by Annie Rose Ansley, HOPE Trips Liaison
This blog post was originally posted on Esperanza International’s blog.
I like to be independent. I like to accomplish and improve things without relying on or waiting for anyone else. Anyone with me?
Yet here in the Dominican Republic, microfinance groups with HOPE’s partner, Esperanza International, are opening my eyes to the beauty and paradoxical freedom of dependence. Forming a group is the first requirement to taking out a small loan with Esperanza. If an individual cannot repay their loan for any reason, the responsibility lands with the group. This system may sound scary, but it works. Social collateral—neighbors and friends—can be a very powerful guarantee. Members of solidarity groups live in small, close-knit communities, which positively influence each member to repay.
But, of course, there are times when someone is unable to pay back. I have been at many meetings where one client readily covers the meeting’s loan payment for another. Likewise, I have seen these advances repaid time and again. These examples of community dependence are a slice of humble pie for my spirit of skepticism and self-reliance.
What’s even more striking than willing financial support is the camaraderie I’ve witnessed. Lalita is a pastor and president of her group in the community of Managuayabo. In six years, they have grown from five to 20 women (four sub-groups meeting together), and two of these women have become Christians. “That part is the most important,” Lalita told me. Through many ups and downs, she continues to share the Gospel and encourage her fellow group members. She shared, “Right now we have a couple of women going through a difficult time in our group, but we’re not going to bring them down. We’re going to help and encourage them.”
Angela, another Esperanza client and co-owner of a bakery, coordinates her Esperanza group of five with love and incredible professionalism. She told me, “We always meet together a couple days before [the repayment meeting]. Because if someone is short on their money, we supply it … We help anyone who needs it.” A naturally soft-spoken woman, Angela has grown close to the women in her group. She said, “We laugh a lot … One learns a lot from other people.”
I’ve also visited a group in La Romana that voluntarily pools money beyond their required loan payment. Every two weeks, they draw a name from a hat, and one fortunate client wins the extra money to invest or save. I loved watching the group cheer, jump, and hug when the winning name was drawn.
I have seen that solidarity allows a community to thrive in a way individuality cannot; moreover, it is an awesome reflection of the Gospel. Jesus calls us to follow His example: to give of ourselves selflessly, even when it’s messy and complicated. In the Dominican Republic, thousands of men and women are learning to be vulnerable and available to others, to help and be helped. As Paul writes in Ephesians 4:16, “From [Christ] the whole body … grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Want to meet some of these incredible Esperanza clients? Join us on a HOPE Trip to the Dominican Republic! Find your trip here to see firsthand how lives are being changed.
Annie Rose serves as HOPE Trips liaison in the Dominican Republic. She feels blessed to get to know clients and hear their amazing stories firsthand. Annie loves being outside (especially if she’s running or at the beach!); cooking and eating; and spending time with her husband, Hamilton.
Pictured: An Esperanza International solidarity group
Photographer: Ronnie Mosley