Sitting at a desk in an office, receiving training sessions and reviewing informational materials are familiar activities for most job orientations. On the contrary, starting out as an International Field Correspondent for the Adelante Foundation necessitates jumping into a role that does not have a training manual. As an International Field Correspondent, I travel throughout Honduras to meet with clients of the Adelante Foundation, in hopes of bringing their stories to the organization’s generous supporters.
My goal is to report on the stories and other tales from the field, which I trust will make readers feel more connected to the mission of the Adelante Foundation, despite often being so far away. I would also like to bring forth the issues that shape the livelihoods of the Honduran people. In doing so, I too will learn a great deal more about this diverse country’s current struggles and past legacies. In order to accomplish these goals, orientation includes getting to know all of Adelante’s five offices (La Ceiba, Tocoa, El Progreso, La Esperanza, Choluteca), and the eight departments or states (Atlantida, Islas de Bahia, Colon, Yoro, Cortes, Intibuca, La Paz, Choluteca) these branches serve.
The First Few Weeks
In only three weeks, I have already familiarized myself with three of the five branch offices (La Ceiba, El Progreso, and La Esperanza), and four of the eight departments (Atlantida, Yoro, Intibuca and La Paz). At each office, the goal is to meet the team, learn about the area, and meet clients either individually at their homes or during assemblies (gatherings where clients receive business related education every two weeks).
I jumped into my new position by visiting assemblies around La Ceiba. Although more urbanized, clients still work hard to provide their families with the basic necessities such as food, electricity, and water. The women I met in La Ceiba told me of their investments in education for their children, a difficult goal to achieve without sustained income.
The following week I set out to El Progreso, a city whose growth has been spurred by nearby San Pedro Sula, the economic center of Honduras. Visiting clients in the communities outside the city, I passed endless plantations of bananas and sugar cane. Women spoke of their husbands who labor in these fields, receiving minimal wages for long days of arduous work.
Heading west along the north coast from La Ceiba to El Progreso, the landscapes of tropical vegetation, densely inhabited areas and cash crop plantations could not be more different from where I am currently, La Esperanza.
In the highland town of La Esperanza, pine tree topped mountains are evidence of a cooler climate and more rugged terrain. Communities are often many kilometers apart from one another, and there are few paved roads.
After meeting a few clients, I realized that my orientation will be more than just a traveling schedule over the next two months. Adelante’s clients are generally more than willing to share their opinions, discuss their loans and display their businesses. Nonetheless, I quickly noticed that whipping out a pad of paper and a pen makes even the most extroverted woman nervous; no doubt a formal interview makes me anxious too! Instead, casual chatting with a client or even a group is a better way of getting to know their stories. The disadvantage of this strategy is that after leaving I am jotting down every last detail I can remember!
First impressions tells me that the mission of the Adelante Foundation, to improve the standard of living for extremely poor women in rural Honduras, is being met head on through microfinance and small business education. Loans as little as $50.00 might seem insignificant by the standards of the developed world, but for the extreme poor, microloans make a difference. Every assembly I visited and every client I met, revealed how their loans have been used in order to boost their businesses and improve their overall standard of living. My hope over the coming weeks is to continue the process of orienting myself with the remaining offices and departments, where I expect to find the same outcomes of positive change.