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Trip Insights from Debbie Barry
Category: Microcredit | By Steve, 6-Oct-2017 | Viewed 1603  Comments 0 | Source Debbie Barry
Debbie Barry - Calgary West Rotary Club

Insights from our recent trip to Honduras with Rotary & Opportunity International Canada

by Debbie Barry

Throughout my life

, I have travelled to Third World countries and caught glimpses of people living well- below the poverty line. Often, unwelcome emotions surfaced within me.  Feelings of guilt, or helplessness, hopelessness, and overwhelming thoughts of what can be done?  Why them and not us?  Why do they have so little, when we have so much?  And too often, I would come back and maybe make a donation or attend a fund-raiser that might ease my conscience that my little bit of money could or would make a difference.

The Insight trip with Opportunity International dramatically changed those thoughts.  We can make a difference. Yes, when a disaster happens, immediate money is needed to help provide shelter, food and medical help, but once the crisis is over, the people need to help themselves.  This Rotary West program, partnered with Opportunity International, offers a totally different approach to helping people living in poverty.Together we are giving these people a hand-up, instead of a hand-out.

What we saw first-hand in Honduras was industrious people with a desire for a better life, especially for their children, willing to work hard to change their own circumstance. Opportunity International has partnered with a lending company called Instituto para el Desarrollo Hondureno  (IDH)  that truly cares. The old saying, "Our actions speak louder than our words" was demonstrated each day by the IDH team in Honduras. They are loan officers that truly care about their clients. The team themselves treat each other as family, and it transfers to all of their clients. We witnessed the relationships that these very special men and women had with their clients.They are transforming lives of each other economically and spiritually and it's impacting their communities.

All of us were touched by the "New Day" Trust Group. This group of nine women represent the poorest of the poor in Honduras.Together as  they guarantee each other's loans the individuals fill different needs within their communities. One used her loan to buy a corn mill, teaching herself how to clean and care for her new machine. Another member bought a stove for tortillas, while another sells  barbecued chicken. They meet  often with their loan officer and mentor, learning business, financial and life-skills.They proudly shared their positions as President, and Treasurer with our group. We were moved to hear that their newest member was in the hospital, while they were covering her loan payment.  In the truest sense they look out for each other, excited about each others' growth, proud of learning new skills, and collectively excited about the future.

I was blown away by  Miriam Avila owner of a Tortilla Factory.  She is a single Mom with huge ambitions.  She used her SME loan of $10,640 (US) to purchase a big tortilla machine and she can now produce thousands of  tortillas per hour. She has trained all of her employees to do all of the jobs, so there is continuity. Currently Miriam has created 25 jobs which is the key objective of the SME loan program. Each job benefits a family usually an average of 5 people and in a country where 50% of the population is unemployed or underemployed jobs are critical to the country's economic future. She also sells "crispy" tortillas and chips to various local stores and restaurants. She has big plans for the future that include a large factory with nation-wide distribution. I'm excited about her prospects, she will one day be a household name in Honduras.

Come and join us in this exciting  project. 

You and I can make a difference, changing lives in the world!

Debbie Barry can be reached at: debbarry@shaw.ca
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