A Grateful Goodbye: Closing thoughts from an intern
They say that the realization of gratitude increases happiness. As I reflect back on the last six months of my International Development internship, I can think of countless times when I have felt overwhelming gratefulness. Many of these moments I can attribute to everyday life in La Ceiba – like living next to the soccer stadium in a country where 99% of the population loves soccer even more than I do – and getting to explore the majestic Pico Bonito National Forest and its Cangrejal River – or even little things like eating baleadas preparadas (a Honduran specialty: fresh flour tortilla with refried beans, and cheese, with the added scrambled eggs and avocado) and drinking freshly squeezed orange juice out of a plastic bag. But the real joy-inspiring gratefulness, the kind that reminds you to be the best version of yourself, came as I grew to understand the meaning of hardwork and true selflessness, as exemplified by Adelante clients.
One of the factors that first drew me to Adelante was not just the fact that they serve a sector of society that would otherwise be completely financially and economically excluded, but the organization’s capability to deeply understand the varied hardships that these rural women and their families face, and their propensity to design their products and services accordingly.
One of my favorite projects that I’ve worked on during my time with Adelante has been the Secondary Education Campaign. Almost every client I’ve met has told me that her motivation for creating a successful business stems from the desire to create a better life for her children. These women dream of sending their children to school. The Secondary Education Loan will give young Hondurans an opportunity to create an honest living for themselves.
During my last field visit, I spoke with one woman whose strength and grace was particularly striking. Irene has been an Adelante client for seven years, and she runs a successful pulpería out of her home in a rural area outside of La Ceiba. Irene told me about her unwavering commitment to Adelante, “The assembly was going to close if we couldn’t find a space so I told Juan (her Credit Officer), ‘Look, I have a space we can use. It’s too small, but we can use it…we have to continue with our meetings. Let’s make this work.’” But Irene’s assembly soon grew to 30 members, and her small living room could no longer accommodate them. Then, she told me with pride, her assembly group decided to pool together some money to help her build an outdoor sitting area where they would all be able to get together comfortably.
Irene took out a Home Improvement Loan this past June for around $2,000 to expand this outdoor porch area with the installation of wooden beams and metal sheeting for the roof. Her assembly then got together to pool contributions to install the cement flooring. She explained that this collaborative act of kindness was just one example of the support she’s received from Adelante, “Other groups have come, but Adelante was the first, and they are the best, they have always had my back especially when I’ve been very sick. I have much to be grateful for, and Adelante is one of the things I am most grateful for.”
Like Irene, I am also grateful to Adelante, to have had the opportunity to experience Honduras and the privilege to play some tiny role in these women’s lives. But I’m even more thankful to the women who shared with me – the clumsy gringa – a seat in their homes, a cold glass of grape soda, their infectious laughter, and most of all, their stories – those which I will continue to cherish and learn from, as I leave Honduras with something that all passionate travelers seek – a new perspective.