$25 Million Milestone in Microloans from International Orthodox Christian Charities Boosts Business, Entrepreneurship in Western Balkans

Opportunity, Renewal Come through Small Amounts as Local Businesses Grow

Flower-shop owner Jadranka is just one person who’s benefited from IOCC’s microcredit program. Having just passed the $25 million milestone, the program helps small-business owners in Bosnia and Herzegovina build up their enterprises step by step. Photo: IOCC / Nikola Čulić – Bold Brand.

Baltimore, Md. (May 1, 2019) – Marking a milestone in its long-running microloan program, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has surpassed $25 million microcredit lending in Bosnia and Herzegovina, reflecting long-term success invigorating small businesses, entrepreneurs, and family farms.

Since 2002, IOCC’s microloans have made credit available to borrowers in rural areas who might otherwise face difficulty obtaining loans. Small amounts—ranging from $200 to $6,000 but averaging $1,300—make for manageable repayments. Many borrowers repay their initial loan and go on to borrow again, building their farms and businesses in stages.

After Yugoslavia’s breakup in the 1990s, unemployment became a major hurdle for many educated and experienced workers. Jobs were difficult to find as the region recovered, making small lending a way for families and individuals to rebuild livelihoods. In 2002, IOCC teamed up with microcredit organization Zdravo, based in Banja Luka, to support recovery. Borrowers are as varied as farmers looking to expand their harvests by building greenhouses to small-business owners and entrepreneurs setting up building a steady income.

“With the help of IOCC’s loan, I was able to start a business, renovate the building, and buy a vehicle for deliveries,” said Dragan (age 50). Trained in catering, he had managed a hotel in Derventa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, before the conflict; afterward short-term jobs and subsistence farming became his new way of life, but Dragan had bigger plans. In 2014, he combined an IOCC microloan with some savings and leased a café. Business has grown, and he hired three employees. Now on his fourth microloan with IOCC, Dragan aims to hire two more workers and expand the venue into a café-pizzeria.

IOCC’s microcredit program in Bosnia and Herzegovina has given over 11,000 families a chance to make their entrepreneurial goals reality, step by step. With an average amount of $1,300 and a repayment rate of 99%, IOCC microloans have strengthened individual enterprises—more than 2,200 new businesses and 6,300 existing businesses—creating over 12,000 sustainable jobs, and strengthening communities.

Those wishing to support IOCC’s work in the Western Balkans and around the world can do so with a financial gift online (iocc.org/donate) or by phone (877.803.4622).

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International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is the humanitarian and development agency of the Assembly of Canonical Bishops of the United States of America. Since its inception in 1992, IOCC has provided more than $661 million in humanitarian relief and sustainable development programs in over 60 countries worldwide. Today, IOCC applies its expertise in humanitarian response to human-caused and natural crises in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the United States, offering assistance based solely on need. Learn more at iocc.org and follow us @IOCCRelief on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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