Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's been a while!

Whoops, its been a while. Here is a rundown of what has kept me pre-occupied:
Fri Night: This girl at Intec rented out a place near our hotel because it was her birthday as well. The other students, us, as well as the Montana students we met as well as the Michigan students in our hotel went. It was a lot of fun! I’ve been getting a lot of dancing… mucho practice =)Sat: We set out from the hotel VERY early and took a 3 hour bus ride to Samana. We took a boat ride Los Haitises to see the caves. We ate lunch hand then went on a horse back ride to a waterfall in the village of Limon. It was awesome! I names my horse Rapido Amingo because we would stop running. Much later we headed back, got home late, and passed out from the day of activities.
Waterfall in Limon

Sun: Leisure day. Woke up and walked around with my roommate Emily. I forgot to mention before, but 2 years ago I had played club soccer with her. We walked around and went to some local shops & markets. We had a group meeting to put together a presentation of our research about pollution. We were very productive until the live band started playing salsa music. Every Sunday at about 6, there is live music at the ruins that is right by our apartment. After the project work, we headed to a BBQ that one of the Dominican students was having. It was great food and great games!

Mon: This was our first day at the Esperanza offices. We are going to be spending the rest of our time between there and sight visits. We spend the day presenting our research and familiarizing ourselves with what exactly Esperanza does. We went over everything from how they started to what interest rate they are charging on loans. Over the next 2 weeks we are going to be observing them, working with them to set up the 5 new village banks called “Banks of Hope” and spending the last week doing field research about the impact they are having on their borrowers. The goals of this is we can measure how many lives we affected or saved with the $25,000 of capital we brought. For more info on Esperanza go to http://esperanza.org/us/
Tues: First field day!! We spent the day on a “Vision Trip”. We started the day by going to a typical borrower meeting. Briefly, this meeting is where the loan official collects the biweekly payments from the borrowers. This model of microfinance works that there are 5 borrowers (usually women… about 90% of the time) and then as a group they support each other in paying back the loan. For example, if someone cant pay one week, the others step up and pay. This rarely happens, but it acts as more support for the borrowers. With repayment rates about 98%, its hard to argue that! A typical borrower meeting starts with prayer, song, and reciting the values of Esperanza. It goes in to the process where the elected secretary and president speak (elected from the group of borrowers), then the process of the loan officer collecting the payments, then prayer and values to end. The whole meeting take about an hour and usually has about 10-30 people there.

After the meeting, we went to have lunch in the local branch office. On the way there, a strike broke out (possibly people protesting about the electricity or lack there of) and blocked all the lanes of the highway. It was a mess! But, apparently its kind of normal for them. All the cars just started reversing and turning around like nothing was happening. We then went to a school that was formed by a group of borrowers who were trying to tackle the problem of children without birth certificates, money for uniforms or shoes not being able to go to regular school. The school was a shack and only one room. There were preschool through 6 grade fitting in there. The room was just divided up between grades, had holes in the ceiling and walls, and only 2 small chalk boards up front. It was very shocking. We recently got a $3000 donation from an alum which we just decided we are going to use to renovate the school over a few days. Paint, build some desks, ect… I cant wait!We went to a baseball field that Esperanza built that was actually founded by the Mets. Apparently a lot of MLB players donate to build baseball fields back in their hometown.
Lastly, we went to a Haitian community. As you might know, there has been an ongoing battle between Dominican’s and Haitains over the years. This community was absolutely disgusting and the county wouldn’t even recognize it as a place. We met some children and had a fun time playing with them and letting them use our digital camera (which all kids seem to love!). They see the camera in our hands and come running from all over to come pose in front of us… and then run up to us to see the picture afterwards.

Outside the borrower meeting

Borrower meeting


In the school establish by borrowers

The Haitian community
Tonight a girl in my group, Rosanna, invited me and two others to her big concert. It was in the Teatro Nacional Eduardo Brito which is the national concert hall. A lot of famous government people were there and it was so much fun! The orchestra even had 2 people that sang opera as well. I was so honored that she asked me to go.

Ok, time to go to bed. Sorry for the untimely updates, but I seem to be really busy this trip! Check the pic sight for more pictures from the past few days!

No comments: