As a supporter of Adelante, you may not be aware of the important role credit officers play in our operations. Credit officers have many responsibilities. They are in charge of assisting the biweekly assemblies and drafting the meeting report with the assemblies’ board. They are also in charge of managing and handling the loan pool that is assigned to them, granting and declining loans, recovering and collecting loan payments, follow up on clients that have bad debt, doing credit evaluations with each assemblies credit committee, delivering loan and savings disbursements, giving educational lessons on business topics, solving problems within the assemblies whenever they arise, making credit renovations when the clients need them, marketing in new markets to obtain new clients and form new assemblies, and so much more.
Adelante currently employs seventeen Hondurans for the role of credit officer. Trying to convey just how much this small group of Hondurans gives to Adelante’s program is very hard.
This brave and admirable group gives their best efforts to help us achieve our goals and stay true to Adelante’s mission: to improve the standard of living for extremely poor women and their families in rural Honduras. To reach the communities Adelante serves, which are mostly isolated and rural, the credit officers go to great efforts. In an underdeveloped country like Honduras, the simplest of things, such as getting from one community to the next, can require arduous work. To help the Adelante supporters understand just how much work this really requires, the biggest difficulties and obstacles credit officers face are listed below:
The streets of Honduras: The streets are in very bad conditions.
Only the main streets are paved and even paved roads receive hardly any maintenance. Dangers range from drunk drivers on the road to being stuck in a lightning storm in the middle of a pine forest because the road is too muddy to pass. On rare occasions, we have had credit officers involved in accidents caused by the negligence of other drivers resulting in serious injuries. But due to the dedication to their clients, and the belief in the work we’re doing, they continue to go out every day.
The sun and the Caribbean climate: I have heard various accounts of skin diseases caused by extreme exposure to ultraviolet rays. Sun burns, pigment changes and skin bumps are the most common among our credit officers. Adelante provides employees with a good medical insurance plan and provides long sleeve shirts and other gear to protect them from the sun. In this tropical climate, though, walking half an hour with a long sleeve shirt is excruciating, nearly impossible. Sun block often sweats off before a credit officer’s skin absorbs it. Credit officers ride motorcycles or walk for long distances, wait over 30 minutes for a bus, or ask for rides to any passing car because there is no other way of transportation in that region. These are the activities required on a daily basis to get to the most rural communities of Honduras and our credit officers do them gladly because they feel passionate about their work.
Managing clients: The great majority of our clients are very respectful and responsible. However, there are some who spend the loan money on something completely different than reported, those who take the groups loan payment money and do not have the means to pay it back, or are simply dishonest and were never planning on paying back Adelante. Clients have warned of other clients who chase credit officers out of their homes with a machete in hand, have their husbands chase them off their property, or yell profanities. Despite insults and threats, our credit officers go back to visit these clients until they can talk to them, deliver letters of payments, and/or create payment arrangements. I admire the credit officers for their veracity to endure this sort of treatment.
Despite all of the problems they face out in the field, credit officers go back every day. They are completely dedicated to their work and take their jobs very seriously. And working for Adelante is not only a job for them. Credit officers enjoy being able to give these women an opportunity they have never had before. They enjoy being in rural settings. They enjoy the company of the clients and their children. They listen to the clients’ stories of struggle and take great satisfaction in seeing them improve their lives and the lives of their families. They become friends with the clients. Adelante has some credit officers who believe so much in our program that they started out as clients and when an opportunity opened up, they became credit officers.
The job of a credit officer is really admirable and inspirational because despite obstacles and setbacks, credit officers continue going forward (or ADELANTE) and they help our clients, the communities we serve and Honduras itself move forward. For their huge efforts and hard work, we are truly thankful!
¡Adelante Hondureños y Adelante Honduras!
By: Marcela Reyes