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It is rare to have the opportunity to report on a microfinance client’s progress over the course of several years through qualitative interviews. At Adelante, our investment in personnel to document stories from the field has given us this worthwhile insight. Four years ago, General Manager Sophia Anderson, was starting her career with Adelante as the International Development Coordinator when she met Elodia in the department of Choluteca. Elodia shared with Sophia the challenges she faced before becoming a client and the goals she hoped to achieve after taking out her first microloan in 2007.
Back in 2008, Elodia was producing tortillas and selling Avon products to members of her local community. Five of her six children were living at home and her husband was working as a chauffeur. Before receiving a loan from Adelante, Elodia could never invest much in her business since she lacked the necessary capital. With her first loans, she was finally able to boost her micro enterprise, and her goals of renovating her home, sending her children to secondary school, and purchasing a car might one day become a reality.
Today, Elodia is paying off her second Individual Loan for L 25,000 or $1,316, and fills several large tortilla orders daily to regular clients. She even attained a very lucrative contract to supply 3,500 tortillas a day to a hospital in Choluteca. No longer needing to reach distant communities, Elodia decided not to invest in a car. Instead, Elodia used her first Individual Loan to buy a tortilla-making machine for L 5,000 or $263. With her second Individual Loan, Elodia made a huge investment of 31,000 or $1,632, she explains, ¨I have accomplished a lot over the years, for example, I bought a corn mill so I can make flour, this allows me to save money and also gives me extra income because I can rent it out.¨ Thanks to Elodia’s booming business, the family renovated part of their home and built a new, covered patio with hammocks and chairs where her assembly group meets every two weeks.
Even though Elodia has accomplished so much, she still has many goals she would like to achieve in the future. Elodia is hoping to see her children graduate from secondary school, especially since she earns enough income to support them. She is optimistic that her youngest son, 10, will continue his education, and that her teenage daughters will eventually return to finish their studies. Elodia wishes that two of her daughters would have waited until finishing secondary school before getting married and having children. Elodia’s eldest daughter, 21, recently returned home after working in San Pedro Sula, and has just re-entered school in order to finish her diploma. Elodia is adamant that she will encourage and assist any one of her children to attain a better education.
Two months ago, Elodia lost that very profitable contract with the hospital, so her business has hit difficult times. Elodia is working hard to find new clients in order to replace lost income, but luckily she still has several orders daily of 40-50 tortillas. In the meantime, Elodia uses her spare time to produce inexpensive jewelry. While diversifying her business is important, Elodia is confident that she will soon be busy again with her tortilla enterprise; in fact, she has decided to make another big investment. Before meeting Sophia, Elodia had constructed a separate kitchen for her tortilla business, and now three years later, she is ready to renovate it. Elodia contends, ¨It’s important to always have goals, it never ends! I would like to renovate my kitchen in order to have a better work space.¨ To get started, Elodia plans to have a new, wood burning oven installed, which will reduce the quantity of wood and also eliminate in-house smoke pollution.
Meeting Elodia was an inspiring example of how much can change for one woman over the course of three years. I hope in the future someone else will take the opportunity to look back on the client stories I have written and follow-up to see how the women are doing. This qualitative material is invaluable in demonstrating the difference Adelante is making in the lives of thousands of women and their families.