by Annie Rose Ansley, HOPE Trips Liaison
It’s Thursday morning, and Francia walks down the dirt road to the building that serves as a church and elementary school in her community. The one-room building in Los Mella, Dominican Republic, is also the site of the repayment meetings for Francia’s community bank. This group of 15 women meets biweekly to worship God, learn business and life skills, and repay the small loans they receive through Esperanza International, HOPE’s partner in the D.R.
Francia didn’t know Jesus before joining her community bank several years ago. Now, she is responsible for leading her group in prayer, worship, and sharing the Word, and her strong faith clearly shines through. Despite being the most petite woman in her group, Francia stands tall and speaks with strength. She shares a personal testimony about answered prayer in her life—a time when she was robbed and, after fervent prayer, ultimately got back what had been stolen from her. Francia urges the women to trust God, and at one point she holds up her Bible and proclaims, “THIS is what’s real.”
Later on in the meeting, during the loan collection process, one bank member doesn’t have the money to repay her portion of the loan. Following the group solidarity model, the women have cross-guaranteed each other’s loans, meaning they are responsible to cover for the missing money. This is a vital element of community banks, building solidarity and providing clients access to loans even though they don’t have traditional collateral. But it can sometimes bring challenges. Today, for example, no one seems to have the extra money to pay the other woman’s amount.
Five minutes of hesitation pass, and a couple group members get frustrated. 10 minutes pass, and heated discussions break out. 15 minutes pass, and still no one volunteers. Suddenly, Francia stands up.
“Ladies, we need to pray.”