Courtney McColgan and Casey Wilson established this blog to feature stories about social innovation in China, as well as experiences in building Wokai. To learn more, or to fund a microfinance loan for an entrepreneur in rural China, we invite you to visit WOKAI.ORG
Exciting things are happening in New York, including the kickoff of the New York Asian Film Festival! Launched in 2002, Subway Cinema's New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) is America's leading and most influential showcase for popular Asian cinema. Each year, the Festival selects over 40 feature films, considering only the best, the strangest, and the most entertaining of the recent titles.
To date, the Festival presented over 170 films from China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam, including the works of Park Chan-wook, Patrick Tam, Takashi Miike, Andrew Lau, Feng Xiaogang, Kim Jee-woon, Lee Myung-se, Suzuki Seijun, Johnnie To, Sion Sono, Shinya Tsukamoto, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Kim Ki-duk, Ryu Seung-wan, Xiao Jiang, Shunji Iwai, and many others.
The NY chapter of Wokai is very excited to be attending one of the screenings this year, and we're looking forward to seeing some of our Wokai fans at the festival as well! Check out the schedule here - the festival started on Friday, 6/19 and lasts until 7/5. Given how nasty the weather's been here, why not spend a night enjoying great films from our favorite part of the world? :)
More than 150 people came out to celebrate at the Launch, where we raised over $6,500 in ticket sales and silent auction items. The donations raised will be able to support Wokai operations for a month, including trips to our field partners for due diligence and training, web development related to our internet platform and Beijing office operations expenses. It all started in January of this year where a small group of the steering committee of the New York chapter of Wokai got together for Swedish brunch at Smorgas Chef, in the midst of an upcoming snowstorm, to plan our strategy for 2009. After plates of eggs and smoked salmon and a large pitcher of coffee, we had outlined our plan for Wokai’s debut to New York city.
Hosting a large fundraiser is probably not the first thing you would think of when you run down the profiles of the reps in the New York chapter of Wokai – maybe creating some awesome excel spreadsheets or talking your ear off about our changing economy. But on Wednesday, May 27th, the New York chapter took the city by storm with our very first and successful fundraiser – the Launch event!
Wokai-NY partnered with BLVD, a nightclub on Bowery and Spring, to host the debut of Wokai to the grand ol’ city of New York. It was a perfect evening of open bar, delicious hors d’oeuvres, a tantalizing silent auction and an exciting presentation from Casey Wilson, Co-Founder and CEO of Wokai.
The NY reps are a group of passionate and dedicated individuals with some amazing relationships and networks. We were able to garner a selection of Silent Auction items that included a gift certificate to the Institute of Culinary Education, a one-year membership for China Institute Young Associates, a gift certificate to ZipCar, an opportunity to record at the recording studio of Ed Bennett, former President and CEO of VH-1, and a private flight in a 4-seater plane around New York City (and maybe some flight lessons!). We were also fortunate to have Kaplan as our key sponsor of the evening, who offered gift certificates to all the attendees and offered a free class to one very lucky individual!
All in all, it was a tremendous success because of the support of all the attendees and the hard work of the Reps. As I mingled through the crowd, I was often stopped by various individuals who were curious to learn more about Wokai and what we were doing in New York. After Casey’s presentation and call to action, we also had a few Reps walk around with laptops to capture names of people who were interested in joining the Wokai network and become new loaners. It was a heartwarming moment for me to look around and see each of our Reps talking to guests and to see how many individuals were genuinely interested in the success of Wokai. On behalf of Wokai and the New York Chapter, I want to say thank you to all of you who attended and for your continued support of our organization. We hope to see you at our upcoming events!
Wokai delivers an internet microfinance platform that allows individuals to provide Chinese microentrepreneurs with loan capital. Our organization acts as an intermediary in this process, transferring funds from contributors abroad to microentrepreneurs in China through our field partners.
Who does Wokai support?
A typical Wokai microentrepeneur is a female rural inhabitant, living on less than $1/day. Her microfinance loan, ranging from $150-$300 dollars, provides her with the capital to start a small business. Her business varies by location, raising sheep in a rural grassland or operating a small fruit stand in a city center.
With her income, she accumulates savings, which allows her to allocate money towards long-term investments like education and health. By the end of her loan cycle, she has experienced increased financial independence, bolstered self-confidence, and a strengthened sense of community.