Viewing Microfinance through a Social Lens

By Orville José Sanchez

Translation by Gina Cappuccitti

Why am I proud of my role as a Credit Officer?

To me, the work I do is a great service to the people. I really enjoy it and I feel good about my work knowing that we are working to help others. And to me, among my co-workers and with my clients, we work together like any family would. Apart from being their Credit Officer, I’m sure my clients will always remember me more than anything as their friend.

Before starting with Adelante, I knew about the organization because some of my peers from high school were working there and I was working with an NGO that worked in some of the same communities as Adelante. I had a vague familiarity with their work; I saw their assembly meetings and knew some of their clients. Apart from needing a job, I saw that Adelante is much more than a financial institution—we have a social mission dedicated to the communities we serve.

Once I got started, I still didn’t know much about microfinance theory. It bothered me at first when I would get to the credit committee meetings with my boss and he would lower the loan amounts that I had approved. I wanted to be able to get the women all the money they wanted but didn’t realize that the point Nicolas was making was to not burden our clients with more debt than they can handle. I understand this now and realize that it’s a long process to ensure responsible loan disbursals and that our clients aren’t taking on more than they can handle.

I honestly thought it would be easier. Work in the field of microfinance demands a lot out of each of us. We have to be sensitive to the needs of the women and also not be afraid to say no when we know that the client would not be able to manage the loan amount she requests. To me, client-centered microfinance models are the ones that are successful. If we think of our clients rather than the money and how much we need to disburse, we will be better off in the long term. Our clients’ satisfaction with our work and services is reflected by whether or not they are making their payments.

The time must come for each woman to no longer need loans and to have a sustainable business on her own. If the women are forever taking out loans, we are responsible for identifying the problem: Have we not given them adequate training in business administration? Or have they not been fulfilling their own responsibilities?

Unfortunately, even our best clients sometimes face circumstances beyond their control. When Adeline told me that her house had burned down just three weeks before, the first thing I felt was extreme sadness. I thought to myself, “This can’t be true.” After absorbing the information that I had just received and understanding that her house had in fact burned down, my next thought was “What can I do, within Adelante’s policies, in order to help her?”

I arranged to visit with her as soon as I could, asking what time would be best for her so that we could visit the site. What was most important to me was going there as soon as I could so that she understand that we truly cared about what had happened—that it’s not just about the loans. She told us we’d need to be there around 6am on Saturday, so that’s what we did.

I’ve seen her grow significantly with her business—she used to only sell fish at her market stand but has diversified her business and now sells popular meats including tripe and cow feet. Given her success, I knew that the best way to help would be to offer her a Home Improvement Loan. In addition to running her business in the market she grows pumpkins, watermelon and other fruits and vegetables. With the earnings from her coming harvest, I advised that she could begin investing in a new home. Once she has gotten started, we would be able to come forward with the loan to help her finish off if she still needed support.

I’ve seen her grow her business and know she will be able to overcome her situation. I have always seen her as a woman of immense strength. She was a single mother and succeeded in raising eight children, now raising two grandsons on her own as well. Both my mother and grandmother were single mothers and I think that I tend to associate their own struggles with Adeline’s. The moral support that I offered her further strengthened our relationship and I can say with confidence that Adeline will always know me as friend, rather than simply her Adelante Credit Officer.

To read more about Adeline, click here: http://adelantefoundation.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/a-tragic-fire-in-roatan/

Trackbacks & Pings

  • April is…the Month of Microfinance | Adelante :

    […] on Month of Microfinance’s website with an Autobiography of Microfinance written by our very own Orville José Sanchez. Orville currently  serves the Roatán zone of the La Ceiba Branch Office and is also featured in […]

    4 years ago

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