I am blessed to get a chance to interview clients almost every week, and what they share never fails to surprise or inspire me. I feel like they’ve already taught me more than I could ever learn from simply being in the office. One thing I like to find out is their favorite part of being an Esperanza client; incredibly, they hardly ever mention the money. Check out what clients have shared with me below…
Many say that learning about God is by far the most important feature of Esperanza: the group Bible studies, prayer, and praise songs have brought them closer to God or taught them a specific lesson. Hearing about Abraham and Isaac, Miguelina was inspired to sacrifice her profits for her church. Hearing the story of the widow and the oil, Angela learned the importance of working diligently at her bakery. When Carolina went to her very first bank meeting, she was going through an economic crisis in her family. Her loan officer spoke on Psalm 37, which sparked Carolina’s desire to return to God and renew her trust in Him.
Many clients tell me how much they love being able to save. In Esperanza, all clients are required to save a portion of their loan amount, which they hand in at each repayment meeting and receive back when their loan matures.
Saving is a foreign concept among the materially poor. How can you possibly think about putting aside some of your money when you’re worried about how you’ll be able to feed your children dinner? Thanks to Esperanza, clients have both the discipline and the increased income from their businesses in order to save. I have heard from clients like Mari, who is now passing along this discipline to her family; like Enorminia, who is saving up to make home improvements; and like Jahaira, who is setting money aside for her children’s education.
“We are like family”
The microfinance model is built on the concept of solidarity: if you can’t pay back your loan, your fellow group members have to chip in. While this has the potential to create conflict, it seems to be creating stronger relationships more than anything. Olga recently covered for a group member whose child was ill; Mari went with her group to visit a client’s son who had been in a car accident. Angela said she has learned how to communicate with and relate to people with different personalities. Now, she loves getting together with the women, sharing laughter and stories.
“They care about you”
Before Esperanza, many clients had no work; some turned to loan sharks for money, or an all-too-popular pastime here, playing the lottery. Without fail, clients tell me how great it is to feel that Esperanza is on their side. Rosa Esther shared that her favorite part is having a sense of security. Miguelina, who now has two large business, “knocked on so many doors” before getting her first chance to be an entrepreneur through Esperanza. Olga shared that she doesn’t trust banks, which all seem to have an ulterior motive. Above all, these women are now empowered when before many felt hopeless. My favorite quote was from Olga, who said with pride, “Esperanza is not a bank; we are the bank.”