On Friday we spent half the day in the classroom then half the day in the field. We went to a village in San Pedro byt Boca Chica. We have been observing borrower meetings and then interviewing past and present borrowers about their experiences with Esperanza what they like/dislike, about their family, business, etc... Even though Esperanza (and almost all microfinance) lends to almost 90% women, I interiewed a man on Friday who is a current borrower. This is what he said...
He name is Theralus and he was born in 1956 and a Haitian immigrant. He came to Santa Domingo for work. He buys shoes in Haiti and then sells them when he gets to Santa Domingo. His current loan of more the amout of $12000 pesos (about $340 USD) He can no longer "legally" travel to Haiti because his visa expired a few months ago. He has a very hard time running his business now and is going to need to pay $6000 pesos to get a new visa.
I interviewed him in his house which was sort of like a shack with some shoes lying all over the floor. His wife was cooking in a big pot over an open flame inside. It was very small and cramped, but he made sure to clean off a seat for me. In his house he lives with 3 people. His wife and child. Theralus has another wife in Haiti with 3 more children.
Although his business has gotten better after the loan, he is having trouble making the bi-weekly repayments. He does almost all of his business of credit and doesnt collect the money of time. His wife actually took a loan from another MFI called "Bank of Women" to sell fried fish and sheets. Her particular loan term is much longer with repayments only once a month. There are negative and positives to that and one critisism is that the interest on a long term like that is unbelievably high.
While he heard about it through word-of-mouth from his neighbors, he is not going to take out another loan. In his area, a lot of poeple sell on credit and the retention rate is very low because of this problem.
This is just an example of one of MANY interviews I have done so far. We are going to gather our findings and recommendations and deliver them to Esperanza with recommendation as ways to measure impact and also ways to increase their retention rate. Next week we are going to be opening/funding 5 new Banks of Hope (small MF banks through Esperanza). We get to observe the whole process over the week. The borrowers have already been screened, so next week we are going to observe the training process and the loan dispersment. It was been AWESOME to see microfinance actually in the field like we are. It has been something we have all only learned about in the classroom and it is surreal getting to see it firsthand and know that our $25,000 we donated for these new banks is going to help improve hundreds of people lives!