On my first trip to the Dominican Republic, I had the opportunity to meet two Haitian women who were about to take out their first microloan with HOPE International. The setting was a compound in a sugar cane field. It was my first “Bank of HOPE” meeting and, as it turned out, a life-changing experience for me.
In all, 16 women were being qualified to take out loans for their small business. Most sat in disbelief in the open air meeting while the bank representatives explained how everything would work – the responsibility of the entrepreneurs and the support of HOPE and HOPE’s in-country partner, Esperanza. And then it happened. Helen, the Esperanza presenter stopped her presentation and said with firmness and sincerity, “Ladies, God sent us here to help you.”
It was like an awakening. The women sat up straighter, got more focused and signed their pledge forms as the meeting ended. I then found myself in a circle of 20 people – our 16 budding entrepreneurs and several Esperanza staff – joining hands and praising God. Before my eyes, these women were transformed from defeat to hope. All because they were given opportunity, instead of a handout.
Immediately after the celebration, two of the women each grabbed one of my hands and took me across to a little room with a hard dirt floor. It was their place of business, very clean and operational. Six other ladies watched with anticipation as they showed me their work. Their business was to make stools by covering empty 5-gallon steel containers with foam, wrapping them in fabric, and selling the final product in the marketplace. My joyful response stoked their pride and affirmed their dignity.
Through loans under $200, these women – and thousands of others across the world – are being transformed, working their way out of poverty for good, and bringing needed change to their communities. We all have real struggles that we must attend to, but it is encouraging to see that so many can be helped by so little.
To get involved, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.