68 is never too old to learn to read.

-More than micro finance

by Ashley Nelsen KF 6 & 7

The power of micro finance is the social programs that leave lasting improvements within entrepreneurs lives. While working in the Dominican Republic with the MFI Esperanza I witnessed first hand the impact of such social programs. Esperanza whose social programs include business training for their entrepreneurs, a savings program, affordable health care and insurance, vocational trainings, and loans for housing improvements ensure that their clients not only improve their economic livelihood, but are better educated, healthier global citizens.

Walking to "Batey 16". Completely surrounded by surgar cane (at this time all cut).

Walking to "Batey 16". Completely surrounded by sugar cane (at this time all cut).

The Dominican Republic recently enacted a law that required all documents (banking, land deeds, legal, etc.) to be signed with a written signature. Before this law was passed those who were illiterate could sign documents with a fingerprint of their right thumb. As you can imagine many used this handicap to take advantage of the illiterate. One Dominican farmer I met had even unknowingly signed over the title of his land because he was unable to read the document he was signing.

One room schoolhouse where classes are conducted.

One room schoolhouse where classes are conducted.

A change in the law has encouraged many to participate in Esperanza’s literacy program. On the day I visited a rural batey, called “Batey 16” there were 15 people awaiting their professor to arrive. This one room schoolhouse was not composed of your typical students, these students were predominantly over the age 30. After the professor arrived they were eager to show their homework which consisted of circling in a newspaper page all the vowels they could identify. Their professor explained that they had started from the beginning- learning the alphabet. They were now working on identifying vowels and the sounds they make, and soon would begin learning to write their name.

68 year old gentleman circling vowels.

68 year old gentleman circling vowels.

My father has always told me that, “the best investment you can make is in your education, because no one can ever take that away from you.” That quote ran through my head as I watched students eager to circle a previously overlooked vowel. I am forever grateful to have been witness to such an empowering program.

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