I’ve been hanging out with the Prisma staff for almost three weeks now. The moment I stepped off the plane, they made me feel right at home. They’ve been eager to take me out in the field to meet borrowers, and educate me on the intricacies of microfinance in Honduras. It’s hard to believe it’s only been three weeks.
I am based out of the main office in the Loma Linda Sur neighborhood of Tegucigalpa. However, Kiva clients are spread throughout Prisma’s five offices so I am traveling between all of them. In addition to Loma Linda Sur, there’s the Pedregal office which services Comayagüela, Tegucigalpa’s neighboring sister city; the Danlí office about 1 1/2 hours east; the Choluteca office about two hours south; and the San Lorenzo office also two hours south but on the coast. Each branch has on average, two loan officers, who are out in the field every day meeting new clients or checking in with existing clients. So far I have had the pleasure of accompanying five of them to meet their respective Kiva clients. The work that these officers do is in my opinion, the most critical to increasing microfinance in developing countries.
Every client I meet tells me how much these small loans have helped him or her. Time and time again, I hear the same comment: that slowly but surely, these loans are changing their lives. Access to credit is empowering people to create economic opportunities in countries that for one reason or another, are unable to support their own.
As beneficial as it is, the one thing I’ve noticed is how hard it is to physically reach all those people who need loans. First, in big cities like Tegucigalpa, the traffic is horrendous and it could take 45 minutes to make it across town. That’s assuming one is traveling by car. Usually the loan officers will travel by motorcycle, bus, or foot (or a combination of) to reach clients because cars are too expensive to purchase and maintain. Second, whether it is an urban city or rural village, the roads in the poorer parts of town are usually in poor condition. In most of my trips around the city, I’ve been fortunate enough to get a ride in a taxi owned by one of the loan officer’s husbands. Even so, we usually have to get out of the car at some point and walk because the roads are too steep, poorly maintained, or haven’t even been built yet! It is physically demanding work – traveling all day, being out in the heat, and sometimes even having to watch out for would-be thieves.
I feel really lucky to be in the company of some very experienced and dedicated loan officers. They are tireless in their efforts to meet new clients and build long-lasting relationships with their existing clients. These officers, and all the other loan officers out there should be commended. It’s because of them that microfinance has been able to reach as many people as it has to date. They are instrumental in reaching those clients who need loans most, helping them pull themselves out of poverty. So thank you all!