As a TCU student myself, I was ecstatic when I heard that some of my fellow Horned Frogs would be traveling to the Dominican Republic this summer to experience the impact of microfinance and the work that God is doing in our Associates’ communities. Even better, I was blessed to be able to guide my peers on the adventure of a lifetime from my own branch office in Hato Mayor. Sharing in an Esperanza Vision Trip with my own fellow students was an opportunity like no other.
Before going out to el campo (the field) in Hato Mayor, we spent some time in Santo Domingo, learning about the country’s rich culture and history and Esperanza’s operations in the Dominican Republic. After flying into the country, we attended a local merengue concert in La Zona Colonial: live music, lots of dancing, and even more people. The next morning, walking through the streets of La Zona Colonial, students took in the same neighborhood that Christopher Columbus once called home. Main points of interest for the morning included sights, such as the Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor (the oldest cathedral in the Americas), the Alcázar de Colón (Christopher Columbus’s son’s home and also the oldest Viceregal residence in the Americas), and the Fortaleza Ozama (the first European fort in the Americas). These student athletes had the opportunity to use the city as their text while learning about the rich history of La Zona Colonial, an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Later that day, the group ate the traditional bandera (rice, beans, chicken, and salad) for lunch in Esperanza’s Central Office. There, CEO Alexandra Nuñez shared about the economics behind microfinance and how Esperanza works in Dominican communities to restore hope and dignity to families in poverty. After soaking in their first couple days in the country, the TCU athletes boarded their guagua (bus) to Juan Dolio and headed east to prepare for their next days in the field.
First on the agenda was a trip to a water project overseen by the San Pedro de Macoris branch office. At these projects, Esperanza provides larger-scale loans to churches, schools, or other organizations to establish a water purification plant to serve the community. That afternoon, the group journeyed to Hato Mayor to meet the team’s branch office and to meet with local Associates at their businesses. Athletes met individuals like Lucia, who has been an Esperanza Associate for over 14 years and built her business from the ground up. She now has a concrete home and a stable income for her family. The group also met Agueda, another Associate who used the profits from her business to move out of her tiny, old tin house and build a concrete structure where she could live and work. She still has her old house in her backyard, where it has always been. “I leave it there as a reminder of where I came from so that I am thankful to God each and every day,” she says.
The next day, students travelled a long and arduous road to visit an actual Banco de Esperanza loan repayment meeting at a batey (Haitian community in the middle of sugarcane fields). They had the opportunity to ask questions and really learn how the Lord has been working in the lives of these Associates. We even had the chance to hike behind a batey into the fields to visit an Associate’s pigsty, where he breeds hogs. By asking questions and diving deep, these students gained incredible perspectives during their time in the Dominican Republic.
Contrary to common mission trips, Esperanza’s Vision Trips are all about learning how microfinance endeavors work to break the cycle of poverty here in the Dominican Republic. We meet with our Associates, our staff, and local community leaders to explore holistic development and the empowerment of aspiring entrepreneurs. Visitors are invited to walk alongside Associates in their everyday lives and learn how Esperanza has worked in these communities to create holistic transformation. By working to maintain the hope and dignity of our Associates, we equip individuals to pursue their own talents and goals rather than fueling an unhealthy dependence on temporary handouts. For more information on our style of experiencing Esperanza’s mission, we highly encourage reading When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.
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Microfinance is a banking service which exists to serve the material poor in emerging economies. Through this lending process, loans are distributed to entrepreneurs for investment in their business.learn more