This month we would like to introduce you to Gabriel Gomez, our 2012 recipient of the “Best Credit Officer” award. This week marks Gabriel’s third year working with Adelante as a Credit Officer from our La Ceiba Branch Office! He began work on February 14, 2010 and has since impressed all his co-workers here. Oscar Mejía, Manager of Operations, has worked with Adelante for eight years and recently commented on Gabriel, “He’s organized, dedicated and honest. He pushes himself and has a great handle on his job. And there’s a reason for all this, there’s a reason why he does his job so well–he receives great satisfaction from the work that he does and having the chance to work with the women he works with here.”
Gabriel begins most work days arriving a little early to his first assembly to spend some time chatting with his clients. To him, the relationships he has been able to develop with the women borrowers has been vital to his success. Gabriel explains, “I always work to be more than simply a credit officer to the women; I try to be a friend. These women are my sisters and my mothers.” The respect that he has earned from his clients has served him well as the relationships he has created give the women he works with extra motivation to manage their loans and businesses well.
The first trip I made out to the field was to two assemblies managed by Gabriel. We arrived early, giving me a chance to gain some of the women’s confidence by chatting with them alongside Gabriel. Each assembly of women meets every two weeks to receive educational lessons from their credit officer and report on their loan payments. Beyond the formal purposes of these assemblies however, the greatest benefit for many women is having the chance to gather with others from their community who share similar goals of improving their family’s lives and create or strengthen bonds with others. For women who must often simultaneously take care of their children and the household while running their own business, the assemblies offer them a formalized social gathering to get some time outside of the house. The kids that tag along get the extra perk of playing with the other children who have come with their mothers.
Before working with Adelante, Gabriel had previously worked for a local bank. He says what he likes about Adelante that sets this job apart is that clients are not required to provide collateral to take out loans. What he sees as most meaningful is Adelante’s “trust in the word that they have given” and the fact that “they know that Adelante believes in them”. Because Adelante’s stated mission is to support the poorest of the poor women in rural Honduras to work their way out of poverty, Gabriel’s work often brings him face to face with difficult situations. When I asked him how he handles this he explains that his first step when a borrower has found herself with personal or economic struggles, he guides the women around her to support her in any way that they can, explaining “The pain of one has to be the pain of everyone else too. We can always offer moral support even when we don’t have the resources for financial support.”
The dedication that Gabriel commits to the women he works with has been paid back to him with the advice and support that they provide to him in his own life. This however, does not get in the way of doing his job. If anything, the strong bonds that he has created have allowed him to do his job best—last June, Gabriel received an award at our Annual Staff Retreat for having the best results at the close of each month. Nicolas Flores has been Gabriel’s direct supervisor since Gabriel was first hired three years ago. However, Nicolas finds that oftentimes, he has already knows what is expected of him and gets started before even being asked, “He is always one step ahead”.