Friday, May 29, 2009

Final Field Work & Presentations

Here are some pictures (comliments of Esther) from our final days in the field and when we finally presented to Esperanza staff.

A Sugar Cane "Batey" (their housing community)
Final presentations to Esperanza

Observing an HIV/AIDS support group sponsored by Esperanza

He wins! Cutest boy of the trip =)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Video clip I've been working on

Hey! I've been REALLY busy and haven't had time to even sit down in the past few days. Here is a video I was working on the other day about what we have done so far...

Yesterday we presented our final presentations to Esperanza. We were measuring the impact of the work they have been doing thus far. We were also observing the dispersments of our new "Bank of Hope" loans. Our total group was about 40 people including the INTEC students and then we split up in 3 smaller groups, but making a project with 14 others was not easy. The most difficult part (by far!) was working with such a huge # of people for this project. We stayed up until about 4am the morning of the presenation and slept until 6:30 that morning then went out to the field with the Dean of the College of Business. He is here to observe what we are doing for a few days. We went to an HIV/AIDS support group, a borrower meeting, then to visit the school we are going to undertake as our service project on Monday and Tuesday. Visiting the school was AWESOME! All the students (preschool-4th grade) had a song prepared for us. We walked around and played with them for a bit and then talked to the Esperanza borrower who started the school. She was so honored that were were going to redo the school as out project she started to cry. She said it was her dream that something like this would happen.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Batey 18 & Batey 22

Today we went to visit two Batey's. These are small, rura, communities on a sugar plantation. In this case, the government issued their houses because the husband worked with cutting the sugar during the harvesting months. They were very run down houses and almost resembed small bomb-shelters. It was very rural and we had to drive a while and on some pretty rough roads.

We got to observe a credit committee meeting where each person that wanted to take a new loan from Esperanza would have to get approved by all the current borrowers. People who were going to apply for another loan would have to state their purpose for the money and need approval by all. We met a woman who although she sent the repayments in with her friend had missed more than 5 meetins. Because of this, she was now not elligable to take another loan.
We also went to interview a few borrowers a lot of whom were Haitian immigrants as expected from being on a sugar plantation.

Credit committee meetings

Looking down the road from Batey 18

She wins... cutest child thusfar

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Field day

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!

Theralus and I

The school we are going to be revamping at the end of this week

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I will adopt them all.

Here are a cummulation of the kids from today. I am going to turn into Angelina & Brad (minus Brad) when I get home.

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
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!

Friday, May 15, 2009


Last night we went out to eat with a group from Montana State that are here for a week working with Esperanza. Esperanza is a microfinance bank in the Dominican that works with the poor. We brought $25,000 with us to open up 5 new village banks through them. Montana State was meeting with them for a few days to observe their process while we are going to be intensively working with them for the next 2 weeks. We also have a group from Michigan State staying in our hotel that are just here to take classes. Tonight we are going out with both groups as well as the local Dominican students to a club/bar. There are 2 birthdays today (1 NU student, and a Dominican student) so we are going to go out Loco Dominicana style for some fun and dancing =)

During class today we had a guest lecturer, who talked about micro and small enterprises in the DR. As a lot of our lectures, it was done in Spanish. Yesterday we had a lecturer talking about the DR's economics and I had a very hard time deciphering what he wrote on the board!! (See below!) We had some Haitian students come in to talk and have a Q&A about their life and some struggles. There is a lot of racism/violence between the DR and Haiti and it was interresting to hear. Like many times throught the day, the power goes out. The first time it happened all the US students were stunned and everyone else went about their normal routine. They have a huge electricity problem here, but the good thing is that most buildings have generators.

For lunch, we went right next to the school to a little place that sold empanadas (sp?). They are very popular down here and verrryy good but verry unhealthy! It's similar to a fried calzone with cheese and meat in it. Every day I have been getting a hige plate of fresh fruit for only 50 pesos (a little over $1) which includes bananas, coconut, papaya, mango, watermelon, pineapple, and cantaloupe... in very spoiled with that!

So, tonight we are having a group dinner on the roof then heading out. The huge group of Montana, Michigan, us and the dominican students are going to "Doubles" which is a bar/disco right down the street from our hotel. BUT we have to be in the bus by 7am tomorrow to head to a rainforest. We are going to hike around and do some sightseeing stuff. I'm sure I'll have many more pictures tomorrow.

Empanada (sp?) shop

Great lecturer, messy writting

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Learning to meranga dance

Sorry for no updates in the past few days. It's been very busy! After Sunday at the beach, we went to a group dinner (where I tried Monfongo- Dominican plantian dish). On Monday, classes started with the school we are partnering with. There are 19 of them and 19 of us. The school is called INTEC and we are going to be working together in the next 3 weeks with Esperanza (establish microfinance bank already here) to set up 5 new village banks. We came with about $25,000 to make thousands of new loans within the news branches. We are then going to focus our work on measuring the impact and how the loan (that they had gotten previously) has helped change their lives to how they stand financially now. As well as financially, we can look at their nutrition, if their children go to school, their house, etc...

On Tuesday, we had classroom session in the morning, then went for a tour around Santo Domingo and some of the urban poverty they have around the city. After a catered dinner at the hotel, we all went out with some of the the Dominican students to dance! It was a lot of fun, but us Americans need a lot of work! Maybe by the end of the trip we will be able to get through a few minutes without stepping on toes or being laughed at!

Today we broke off into smaller groups and our group went around to a local communitiy and tried to interview/observe how pollution has effected their community. We talked with a small business that sells car parts and a 20 year old girl who lives in the community. The LAREGST problem is the language barrier. I didn't experience that in South Africa, but that is biggest hurdle so far. In these communities, not many people know English. The INTEC students know both and I know some basic knowledge, but that has by far been the hardest part. After the long day in the field, we had a catered dinner back at the hotel which included lot of rice and beans =) I'm exhausted so I'm going to get to bed early today. Classroom and dancing tomorrow!

The group before a night of dancing!

Polluted stream in one of the comunities of Santo Domingo

Working with the INTEC students and business owner

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Boca Chica

Today we were planning to go sightseeing at some major sights around our hotel, but that got postponed until tomorrow. Instead, we headed down to Boca Chica, which is one of the major beaches with lots of locals, tourists, and vendors. See pictures below (all pics on my picture sight). Tomorrow we start our classroom sessions. It's lectures/class in the morning, field work in the afternoon, then we switch between having the evening free and having a group dinner.

Ok, I'm going to get food (probably some more plantains!) and watch the celtics game!

Some of the group on the banana boat

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day 1!

Here I am! I made it alive =)
The bus was at the airport to pick us up when our flight got in and drive us to Hotel Europa which is where we will be staying for the month. I just quickly walked around the area before dinner and it is a really cool place... the Colonial Distict. I'll find out more tomorrow when we go sight seeing around the area. We went to dinner at this place right on the water. I didn't realize it before, but I guess a lot of cuise ships dock there.
The hotel is really nice. Although the rooms are a little basic, there is working internet, the lobby and the location are very good. There is also free breakfast and dinner on the rooftop terrace. In the last week or 2, we are working with the Red Sox Foundation (because baseball is HUGE down here). The guy we are working with from the Red Sox recommended that we get private security... everytime he travels down here the Red Sox require him to have security. So, acording to our Prefessor, we have a private secuirty gaurd. He is very undercover and I have been trying to discover who is it. Our Prof said that everytime we go to get on the bus to go somewhere, he usually hails a cab and follows. WEIRD!
More to come tomorrow, but here are some picture of the hotel.

Rooftop Terrace

View from the room

Friday, May 8, 2009

Last minute change...

So, change of plans. We're now staying at Hotel Europa ( Incase you were planning to show up and surprise me.

Ok, it's 9:30 pm... I should probably think about packing.

Monday, May 4, 2009

5 Days Until Departure

Welcome back!

I will be using this again this summer to blog what I do in the Dominican Republic. I won't have a phone during this time, but will have Skype and email, so if you need to (for some reason) contact me please email me at If need be, I can call you over Skype. 

I will be in Santo Domingo May 9 - June 6. The group of 20 NU students will be working with urban and poor communities to set up 5 new village banks (along the same lines as my work last year in Africa). I will then travel to Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba until June 16. THEN I'll return to Boston. In the capital, we will be staying at the Plaza Colonial. (

I'll be uploading my pictures to again this year, so check that out as well!