The scope of the Adelante Foundation reaches southward towards Choluteca, where a branch office is located, serving the department of the same name. During the colonial era, Choluteca was a strategic trading post and an important economic centre. However, the economic and political power shifted drastically after the development of the banana industry along the Caribbean coast of Honduras. Today, Choluteca is a major transportation hub for vehicles traversing Central America due to its proximity to Nicaragua and El Salvador. The city centre maintains a quaint historical sector, including colonial buildings, narrow streets, and appealing parks.
While the interior of Honduras is mountainous, Choluteca is part of the fertile lowlands that make up the Pacific region of Central America. The rich soils allow small land owners to cultivate a variety of crops, including corn, beans, and fruit trees, and the Pacific Ocean affords a bountiful supply of seafood and fish. Major regional enterprises include sugar cane production, melon cultivation, shrimp farming, and livestock. A salient feature of Choluteca is the omnipresent heat, where temperatures hover around 95º F or 35º C, making it one of the hottest departments in Honduras.
I spent a week at the office in Choluteca, and on my first day out in the field, I joined a Credit Officer to visit the rural municipality of Yusguare. In the center Yusguare, I had an insightful encounter with a new client of the Adelante Foundation. Hilda Reyes is the single mother of a 5 year old boy, and lives with her parents and brother. Hilda sells ¨saldo¨ or prepaid minutes for cell phones, and less than two weeks ago, Hilda received her first microloan for L 4 000 or $200.00. In addition to investing in her existing small business selling cell phone minutes, Hilda decided to purchase a small quantity of soft drinks to sell from her home. Hilda’s home is conveniently located across from the community soccer field and basketball court. Hilda explains, ¨People are always coming over here asking for soft drinks or snacks, so I decided to invest part of my loan in drinks¨. Hilda is excited to be a client with the Adelante Foundation so she can develop a pulperia (or convenience store) over future loan cycles. Almost all of Hilda’s siblings have left Yusguare for large urban areas, such as Choluteca and Tegucigalpa, in search of work. Hilda would like to stay in her community to raise her son instead of migrating to the city, and with microfinance she can make that desire a reality.
On another day out in the field, I met an elderly woman who moved from the city of Choluteca twenty-five years ago in order to start her small business at the border crossing with Nicaragua. Border crossings are impersonal places, where the objective is to transit through as quickly as possible in order to get to your final destination. I always knew people lived at border crossings, but this particular frontier, called El Guasaule, seemed like a friendlier place after meeting Enma Lagos. Enma runs a small restaurant and pulperia adjacent to her home, and is on her sixth loan cycle, recently withdrawing an individual loan product for L 20 000 or $1 000.00. Enma has taken out loans with other institutions, but she strongly prefers the loan program of the Adelante Foundation.
¨There are other institutions around here that offer loans, but it’s how they treat you, like how the Adelante Foundation treats its clients, it’s not just about a loan, the Foundation also wants to help you with your business¨, she comments.
The microcredit received from the Adelante Foundation enabled Enma to start a second small business, the pulperia. Now with two small micro enterprises, Enma has two sources of income to ensure that she will live comfortably in her old age.
In the past, few opportunities have been available to bring the stories of Choluteca’s clients to the supporters of the Adelante Foundation. As an International Field Correspondent, I look forward to sharing the stories of the inspiring women of Choluteca through my travels. Be sure to check back frequently for many tales from the steamy south fo Honduras.