Senior organizes Eastern’s first Microfinance Conference

On March 29, Eastern University will be hosting its first Microfinance Conference.

“It had been my dream for the past two years, ever since I attended University of Pennsylvania’s Microfinance Conference,” said senior Justin Tomevi, the main organizer of the event.

According to Economics Professor Lindy Backues, who has served as an informal advisor to the committee, microfinance is “mechanisms and institutions that serve the need of small-scale entrepreneurs.” Essentially it is giving the poor access to finances and financial institutions.

Backues will be one of a number of different panel speakers from a variety of backgrounds. Backues not only has formal academic training in the field of microfinance but also has 15 years of experience.

“It is interesting because it’s a tool that has a lot of promise of helping the poor, irrespective of ideology,” Backues said.

Along with Tomevi, four committee members – Lauren Gotwals, Anna Rohwer, Brian Campbell and Jessica High – are planning this event. The conference will be sponsored by the Students in Free Enterprise Club.

The reason Tomevi decided to create a conference for Eastern was simple. “I thought they weren’t addressing the Christian viewpoint of microfinance,” he said. “Which is a huge part of the microfinance picture.”

The main purpose of this event is to bring people together from both secular and religious institutions to talk about faith-based microfinance, Tomevi said.

The keynote speaker for the conference will be Joyce Lehman who has a background in faith-based organizations and currently works for the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The conference will involve two panels as well as an address from Lehman.

“We hope to have a diverse audience, kids from secular and non-secular schools,” Tomevi said. “We want to bridge any gap that is there, and take an unbiased approach to the issues.”

Admission for Eastern students will be free. At the end of the conference there will be a career fair where a number of Christian microfinance organizations will set up stands and talk to students from all different majors.

“One of our goals is also to deliver to the widest audience, not just business or economics majors,” Tomevi said.

This conference will have a positive impact because, “We can approach microfinance from a position of faith, reason and justice,” Backues said.

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