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Diana Taylor, Vikram Pandit, honoree, Tom Brokaw

Diana Taylor, Vikram Pandit, honoree, Tom Brokaw

John Heimann, Gala co-chair, Maria Christina Anzola, Avalya Belloso, Lydia Calzazo, San Diego client, Michael Schlein

John Heimann, Gala co-chair, Maria Christina Anzola, Avalya Belloso, Lydia Calzazo, San Diego client, Michael Schlein

Yaz Hernandez and Jean Shafiroff

Yaz Hernandez and Jean Shafiroff

H. E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser and Mrs. Muna Rihani

 H. E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser and Mrs. Muna Rihani

Joyce brooks,Yaz Hernandez

Joyce Brooks,Yaz Hernandez

Eric Schnerider, Jason Taylor,Patrica Costonzo

Eric Schnerider, Jason Taylor,Patrica Costonzo

Denise Walker Shaw, Eric Schnerider

Denise Walker Shaw, Eric Schnerider

Frances Adumante, Brian Kuwik

Frances Adumante, Brian Kuwik

Nancy Truitt, Bob Helander

Nancy Truitt, Bob Helander

Joe Drake, Debra Drake, Livingston Parsons

Joe Drake, Debra Drake, Livingston Parsons

Maria Otero, Rob Scarlett

Maria Otero, Rob Scarlett



Microfinance Pioneer, Marks 50th Birthday
with New York Gala

Vikram Pandit Honored

Volunteer Organization for Latin America Evolves into Global Nonprofit   Building 62 Microfinance Institutions in 31 Countries and Four Continents

Photos by: Sylvain Gaboury/

Additional photos: Blacktiemagazine/GMK

ACCION International celebrated at Cipriani
 42nd Street, New York City; |
this year marks the international microfinance pioneer’s
50th Anniversary
and the 20th Anniversary of ACCION in the United States.
 The Gala raised over $1.6 million for this important work.

The evening honored Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit. 
 Hosted by Gala Co-Chairs Amy Butte and John Heimann,
and Board Chair Diana L. Taylor. 
The evening’s emcee was Tina Brown.   

“The work that ACCION does can be life-changing,” said Diana Taylor.  “Our clients’ optimism and commitment to hard work reaffirms one’s faith in the ability to thrive through personal effort.  Microfinance provides them with critical tools to do just that.”

“Since we began, microfinance has grown in scale by orders of magnitude, serving 150 million of the world’s entrepreneurial poor,” said Michael Schlein,
ACCION president and CEO.  “But there are billions more of the world’s poor who could benefit from access to financial services.  Our vision is to build a financially inclusive world and give people the financial tools they need to improve their lives.  To accomplish this, we will build the next generation of top-tier microfinance institutions, push the frontiers of financial inclusion beyond MFIs, and build a strong microfinance industry with the highest possible standards.”

The Gala Dinner Committee included Henry Miller, chair, Lourdes Barreneche, Solana Cozzo, Russell Faucett, Laura Giadorou-Koch, Gina Harman, Yaz Hernandez, Tara Kenney, Michael Lexton, Barbara Lucas, Daniel Martin, Richard Neeson, Elizabeth Phillip, Leslie A. Puth, Michael Schlein, Nancy Sherwood Truitt, and Diana L. Taylor.

Guests included H. E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser and Mrs. Muna Rihani, Alfredo Anzola, Tom Barry (CEO Zephyr), Joseph Blatchford (ACCION Founder), Jerry Brady (ACCION Co-Founder), Stephen Brenninkmeijer, Titus Brenninkmeijer, Meredith and Tom Brokaw, Tina Brown, Bill Burrus, Amy Butte Liebowitz, Lisa Caputo, Carlos Danel (Co-CEO Compartamos Mexico), Luis Felipe Derteano (ViceChair MiBanco Peru), Sir Harold Evans, Robert Fox, Gary Glenn (ACCION Co-Founder), Alex Gonzalez, Tom Goodman, John Hammock, Gina Harman, John and Maria Christina Heimann, Yaz and Valentin Hernandez, Terry Holcombe, Joan Hornig, Kurt Koenigsfest (General Manager Banco Sol Bolivia), Princess Kristina Kovalenko, Carlos Labarthe (Co-CEO Compartamos Mexico), Brian Leach, Ambassador John Langeloth Loeb, Jr. and Sharon Handler, Eugene Ludwig, Manuel Medina-Mora (CEO Banamex), Gregorio Mejia (Managing Director Finamerica Colombia), Susan Mercandetti, Maria Otero (Under Secretary of State), Jeffrey and Liz Peek, David and Leslie Puth (Executive VicePresident State Street Bank), Martin and Jean Shafiroff, Jack Tamagni, Jordan Tamagni, Francesco Vanni d’Archirafi, and Faye Wattleton as well as many leading financiers from two hemispheres.

The evening began with a cocktail reception at 6:30 where tableaus of ACCION’s work were displayed. Dinner followed at 7:30 where Tina Brown welcomed guests and gave the opening remarks followed by a two-minute video of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, saluting ACCION and emphasizing its role in Latin America.

"I am here tonight because of two women whom I admire - Gina Harman – who heads the ACCION U.S. Network – and Diana Taylor – ACCION’s board chair. These two women are smart, effective, and completely committed to ACCION’s mission. For all of us who believe that investing in improving the lives of women and their children, it is a mission near and dear to our hearts. Because that is what microfinance is doing. Empowering women, uplifting families, stabilizing communities – these are powerful ideas - and they have propelled ACCION’s work for 50 years" s
aid Tina Brown in her opening remarks.

Michael Schlein, CEO of ACCION, continued the program sighting ACCION founder, Joseph Blatchford and cofounders Jerry Brady and Gary Glenn in the audience. Diana Taylor acknowledged past ACCION CEO’s, asking them to stand, including Maria Otero (2000-2009), William W. Burrus (1980-1996), John Hammock (1973-1980) and Terry M. Holcombe (1969-1973). Also in the audience was Alfredo Anzola Jr., son of founder Alfredo Anzola of ACCION in Caracas, who traveled from Venezuela to attend that evening.

Diana Taylor also thanked the evening’s lead sponsors Banamex, Edythe and Eli Broad, Citigroup, Ray & Barbara Dalio, MasterCard and TATA Consultancy Services.

After the main course was served, Tom Brokaw talked about Citigroup and Vikram Pandit’s historic role in supporting ACCION and other global microfinance initiatives. But it was Diana Taylor who presented the award to Vikram Pandit.

Before dessert two microfinance clients spoke passionately about their experiences; from Cameroon, Bernadette Ledes Ngo Mbimka and from San Diego, Lidia Calzado Closing remarks by Michael Schlein and Diana Taylor concluded the dinner promptly at 9:30. However Latin music encouraged guests to dance until 11:30.

The décor reflected ACCION’s global footprint and the vibrancy of the countries and cultures in which they work.  Guests were greeted by a bustling, tropical market scene with fruits, vegetables and flowers under the shade of large trees.  Tablecloths were handmade in Ghana of colorful West African fabrics. Centerpieces by Blondie’s Treehouse were of red and yellow flowers accented with chocolate/green leaves nestled in rough wooden, hand-hewn containers. 

Gift bags were made by disabled people in India out of recycled newspaper and contained “Little Treasures from around the world” that reflected the creative talents of the countries in which ACCION works.  International treasures include hand-painted boxed (India), silken good luck charms (China), acai seed bracelets (Brazil), rustic crayons (Ecuador), garam masala and poisson braise recipe (Cameroon), and a pressed flower bookmark (Honduras). National treasures include goat milk soap (New Mexico), majavé habanero hot sause (Chicago), customized pens (Texas), signature chocolates (Colorado) and unique soda can tab accessories (San Diego). 

Founded to combat poverty in Latin America in 1961 by Joseph Blatchford, ACCION initially functioned as a grassroots community-development initiative, deploying young volunteers to the barrios of Venezuela to find ways to help the poor help themselves.  In Venezuela, and subsequently in Argentina, Brazil and Peru, those volunteers engaged in a variety of infrastructure projects and job-creation programs. 

ACCION first began microlending in Brazil in 1973 – and continued over the ensuing decades to develop the fledgling movement’s methodology and technical capacity.   To date, ACCION has helped build 62 microfinance institutions (MFIs) in 31 countries on four continents, which currently serve millions of clients through an active loan portfolio of $4.6 billion. 

Committed early to building self-sustaining financial institutions, ACCION has helped to achieve a number of industry milestones, including the creation of the first international network of microfinance institutions (1983); the first loan guarantee fund for microfinance institutions (1984); the first private commercial bank for the poor (Bolivia’s BancoSol, 1992); the first microfinance certificates of deposit for international institutional investors (1996); the most successful microfinance IPO (Mexico’s Compartamos, 2007); and the largest microfinance network in the United States (1991–present).

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of ACCION’s U.S. microfinance program, launched in 1991 in response to growing income inequality and unemployment.  Today, ACCION is the largest provider of microfinance in the United States, with operations and affiliates in New England, New York, Georgia, Florida, Chicago, Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and California, along with national reach through an online loan application process.



ACCION is a private, nonprofit organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need—microenterprise loans, business training and other financial services—to help themselves.  A world pioneer in microfinance, ACCION was founded in 1961 and issued its first microloan in 1973 in Brazil.  Over time, ACCION has helped build 62 microfinance institutions in 31 countries on four continents.  Those institutions are currently reaching millions of clients.  The ACCION U.S. Network is the largest microfinance lending network in the country and has served tens of thousands of clients with $300 million in loans. 
For more information, visit


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