What It Means to Serve Rural Honduran Communities
Adelante was founded with the focus of serving impoverished communities in rural, rather than urban areas. The poverty that affects rural parts of Honduras has been well acknowledged over the years for being more extreme and widespread. But the difficult work that Credit Officers must carry out to serve their female beneficiaries can be forgotten when you’re not in the field every day. A recent trip after prolonged and heavy rains brought the department of Atlántida to a Red Alert (color-coded emergency alert system) was just another reminder of the challenges Credit Officers face to carry out our mission.
• Poor road infrastructure means you don’t always make it to where you need to go. I left La Ceiba with Orville at 7:00 am to head up to one of the communities served by the local Branch Office. After an hour of traveling – mainly up the unpaved muddy mountain roads – we found that the river had risen above the bridge, making it impassable. Other co-workers have recounted times when they have had to seek shelter overnight within clients’ homes because of rising rivers or washed away roads keeping them in.
• Limited cell service in rural areas can make it a challenge to communicate with women and co-workers. A damaged cell tower kept him from reaching the assembly President the day before to check on the road conditions. With no cell service in the mountains, we had no way to communicate with the assembly much later that we wouldn’t be able to make it there for their 8:30 assembly meeting.
• The extreme poverty found in rural areas means that a small misstep in managing a business can have severe consequences on a woman’s life. A Credit Officer’s job does not end with handing a woman a check, teaching her how to run a business, and collecting. The Credit Officers are there with the women every step of the way to offer support to avoid those missteps, and to provide understanding and practical solutions when they do fail. After failing to make it up to the originally planned community, Orville and I stopped in to visit another woman in a newly opened assembly. These additional check-in visits show our clients just how dedicated we are to their well-being and continued progress out of poverty.
To me, perhaps one of the most key characteristics our Credit Officers must have to be successful is flexibility. If you get too frustrated every time the roads can’t take you where you need to go, you can’t communicate with a client or face a client who didn’t find that a micro-loan and education wasn’t her recipe for success, you’ll never make it as a Credit Officer with Adelante. We work in rural communities because so many other organizations don’t. And there’s a reason why they don’t – the cost, patience, and resources needed to successfully work in these areas often seem too daunting to consider. Working with women in over 400 communities across Honduras isn’t an easy task. But the sacrifices that our team takes on each day to work towards our mission make it possible.