I work for the non-profit Global Brigades (GB). Global Brigades is an entirely student led organization that offers nine health and development programs in Honduras, Panama, Ghana, and Nicaragua. We implement health, economic, and educational initiatives in under resourced regions. I work with the economic program, specifically in the field of micro finance.
The overall idea of micro finance is to give loans to poor populations so they can invest that money to pull themselves out of poverty. TheGB model here in Honduras is called the Caja Rural (community bank). An organized group of men and women pool their money together, paying shares. Each member pays a monthly fee between $3.50 and five dollars, totaling about 60 dollars per year. The shares simultaneously capitalize the Caja Rural so it can give small loans to families in the community. Because of these loans, Farmers have money to buy fertilizer, pesticides, and feed their families in between harvests. At the end of each year, the community bank profits from the loans that have been distributed. Fifty percent of the profit is divided among Caja Rural members and paid to them in dividends.
This experience has been difficult and frustrating, yet beautiful and rewarding. Living in Honduras has taught me to appreciate everything I’ve been given, especially my education. I could smack myself for all the years I complained about school; how I couldn’t wait to graduate. Here, a child is lucky to study beyond the sixth grade.
After a productive Monday in the office, I was unwinding when my phone rang. The call was from Lenis, the daughter of a couple who are members of the Caja Rural in Tomatin. I had recommended that Lenis and her sister Yulissa apply for a business university program in Honduras run by the U.S. NGO Art for Humanity. Lenis called to say she’d been accepted into their three and a half year program. There, she’ll learn English, get her college degree, and pursue an international internship. There are times when I do question whether or not the work I perform here makes a difference. In that moment, I knew my advice is what gave Lenis the opportunity to continue studying so she can go be successful, and perhaps continue to help her community.
There are many reasons why this work is not practical for the rest of my life. I need to pay back students loans I can’t afford with my current salary. I miss my family, and there are days I get sad and lonely. However, my connection to GB and Honduras will forever be a part of me. As scary as it may be to think about the future and how I’m going to make money, it’s kind of liberating to not know what my exact plans are after August 2013. Moving to Honduras has made me surrender my compulsion to control the progression of my entire life right now.