Stephanie Denzer is Program Associate for Grameen Foundation’s Human Capital Center (HCC). This is her second blog from a recent trip to Peru where she participated in a Human Capital Management Assessment of an MFI in the process of transforming into a regulated institution. Her last blog post focused on Cultivating Leaders and Empowering Organizations, and in this post she follows a loan officer to a group meeting of several microfinance borrowers.
When I arrived in Pucallpa, Peru, I had worked in the microfinance sector for over a year without having seen in practice what I support daily from our DC-based offices. I was soon heading out on the back of a motorcycle taxi to a village bank meeting for clients of Microfinanzas Prisma. Bouncing down a dusty dirt road to the home of one of the clients where the monthly repayment meeting was being held, we followed Ramiro, one of Prisma’s loan officers, on his motorcycle as we traveled out of the central part of this city of about 300,000 in the country’s Amazon region.
I was in Peru to assist with the implementation of Grameen Foundation’s Human Capital Management Assessment tool. See my previous blog post for more information on how we are working to help MFIs better meet their missions of serving the poor. We were accompanying Ramiro to the field because we wanted to see what it’s truly like to walk in the shoes of one of Prisma’s more than 100 dedicated loan officers.
We arrived at the home of Dacia, who serves as president of this village bank group of 18 local women. Our visit came just a few days after her group had celebrated its fifth anniversary. Dacia herself has gone through 10 different loans since the group began on July 12, 2005. She has used her credit from Prisma to purchase a small boat in which she transports timber from family land further upstream on the Ucayali River. She sells this timber for a profit and with a bit of bashful pride, told us that because of the profit she’s made, she was able to move from a small wooden house into the larger, sturdier concrete structure where the group was meeting.
Her eyes lit up when I asked about how her life had been most affected by the access to the credit Prisma provides. She took down a framed picture from the wall that hung next to her wedding portrait. It was one of only three photographs in the house and it showed a team of smiling teenage girls. Dacia pointed to one of the girls and told us how her oldest daughter was now in university and was playing volleyball on a team in Lima. In fact, all four of Dacia’s daughters are enrolled in school and seem to be thriving.
The group meeting began with Ramiro leading a discussion on useful recommendations for maintaining a healthy household and recycling (ranging from the importance of washing hands before meals to the benefits of establishing a compost pile to accumulate fertile soil for vegetable gardens). After the educational portion of the meeting was completed, the women proceeded individually to confirm their loan payments. Each individual deposits her repayment in a group account at the local bank prior to the meeting, and brings the bank receipt to the meeting so the payment can be recorded and tallied. At the end of the meeting, as president Dacia reviews Ramiro’s record keeping and signs for the group in his ledger.
Anecdotal accounts of success like Dacia’s provide the human story behind broader industry impact assessments. As we bounced back down the dusty road towards the Pucallpa branch office, my memory of the look in her eyes as she proudly showed us the picture of her daughter underscored for me why I get such gratification out of heading to an office in DC every morning and working in support of our programs around the world.