Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
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
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.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
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!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
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.
In the school establish by borrowers
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
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.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
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!
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Ok, I'm going to get food (probably some more plantains!) and watch the celtics game!