Friday, February 13, 2009

What is a Savings Circle PART I ? Expanding The Dream Come True

There's a new poll here on VARDOFORTWO, the first one of the year. The question we're asking is: 'WOULD YOU JOIN A SAVINGS CIRCLE?" As I begin writing this post, two of us ... that is me and one other person have voted. There is an interest, I'm glad to know that. What I'd like to do over the next few weeks, as part of my DREAM COMING TRUE projects and weekly posts, is to answer the question, "What is a Savings Circle?"

Pete and I have personal interests and curiosity about the practical application of Savings Circles, Lending Groups and Community Based Alternatives to the large banking and financial structures. We have owned a home together, lived briefly with a small mortgage, and when the challenges of living in a home that could not be safe from chemical intrusion led to selling that home we have been on the move in a parallel universe to the 'large banking and financial structures.'

As my friend Akemi Gaines would probably say, "in plain English" we have experienced living by our wits, managing the challenges of finding safe housing and resources to raise the level of our well-being without regular 'employment' or monetary in-flow. The sale of the homestead on O`ahu has financed our journey to building VARDOFORTWO. 99% of the expenses for traveling, eating, paying rent, well-ness expenses and materials to build VARDOFORTWO comes from the sale of that homestead. We are a cash and carry couple, with minimal debt, no mortgage and a soon to be tiny home that will be simple to maintain and become part of the solution for re-building the definitions for COMMUNITY.

The attraction of SAVINGS CIRCLES started when I first learned about KIVA. A friend gifted me with a small amount of money that I could invest in supporting a village entrepreneur in a developing nation ... a nation outside the North American Continent. I explored KIVA and was fascinated by the intent and application of one-to-one micro finance. Soon after that initial experience with KIVA, the effects of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities spun us like wooden tops off a length of string ... there was no homebase. We became one of the tribe of the streets ... the tale of Sam and Sally is a storyteller's version of our truth. Like thousands of others who live with and cope with the challenges of loss (in any and all forms) we have struggled, survived and then there is something else. There is hope and that hope grows. Why? Because when I realized that this life is about transformation answers come from every where.

The success and model of small, personal groups and circles of people throughout the world -- mainly women to begin with, led me to reaching out to grassroots models closer to me. As we have gained physical, emotional and spiritual strength over the months, here in Seattle, I sense the need to attract a resource and financial process that would be in sync with our growing awareness of 'enoughness.' Like the village of Bangladesh where The Grameen (Village) Bank
created micro-credit programs giving women access to credit, I recognize how important it is to see that we ... more and more of us ... need to create a system of resource-growth and loaning that is REAL...responsible to all, equally available to the group, anthropomorphic (answerable to all that is) and loving to its member. Sound too simple; or maybe too idealistic? Can you get your head around the idea? What ever you think or feel about it ... I hope something tingles in you as you read this. Let us know in the comments.

Like I said in the beginning of this post, this is a start to answering "What is a Savings Circle?" It will take time to educate and that time is an important investment. I have gathered information to educate myself and Pete. Those resources are included with this post. Check them out yourself, if you're interested in learning more, the examples of savings circles and loaning societies exist. I am not sure exactly what will come of my exploration, however I know it is a path worth pursuing. VARDOFORTWO is an alternative reality for most, and yet it is a reality for a few. That is a good omen. We have set a soft target of Spring Equinox as the time when VARDFORTWO hitches to the perfect truck and moves us to our first encampment. That's just a little over a month from today.

A few willing and hard-working souls with a clear vision for starting small and building strong is a good foundation for community. Those of us who have or are living with the challenging yet incredibly empowering daily experiences of transformation could use a circle of support ... why not have one of those circles be a SAVINGS CIRCLE? Here are the resources I am using to envision a savings circle. The following excerpt comes from the preface of the the book Village Savings & Loan Associations A Practical Guide by Hugh Allen and Mark Staehle. We are the village it seems to me, and that is a good thing to know.

"...Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), based in the community, are complemantary to MFIs(microfinance instituions), tending to serve the very poor whose income is less reliable and who may not be full time business people. Their principal need is for services that help to (i) manage their household cash flow and (ii) that provide useful lump sums for life-cycle events--which may or may not include income generation. These people tend to be economically vulnerable and to live in rural areas that are served only intermittently by local markets, at the periphery of the national economy..."


Circle of Habondia Lending Society "Investing in Women & Community" is based in the Kootenay Region of British Columbia, Canada

Village Savings & Loan Associations A Practical Guide a book available through and

Asian American Women Giving Circle is a New York City based group with a mission of pooling and giving resources to Asian women who are serving the community, and would other wise be unsupported in their efforts.


GRAMEEN Bank in Bangledesh


  1. Great blog! I wanted to let you know that the founder of Kiva is going to be speaking in Seattle on March 5th. Here's the link:

  2. Hi Ryan, Welcome to VFT. Thanks for the info about the Kiva founder. I'll check it out.

  3. Hello again Ryan,

    I've just spent a few minutes finding out more about Seattle Micro Financing ... and your mission to link and educate re. microfinancing activity and experiences just as I envisioned in this post. That's amazing! I knew nothing about SEAMo and now I do.

    For our readers, there's a Feb 26th conference of microfinance taking place in Olympia, WA. 'DOING public events' is an Multiple Chemical Sensitivities biggie challenge because of the potential exposures to stinky smells and toxic settings. In the future such considerations for us will open the doors and include a very important population.

    Thanks Ryan!


Any voyagers and visitors with words to share are welcome here.