I started off my first full week in Honduras with day trips just outside of La Ceiba with a couple of our Credit Officers to get to know some of our rural borrowers within the department of Atlántida. During these first few field trips I went to the assembly meetings prepared for the clients’ hesitance to volunteer to be interviewed. In the five assemblies I have attended so far, when asked for volunteers the women preferred to volunteer each other rather than themselves. However once the interviews began and my notebook was put away, the women felt more at ease to answer any of my questions.
One such client is Glenda, a 46 year old woman who has been with Adelante since November 2009 and has benefited from the organization with six loans in total. Her first loan with Adelante was for L3000, or about $158. Since then she has been able to successfully grow her business and increase her loan amounts to the most recent one she has taken out for L10,030 or $528.
Glenda began her business three years ago by selling accessories and clothing after inheriting a store from her father. She then began her involvement with Adelante after a friend invited her to an assembly meeting. The atmosphere of the meeting sparked her interest and she tells me now that her favorite part about Adelante is going to the assembly meetings to see the other women and enjoying refreshments with them afterwards. She is happy and grateful for the unity and support that she feels connects them.
Adelante‘s lending methodology, which incorporates assemblies and solidarity groups, helps its clients to maintain a system of support and unity among them. Typically, our clients do this by forming their groups with people whom they already trust. Over the course of the assembly meeting, I could see clearly why Glenda had been quickly convinced that this would be a supportive atmosphere–the women were attentive and engaged with the information that their Credit Officer, Juan presented to them and arrived early and stayed late after the meeting to socialize with each other.
Glenda is using this most recent loan to stock up on merchandise including purses, pants and other clothing and accessories. At home she lives with her husband, who works for a government agency responsible for water sanitation and supply, and two of her three children who are now between the ages of 24 and 28. This means that although her children are older, she still maintains some economic responsibility for the two children who are living at home. She hopes to continue expanding her business so that she can invest in a car in the future. This would help her business significantly by allowing her to travel to stores and markets to buy her merchandise and easily transport it back to her own store.
From her story and those of the other women I was privileged to interview, I found inspiration in their resilient nature and determination to continue working hard despite the various barriers that lay in their paths. The women that I met do not fit any given mold. Although most of the women I spoke with have children, their marriage status varies. I was initially surprised upon receiving a mixed answer of “No… Well…yes, yes I am.”, when I asked one woman if she is married. With a wide range of living arrangements and family units among Hondurans as a result of economic situations and other factors, many women here appear to face even greater challenges to providing for their families and maintaining stability for their children.
Adelante addresses these and other issues by empowering women to take their economic problems into their own hands and either head their household’s finances or play a key role with other family members to address their family’s needs. In the coming months, I am eager to meet more of our clients and become familiar with our branches in Intibucá, Choluteca, El Progreso and Tocoa. I look forward to sharing with you another impressive story from the field in early September that provides a glimpse into the life of another client who has been able to continue growing her business with the help of Adelante.