Travel stories from AID member Stuart Krengel:

Arrival of the Fittest 2-4-07

Four suitcases, and two participants short we made it to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The day consisted of missed flights and lost luggage but the majority of us are here and the stragglers will be here tomorrow.

After gathering our bearings we made it to the Portal de Angel Hotel in Tegucigalpa. The hotel is majestic and offers us peace and tranquility especially after such a long red-eyed filled day. We started our trip by commencing to listen to a local historian give us an overview of the History of Honduras. Many questions were asked and many topics were discussed. The speaker really went in depth into some sobering topics that we will witness first hand throughout our adventure. In this hemisphere Honduras is the fifth poorest country with 70% of its people living in poverty. Access to water and access to health services are just a few things that are limited or non-existent for these people. Tomorrow we will venture out into some nearby communities to witness first hand what micro-credit is doing to help alleviate poverty in Honduras.

After all the hustle and bustle in this day of travel our guest helped us realize at least one important thing, we have finally arrived and it is time to understand this unique and beautiful country. I hope you stay tuned to learn more about our travels.

Hasta Pronto!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Day 2

Yesterday we traveled all over the surrounding areas of Tegucigalpa to meet with a microfinance institution (MFI) as well as entrepreneurs themselves. After a 7:30 breakfast the group hopped in the vans to visit one of Katalysis’ Partner MFI’s, FUNED. FUNED is based in the city limits and its mission is distinctly Christian based. All of the clients that we met throughout the day were clients of FUNED. So after an overview of FUNED business practices the group got back into the vans to visit or first client of the trip. We traveled up a substantial hill.
After a 30 minute jaunt we arrived at a pulperia (grocery store) we were greeted by two of FUNED’s loan officers. We were supposed to meet the women who was receiving the loans but due to a family emergency she had to be somewhere else. But her husband that was running the business with her was present to tell us a little bit about the how microcredit has allowed him to improve the lives of his children, expand their business and make some improvements to their home. Some interesting aspects of this particular borrower are that he has two children attending a private university and he and his wife work about 10-12 hours a day 7 days a week. There are two products that this particular pulperia sold that made it so successful: nacatamales and tortillas. People travel from all around Tegucigalpa and other nearby cities to enjoy the hand prepared food that this family provides. He even said in the past that demand for his product has come from people in the United States. He is pictured below in front of the store. Our next trip was to a community called 28 de Octubre (28th of

October). The name comes from the date that the community was founded. Within this community there was a group of women and women, that bared the same name as the community, that were part of a community bank. A community bank will receive a loan as a whole and then divide the money accordingly to the members and their businesses. So you have a strict sense of accountability as well as a close knit network of support within these groups. If one perosn defaults on their loan the rest of the group is given the task of finding a way to pay the loan back. We were invited into one of the members homes and with all of us comfortable they each explained what they did with their loans. Some sold clothes, others fruit and one of them was the neighborhood tortilla vendor. All community lending groups have a President, Treasurer, Controller and a Secretary. These positions are voted on democratically by the members of the group. This visit was definitely a highlight for the group. Below is a picture of the group.

We met many amazing people and heard even more amazing stories. This type of travel is very unique and makes one feel many emotions. The people of Honduras are strong and capable people and today we saw that with access to credit lives are changing for the better. So until tomorrow I say goodbye with a little help from my friend below.

February 23, 2007

Yesterday we traveled to La Esperanza. Not only did we visit our Partner ODEF’s office, we also visited the clients in the surrounding rural area. Here are their stories:Maria Isabel Pineda Sanchez:

Maria has obtained three loans, her first loan was in the amount of 3,000 lempiras (divide by 20 to find the dollar amount). All of her loans were taken out for cultivating fresh vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Maria is a single mother after being widowed 18 months ago. After realizing the fact that she would need to support her family she decided to take out a loan to continue the business that her husband had started. She counts on her 15 year old son and her only daughter to help her with the day to day operations. Her loan goes to the purchase of seed and fertilizer. The loan from ODEF allowed her to start a new chapter in her life. She is full of pride because she can feed her family. She expressed to us a gratitude like no other because we were the first group to come out and visit her beautiful farm.

Eustacio Gomez:
Eustacia has borrowed 4 times from ODEF totaling 35,000 Lempiras. He is a farmer and his main crop is potatoes.  When we went to visit, his family of 6 was present. The little ones were all smiles and the older ones were busy working while their father answered all of our questions. We had many questions for him but one stood out because of his inspiring response. “What is the hardest part about farming and running your business?” He calmly replied that he knew that in order to get ahead and raise his standard of living he would have to face hardships. He didn’t think about what was hard and what was not, he just kept moving forward in order to give his children the opportunities that he didn’t have.

Senora Enemecia Gonzalez:

Enemecia started with ODEF with a loan of 4,000 Lempira for her weaving business. To date she has borrowed 5 loans in the sum of 28,000 Lempira. Her business employs 5 members of her family. Her family in  total has 9 members including her daughter that is 1 year old. With her loans she has been able to purchase and build two new looms in order to keep up with increasing demand for her beautiful weaving. She really showed us the entrepreneurial spirit that microcredit has been able to help her develop.