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About Us

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NamasteDirect Stands For:
- Microcredit – ND is only about microcredit, which is widely acclaimed as the most important antipoverty invention of the twentieth century.
- New Beginnings – ND focuses on providing capital for first-time loans to very poor, rural women in Central America who have the ability and gumption to start a new business or expand a budding enterprise that will begin to lift their families out of poverty.
-Connection – ND promises to connect donors with borrowers through Donor Journeys to the region, visiting women who have received loans from our donor funds, and through periodic written accounts of borrowers’ experiences.
- Future Generations – ND encourages a new generation of global philanthropists through board membership, volunteer opportunities, and Fellowship Program.
- Transparency – ND tracks its cash disbursed right down to the names of the individual borrowers and makes that information available to donors.


NamasteDirect is committed to alleviating poverty in the Mayan communities in Guatemala and Mexico. We partner with well established MFIs to provide microloans along with a personal business mentor, business education, and vocational training. We measure the impact through monthly assessments administered by personal business advisors that are entered into a dynamic, online database. NamasteDirect measures not only the health of a business, but also the exit from poverty.


NamasteDirect grew out of the micro lending program of the Katalysis Partnership, an
organization founded by Bob Graham in 1984. In September of 2004, Graham founded
NamasteDirect in order to continue support for smaller organizations within the Katalysis
Network that depend on grant monies to reach marginalized rural microcredit borrowers.
Since its inception, NamasteDirect has raised over $700,000, which is helping to
capitalize the enterprises of over 3,300 women in rural communities of Guatemala and
southern Mexico. NamasteDirect works with local organizations, understanding that
microcredit is most successful when rooted and administered locally by and for
community members. NamasteDirect currently works with four implementing
organizations: FAPE in Guatemala City, Puente de Amistad in Panajachel, Guatemala,
Edubanco in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, and AlSol in San Cristobal de las Casas,


The NamasteDirect Microcredit Fellowship Program provides a unique opportunity for students to learn first-hand about microcredit as a form of bottom-up international development. The trip component, which may vary in length from a couple weeks to several months depending on circumstances, provides an intense, rich, and enduring learning experience. During the Fellowship trip to Guatemala or Mexico, Fellows meet with staff members of local microfinance institutions, attend meetings of microcredit borrowing groups and interview borrowers about their lives.
Typically, each Fellow is designated as group correspondent for a NamasteDirect group of 100 or more microcredit borrowers. During the trip, the Fellow meets with and interviews members of his or her group, collecting stories, photographs, and video footage that provide a glimpse into the borrowers' lives. Following the trip, the Fellow relays these stories and images along with other pertinent information to the donors who have sponsored the 100+ Group. The Fellow is responsible for maintaining communication with these donors through letters, video clips, and other innovative communication styles over a six to eight month period.
In addition to the traditional Fellowship Program, NamasteDirect plans to grant some Fellowships specifically assigned for in-country special projects such as microcredit impact assessment, borrower education and technology development.

Each NamasteDirect Fellow pursues an individual project, which supports the work of NamasteDirect while also serving to further the Fellow's understanding of the microcredit process and organizational operations. The project can be estimated as a specific time commitment of 60-80 hours. Fellows are expected to become active members of the NamasteDirect community and are asked to speak at events, help coordinate events, or assist on current projects. Legacy Fellows will have an opportunity to meet with their Legacy sponsor.
NamasteDirect staff and Board members provide support and guidance to Fellows throughout their Fellowship. Before their journey to Guatemala or Mexico, Fellows receive verbal briefings as well as written materials discussing microcredit, NamasteDirect, and the local social context. Furthermore, NamasteDirect provides Fellows with additional educational content on relevant topics such as social entrepreneurship, non-profit management, and fund development.
Undergraduate students of at least second year standing and graduate students are eligible to apply. Recent graduates may also be considered. Potential candidates should be prepared to demonstrate strong communication skills, proficiency in Spanish or a Mayan language, as well as passion and motivation for international development work.


We focus on providing capital for first-time loans to poor, rural women in Guatemala and Mexico who take the initiative to start or improve upon a business enterprise but, would not have access to credit otherwise. The loan funds are recycled solely to first time borrowers for five years before being released into the general loan funds of implementing partner organizations where they will continue to be used for community development. We invest in women because we believe that they are empowered by microcredit opportunities and the ability to participate in supporting their families financially as well as emotionally and physically. Judith Bruce and Cynthia Lloyd reported in their book, "Finding the Ties that Bind: Beyond Headship and Household," that in Guatemala an additional $11.40 per month in a mother's hands would achieve the same weight gain in a young child as an additional $166 if earned by the father. That is a multipler of 14 times!


In 1973, Bob Graham, a successful California businessman and CPA, visited Guatemala as part of the California Agricultural Leadership program. Struck by the plight of the poor farming families he met, he decided on the spot that someday he would try to help suffering people such as these.
A decade later in 1984, Bob founded the Katalysis Partnership, dedicated to providing a hand up (rather than a hand out) to such people in war-torn Central America. This was also the launching of Bob’s “50–50 at 50” plan: at age 50 he would begin to devote 50% of his time and 50% of his resources to service to others. Subsequently, thousands of people--mostly women--have led their families out of poverty with the helping hand of Katalysis and its supporters.
Twenty years later, Bob continues to be deeply involved with this work, volunteering his time to NamasteDirect, a successor non-profit to the Katalysis Partnership. While the original Katalysis organization has mushroomed into the Katalysis Microfinance Network of Central America (a regional non-profit of 13 intermediary credit providers serving more than 180,000 borrowers with over $60 million in loan capital in four countries), Bob and his associates are continuing to link donors to the poorest borrowers through NamasteDirect, where the motto is "Ending Poverty, One Loan at a Time!"


Bob Graham founded ND in 2004. He has extensive international development experience in Central America, and in India. Bob is the CEO of ND.

Amy Hillyard was the Leadership Development Manager for Electronic Arts, where she developed leadership programs for high potential talent and worked with senior leaders to facilitate organizational change.

Bob Ilse, a co-founder of NamasteDirect, is a lifetime businessman and executive in the food processing industry, most recently CEO of Stanislaus Food Products. Bob is the Chair of the NamasteDirect Board.

Sherrie Ilse, a co-founder of NamasteDirect, is a longtime social activist, especially for women's and children's issues.

Brynna Jacobson developed and implemented the NamasteDirect Fellowship Program, originally having served as a Fellow herself.

Sunny Mahant is the former President of NamasteDirect. Sunny worked for several years in management, marketing, and mergers & acquisitions at Cisco Systems.

Patrick O’Heffernan is a strategist and multi-media specialist. He was the Director of Finance Development at Coro and is the social entrepreneur blogger at the Skoll Foundation's Social Edge website.

Wes Selke is a Portfolio Officer with Good Capital, an investment firm that accelerates the flow of capital to initiatives that harness the power of the market to solve society's most challenging problems.

Chutta Ratnathicam has 27years of experience in Finance and Executive management with a $4+ billion global transportation and logistics company. He is an active volunteer for SCORE, Lowell High School, and Seven Tepees.

Jessica Welborn is a student at Santa Barbara Graduate Institute pursuing a doctoral degree in Perinatal Psychology.


Guatemala, Mexico




PO Box 471000

SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94147-1000

Phone: (415) 440-2226

EIN: 68-0159559

A Gift Card


Sponsor A Woman

Micro-business loan

Just $250 can change the life of a woman and her family in Guatemala or Mexico. Your gift will fund the micro-loan of a woman in either rural Guatemala or Chiapas, Mexico. This loan will be re-paid with interest monthly to the local organization, which will support the women through the loan cycle and help them to be successful in developing their businesses. Educational seminars...