I took a trip to the Dominican Republic to visit my friend Kayla, who works for Esperanza International in their Santo Domingo office, about a month ago. For starters, I can’t believe it took me so long to finish this post, which I’ve had in a draft state for a few weeks, but that’s neither here nor there. The trip was my second time in the Dominican Republic and, as I said before, the county is gorgeous and rich in a culture worth experiencing. The trip included some fabulous beach time that I sorely needed (I’m from dreary Seattle after all), visiting with borrowers, and experiencing Dominican culture.

One of the great things about the third world is the kids. They are so happy and innocent. Coming from a culture where kids just seem to want the latest toys and gadgets, it’s refreshing to see children happy with what they have — or, more likely, don’t have. While in the DR, we visited two schools — one in San Pedro run by a lady named Milan and a smaller one (photo shown below) in Hata Mayor run by Sophia. Both Sophia and Milan are amazing women who have given so much back to their local communities. Their love for children is undeniable, and what they mean to their respective communities is nothing short of amazing. They are the true heroes in this world.

drschoolhatamayor.jpg

I had the chance to attend a Bank of Hope weekly meeting in Boca Chica and was extremely glad I did. Funding a Bank of Hope, which is a $5,000 commitment, is one way that individuals or  groups of individuals can donate to Esperanza. For those interested in donating smaller sums, you can do so through Kiva. Anyway, attending the meeting was a great way to get a better feel for how microfinance really works and to see the unbelievable things that microfinance institutions around the world are doing to help alleviate poverty. At the meeting, there were about 15 borrowers in attendance, roughly 11 of them women and a few men. The meeting consisted of an opening prayer, the loan officers (the ones sitting in the picture below) distributing and collecting funds, and some instruction regarding business and preventative health care. After the meeting, we were welcomed into the homes of a few borrowers to see what types of businesses they were running; everything from colmados (small stores) to sewing logos purchased in the city onto shirts to making shoes. These borrowers wouldn’t have the opportunities they do without organizations like Esperanza on the ground.

esperanza bank of hope meeting

I also planned to pour a few concrete floors on the trip, but the admin component (transport, materials, lining up a family and date) didn’t quite get completed in time to make it happen on my trip. For those of us from the states, we take for granted how easy it is to arrange transportation, materials, and labor — in the 3rd world, a lot more planning is required to complete projects and bring them to reality. Regardless, the money I raised still went to a good cause — the kids in this video at Milan’s school in Hata Mayor now have chairs and desks for their classroom in the works.

To conclude my thoughts, I have absolutely zero doubt that microfinance is a key to alleviating poverty worldwide. Seeing the impact small loans have on the lives of real borrowers affirms the need to increase awareness for the benefits of microfinance, which was part of why I started myKRO.org. My apologies for taking so long to write a recap post of my trip, but at least I finally finished it. If you are at all interested in microfinance, I would strongly urge you to visit the 3rd world to see the real impact — once you see it with your own eyes, it’s impossible to ignore the opportunity to give people a hand up, not a hand out, and help individuals bring themselves out of poverty.

About Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is a travel addict and founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate.