Monday, April 07, 2008

Trip to the Dominican Republic, Part 1

We have recently returned from the Dominican Republic! “What?” you say. “I didn’t know you were going there?!” Yep, we did. It was a very short trip- we left Wednesday night and returned Sunday morning. So for a whole 48 hours we were in the country! The following is the beginning of a 5 part series of our trip: the why, how and what we did.

Since college, we’ve both been interested in something called business as mission. If you don’t know what that is, you should do a bit of research on your own by following the links in this sentence. A main thought behind business as mission is pursuing profitable business that directly meets needs of the world's poor. Specifically within business as mission, we have been intrigued by microfinance - simply put, granting small loans to 3rd world entrepreneurs to jumpstart their business. Lacking collateral to receive typical loans, microfinance uses “group capital” - a way for people who don’t typically have anything in value to offer collateral for a loan, so a group of 5 or so will vouch to pay for each other should one not be able to make a payment. And the thing is- it’s working! Most microfinance organizations have a group repayment rate of 97-99%. For us, this means little unless the good news of Jesus Christ as a hope for this temporal life is also being shared through the microfinance program. When we heard about the opportunity to go with Hope International and check out what this looks like in practice we couldn’t say no.

We took a redeye from LAX to Miami Wednesday night. Redeyes are no fun. This picture is of us nearing the end of our last flight. When we arrived in Santo Domingo Thursday afternoon we were pretty wiped out but excited to be there. We met with some awesome people from Hope who showed us around for the weekend as well as some unforgettable new friends who also joined us on the trip.

On Friday we accomplished most of the trip’s objectives. One of the first things we did was to join a bank meeting. This bank was made up of 9 groups of five, lead by one loan officer. At the meeting, each client gave his or her payment for that week (they meet bi-weekly). When someone is absent or cannot make their payment, the group is required to come up with that person’s share. This doesn’t mean that they are more than willing to do this, and in fact we saw first hand that this can bring frustration from the group members (which is another reason why it helped to understand that the groups are formed by choice of each group member). Also at these bank meetings they have educational workshops where the loan officer shares some sort of education on disease, spirituality, business training, etc. This picture shows one of the loan officers giving a workshop.

We were able to ask a few of the clients about their business. This is one man sharing about how his loan has helped him in his butchery business. This was one passionate 80 year old butcher!

After this, we were able to visit several clients and their businesses. It was so neat to see microfinance in action. “Stay tuned” for part 2 of our DR trip! But in the meantime, check out this video of a loan officer with Hope in the DR….

>> See DR Trip Part 2


Alisha said...

DJ and I just got back from Santo Domingo a few weeks ago. We are looking into a partnership with UASD the University in the city - 160,000 students. Did you guys meet or do anything with a large church in the city?

Jen said...

Sounds like a great trip. Microfinance sounds like a great tool to bring others to Christ, and I'm looking forward to parts 2 through 5 to see what Hope International is all about and your thoughts about Hope Int'l and microfinance in general.

Carrie Squires said...

Alisha, that's so exciting! We actually didn't do much in Santo Domingo except our last day when we just toured around for a few hrs or so... we were mainly in San Marcos and then drove to some other towns...

what a great place to start a partnership. I love that they speak Spanish! It makes it so easy!