As HOPE Trips liaison in the Dominican Republic (D.R.), Claire Henry introduced hundreds of HOPE supporters to HOPE’s work in the D.R.* Now at the end of her term, Claire sat down with us to offer some reflections from her time on the ground. As she returns home and looks forward to her next steps, our prayers—and immense gratitude—go with her!
What are some of the things you’ll miss most about life in the D.R.?
I’ll miss the emphasis on relationships. A lot of times here in the States, we’re task driven, whereas the D.R. is much more relationship driven. I learned how to define productivity in a different way, in a much more nebulous and at times less easy to measure way: “How much did I invest in this individual?”
Could you tell us about a client or two whose story particularly struck you?
Rafaela is one associate in Hato Mayor who received a home improvement loan and transformed her house from being made of wood to three-fourths of it being made out of cement block. We asked, “What is your favorite thing about your loan?” expecting her to say how it’s easier to keep it clean, how she doesn’t have to worry when it rains. But that wasn’t what she said: “I am so happy. I am most proud of the interest I paid on this because that is what shows to everyone in the community that this is mine, 100 percent mine.” I was extremely struck by the pride that radiated from her.
Xiomara is providing an education for kids in her community who are economically well off by Dominican standards, but whose parents are working in a resort town, so they’re absent. I was invited to a graduation that her school had over the summer, and the entire community came out. It was huge: she was able to get these absentee parents to come. I was moved to tears because that kind of dedication is what the Dominican education system lacks, but it’s what is going to change Dominican society: individuals like Xiomara who are paving the way for these kids to have a brighter future and to be change agents in their own culture.
Do you have any suggestions for those who will be attending HOPE Trips in the future?
I encourage individuals who are coming down on HOPE Trips to research as much about the D.R. as possible—even if it’s just looking at a map. HOPE Trips are pretty comprehensive, a fire hose of information, so any reading that they can do on microfinance is great. Peter’s book [The Poor Will Be Glad, written by HOPE’s president Peter Greer] is a fantastic place to start. The more questions they come with, the more curiosity they bring—not only does it make for a richer experience for themselves, it also bring up things that other trippers didn’t think of.
What has been the most memorable part of working for HOPE?
I don’t know what part of my job I enjoyed more: interacting with individuals who are sacrificing their time and their resources to come down and humbly open their hearts and their minds to hear about the work HOPE is doing, or the individual clients I get to work with on a regular basis who are stepping out and taking a loan with the hope and confidence to change not only their story, but their family’s story and their kids’ stories. When you get to bring those two groups together, it’s just really cool.
What are your future plans?
I’m really looking forward to some much needed reflection time. I think being in the D.R., it’s easy to get very focused and learn about Dominican culture, but it can be isolating. I’m looking forward to resting, relaxing, learning more about microfinance, and developing more professional skills. I’m excited for the next challenge.
*In the Dominican Republic, HOPE works in partnership with Esperanza International.
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