Emily Snodden is a rising senior at Westminster School in Connecticut.
The beads of sweat had long ago dripped down my spine and saturated my blouse with moisture as we approached what seemed to be a village. The scattered houses made from decaying plywood, tin, and mud looked similar to the huts I see on commercials late at night trying to raise money for starving children. However, I saw a few cable dishes weighing down the roofs they rested on and realized the slight prosperity in this devastated surrounding. Our guide paused outside the walls of the village to wait for members of our group who had fell behind.
As we waited a few locals passed, each person radiating in gratefulness. One elder man made me wonder, ignorantly, what he had to be grateful for. I guessed from his darkened, worn skin that he had spent many years laboring in the scorching sun and assumed he has little to show for his efforts. Even so as he passed atop his donkey and the inconceivable amounts of lavender he carried into the village, he shot me a welcoming, toothless smile that sent shivers down my sweat drenched back. When we finally entered the village, a woman, holding one child on her hip and carrying another in a shawl that hung around her neck, was bent over a stream scooping water into a metal pale.
Analyzing the situation, it became apparent there was no source of running water. The mothers in our group hastily advised against drinking anything offered to us when we reached the site the borrowers had arranged especially for our visit. The meeting spot was bland but obviously heart felt. A few hand crafted blankets lay on the ground, centered around a small wooden table with a tea kettle, bread, and honey spread awaiting our consumption. The enthusiasm of the large crowd of Berber people studying our every move intimidated me. The crowd, mostly women and children, sat around the table after we had made ourselves comfortable. The borrowers then started to explain how the Grameen Foundation partner FONDEP and micro financing changed their lives.
I listened intently to the translator and observed the deep expressions of the women through my camera lens. Zooming in on one leader’s face as she laughed at her own aspiration to marry an American man, I could not help but feel the intensity and determination that accompanied her humor. I later learned that this hard working woman had no source of income or job before FONDEP gave her a loan to start making clothes to sell in the market. The loan gave her the opportunity to support herself. The woman’s happiness was remarkable. She did not have enough money to buy a cable box or even live on her own. But FONDEP gave her the opportunity to start a business. The opportunity to know at the end of the day she would have a meal to eat. This Berber women has since paid back her loan and employs 3 women in her clothing business. Although she must walk nearly 10 miles to sell her clothes at the market, she is grateful that Grameen Foundation and FONDEP have made it possible for her to create her own opportunities.
As we left the village, I thought back to this woman’s face and her deep gratefulness. I now know what the lavender man passing by that morning was grateful for. He was grateful for opportunities and he was grateful to be alive.