To the Field
On my first day of field visits, we zoomed down the Pan-American Highway past scenery Hondureño of makeshift homes and innovative local commerce. We soon turned onto a narrow dirt road with no marked streets. The directions to client houses were all described with landmarks, and we had to rely on the knowledge of neighbors to decipher where to go. Luckily most people seemed to know each other in the small, peri-urban communities. The neighborhoods we visited were filled with school children playing, families working and watching fútbol, and puppies sleeping in the shade.
The first Adelante client I spoke with was Marta, a feisty leader in her assembly not too far from the center of La Ceiba. She insisted that we sit while she leaned against her outdoor washing machine. In her solidarity group, Marta is adamant about loan payment timeliness and commitment to the work of all members. She runs a growing business from her home where she sells hand lotions, face creams, and other goods. “Unidad, disciplina, trabajo, y valor,” she proudly states. Marta clearly embodies the Adelante mantra of unity, discipline, hard work, and courage.
Next we visited a community on the outskirts of La Ceiba, where I was fortunate to meet another Adelante client, Mariela. She is currently supporting the education of her three children while obtaining one of her own. Mariela has grown as an entrepreneur through the business training that she has received at her bi-weekly assembly meetings. Mariela and her mother have established two businesses since she joined three years ago, when she received her first loan of 3,000 Lempiras (about 150 USD). The two started out with a small business making tortillas and sweets. With the help of solidarity loans, they were able to grow their own pulpería (a small convenience store, named after the pulpo, or octopus, because of the hanging packages of snacks that resemble octopus tentacles).
Her knowledge on good business practices has improved immensely with the Adelante workshops. “I would never miss one of our meetings, not only because I don’t want to let down my group, but also because I am proud of my new education. I want to be able to share this with my family.” The most valuable lessons thus far for her have been on pricing goods, customer service, and operating with better efficiency.
Thanks to her hard work and excellent standing as an Adelante client, Mariela is now receiving an individual loan of 18,000 (roughly 900 USD) Lempiras.
Finally, we met Norma, who once administered her husband’s metal working business and now runs her very own. With Adelante finances and her strong dedication, she has been able to develop a greater clientele. Norma can now better support the business without the burden of prior financial struggles. She is currently renovating her kitchen with new tiling and counter tops with an Adelante home improvement loan: an undertaking she never imagined could be within her means.
These clients are all running differing businesses; however they share many similarities. They have joined together with others in their communities to educate themselves and grow as businesswomen. They have toiled diligently to create vibrant enterprises and enrich their neighborhoods. Furthermore, they have inspired their families and neighbors to engage in rewarding work. It is individuals like Marta, Mariela, and Norma that make us proud to collaborate with the strong women of Honduras.