author. He pioneered microloans in Central America and consulted on business development in Tibetan refugee settlements in India for the Dalai Lama. He devotes his time to consulting and coaching the Namaste staff.
Namaste Direct Board Chair
Dr. Alise Cortez
Fundacion Namaste Guatemaya Board Chair
After 3 decades working in Guatemala as a woman and single mother of 3, in the private sector and with my own business, I felt I was very lucky to be able to reach my objectives in both situations. When I learned about Namaste´s commitment to each clients’ growth as entrepreneurs and women, I felt like I had to give back to Guatemala what I have received from the country.
I love working for Namaste because we solve a problem I care about deeply, which is at the root of so many other global challenges: women’s inequality. I come from I come from a long line of strong women, and as the mother of a 5-year-old spitfire daughter, I am reminded every day that women can change the world. I’m proud to work for Namaste to level the playing field for the incredible women of Guatemala who create more prosperous futures for their families and the country.
I love to work with Namaste because I have the great opportunity to work for a social cause to help the people of my own country. Working for Namaste allowed me to understand the real and difficult situation most people of my country live in every day.
Chief Financial Officer
The culture, team, and leadership at Namaste motivates me to grow in my position here every day. It is an exciting job, with new challenges and responsibilities and I am happy to support the mission and vision of our foundation.