Monday, May 25, 2015

Muchas Gracias

Day Six

 Today we connected with a laudable non-profit called Nicaragua Children's Foundation. Founded by a family who visited Nicaragua on vacation and saw the need for educational and community development, Nicaragua Children's Foundation establishes and operates schools in San Juan del Sur and its surrounding areas. While providing materials and teachers for the schools (which are free to the public) they build, this organization also has a micro-lending section in which they provide loans to women only in efforts to alleviate poverty and empower women. Tackling poverty and women's rights in the same token really hit home with me because those are two issues that I feel strongly about. 

We met with an amazing woman who coordinates the organization in San Juan del Sur named Veronica. Smiling from ear to ear upon meeting us, Veronica did more than just give us a tour of the organization's efforts and great success in a rural community just outside of the city called Miraville. She welcomed us a members of the Nicaragua Children's Foundation's family. She enthusiastically took us to meet some of the borrowers whose lives were changed forever by the foundation's loans (which only ranged from $80-$150). I heard several stories of successful businesses started by these women ranging from selling cosmetics and clothing to running pig slaughter houses. As I reflect, I think back to what people in the states often do when they receive $150. It can't even buy you some shoes! To see this small amount of money actually put to good use was humbling. 

I connected with one the borrowers on a more intimate level than the rest of the women. Her name was Iraida Palma. She was short in stature but had the biggest heart. When we finished learning about the foundation's efforts and hearing the borrowers' stories, we all had a moment to chat with the women and take pictures. We discovered this mighty mango tree in the back of the school where we met. Just like tourists, we were amazed and took picture of the tree. Yet Iraida took it upon her self to use a stick to get us some mangoes. With a powerful stance and a keen eye, she threw the stick to the top of the mighty tree and mangoes dropped as gracefully as rain. We had our treasures. Though they were just mangoes, I call them treasures because they came from her. With the little that she had for her five children, she felt it in her heart to leave us with a gift. She proudly bagged the mangoes for us and smiled. I'm not sure if it is because they came from Iraida or because the tree just had a good batch of mangoes, but it was perhaps the best mango I've had in my life. Muchas Gracias. 


Chinyere U. 

Adios Nicaragua <3

Let me just start off by saying what an eye opening experience this has been for me. My passion for GLOBE has grown tremendously (I didn't even know that was possible). Dr. Sama, Lina, and myself spent several hours arranging meetings and organizing the trip .... It was definitely worth all the emails and Skype sessions. We met organizations who share in our mission to alleviate poverty. The visits with different organizations made me realize how much of a need there is in Nicaragua for GLOBE  It also made me
realize how important the work I am doing is. Being a GA is not the easiest job, it's hard to build relationships with students much younger than myself and whose priorities are not the same.  However, being on this trip has given be a deeper appreciation for how hard the GLOBE managers work. They really care about the work they are doing. I saw excited Mariam and Kevin got when they met the borrowers whose applications they worked on last semester. It was as if I was watching families come together. I sometimes tend to forget that the students spend hours putting together the loan recommendations for these borrowers or evaluating their post and pre loan surveys. The GLOBE managers have built relationships with the borrowers and it was truly gratifying watching them interact. My hope
Is that everyone gets to experience the same joy I felt when I watched the borrowers speak and share how greatful they were to GLOBE. 

I want to THANK the GLOBE Steering committee, Dean Shoaf, Lina, and Mamma Sama for allowing me to have this amazing experience. I am so excited for the new crop of GLOBE managers to start so I can share all that I have learned with them. My head is filled with ideas on how we can grow GLOBE and help
more people. 

Until Next Time, 

Nosotros Somos Familia

Nosotros Somos Familia

Ola has been saying that since we landed. Every time we do anything or introduce ourselves, she has to include "nosotros somos familia!!!" And she couldn't be more correct. This past week would not seem like much but every day was an entirely new experience with Nicaragua and with each other. 
We spent our nights really getting to know each other and so we all got to see the difference this trip made in our lives. But our time with each other did not just end there; we shared everything. Our meals were like thanksgiving. We would order a meal but those plates were passed around and shared with everyone else on the table. I absolutely loved that because we all quickly got so comfortable with each other. 
We really did very quickly become a family. So meet my Nicaragua family :) 

Final thoughts

It's amazing how fast time can fly by. We leave tomorrow even though it feels like just yesterday I arrived in this beautiful country. This trip has undeniably changed the way I look and think about certain aspects of my own life. Last semester the work I would do in GLOBE was so gratifying, but this trip offered me a chance to actually see how the work I did changed lives. On the other hand it also allowed me to see how much more work needs to be done. Multiple times along the way I questioned what I really want to do with my life. 

Meeting these humble people on the trip changes how you view your own life. I complain because I can't buy a shirt I like or because I have to be up at 7:00 am to go to work, but those are things that seem so irrevalant now. Some of the people I met start their days at 3:00 am and work all day. When they told their stories I could here the pain in their voices. It's something that I can't imagine going through, and I don't believe anyone should. Communities where children walk 20 minutes in the blistering heat just to go to school. Schools where one professor teaches and where there isn't clean water. These are things we can help change, things we should be helping change! I realize money isn't the only thing that can help them. Giving our time or making sure others know of these situations can help! This trip is allowed me to see what GLOBE really did and should do and also how much more work we still have ahead of us. 
- Kevin

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Today's adventure was especially gratifying (and that's an understatement). We met with an amazing non-profit called People Helping People Global. Though they have a couple of locations where they operate here in Nicaragua, we visited their base in Matagalpa. Before getting into the intricacies of the visit, let me begin by offering the cultural scene of Matagalpa. Lined by beautifully painted edifices, Matagalpa stands as this magical, mountainous town who's hilly ups and downs are similar to Montparnasse in Paris. People with joy in their eyes were sprinkled across the streets. Everyone from school girls to men buying food stuffs from pulperias said hola to us as we smiled. But unlike Paris, I felt a strong sense of community in Matagalpa.

We met with two representatives from PHPG: Berley and Marta. From our conversation, we learned a great deal about their organization and even developed some ideas for GLOBE based on what we heard. They explained to us that they give micro loans out with 0% interest because they are all about helping the people (hence their name). I paralleled this with GLOBE because we have very low interest rates and the interest we do collect goes back into helping the communities in which we serve. They also explained to us some of their methods, like checking receipts of borrowers for accountability, that could be used by GLOBE. But the most fascinating tactic they used was their training programs. They provided business training and psychological training (I.e. Counseling). This was especially important because it shows the holistic approach helping a community help themselves. Perhaps GLOBE could provide training and even incentives our borrowers to train other borrowers once they master their successful businesses.

Speaking of businesses, it was also a joy to visit the borrowers from PHPG and see them breaking the cycle of poverty. One borrower, 
Erene, stood out. She makes and sells tortillas (that are delicious might I add) and the loan that PHPG provided allowed her to expand by employing a helper. Now the over 500 tortillas that she makes on a interesting makeshift, firewood stove become a little less of a burden. It was a joy speaking with her and learning how she make the tortillas. I was at awe at how hard she worked. Waking up at 3 in the morning daily to start her work, she was the epitome of hard work and dedication. It made me reflect on my life and how much I have compared to her one room home filled with 5 children. Humbled, I smiled as she stood strong and proud of the tortillas she handed is to eat. 

Until next time,

Chinyere U

Meeting Our Borrowers

Meeting our borrowers was one of the most surreal experiences. I remember going through all the applications in class for the Finance team; all the questions we had, all the research we did, and how much we connected with each borrower in their own way. I was most excited for this day because I was so ready to put faces to all the stories. 
So we went to the Daughters of Charity and met with them. Every time a borrower introduced him or herself my initial reaction was to scream 'I know you!!' in my head. It was completely different hearing their stories in person. The borrower who struck me the most though was Miriam. 
Reading her application, I knew that Miriam's daughter was killed by her husband and so she takes care of her grandchildren and eight other family members. She took a loan out through GLOBE for her business of sowing pillows, table cloths, towels, etc. I remember discussing her with my team because she was a high-risk borrower and we did not really know how reliable she would be with loan payments. Now that I've met her, I'm embarrassed and somewhat ashamed that we wasted time on that and did not let her have the loan right away. 
The second Miriam walked into the room I knew it was her. I never understood what it meant to see pain in someone's eyes and hear it in their voice until I met Miriam. Her whole story was told before she could even speak. She told us that she thought she was going to die of depression after her daughter's death. Miriam went to therapy but would still always cry and the only thing that calmed her down was her sowing machine. She invested herself in that machine to get her mind off everything happening. 
While saying bye, she hugged Kevin and I, knowing that we were the ones who did her application, and told us that we were sent from God to her. Hearing that story brought me to tears. I could not believe how much she had gone through and she's still standing strong, caring for her family. She thought WE were sent from God when in reality is the complete opposite. We were the ones who were blessed to meet her. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Somos Familia

These last few days have been AMAZING !!! My family has just grown by five. I have had so much fun getting to know the Dr. Sama, GLOBE Fellows, our GLOBE borrowers, and the teams from: PHPG, La Esperanza, Supply Hope, Fabretto Children's Foundation.

When I decided to come back to school, it was not an easy decision. I wasn't satisfied with the work I was doing, but I knew it would be hard financially to leave. I am so grateful that I came back to St. John's and was able to work with GLOBE once again. Not only have I grown as a person but I finally got to meet some of the lives changed by GLOBE. Meeting the borrowers that have received loans from GLOBE was emotional to say the least. All the borrowers were so grateful, it was such a humbling experience. I think I can speak for the fellows and Dr. Sama when I say that we were overwhelmed with the amount of love the borrowers showed us. They called us "godsends", it was truly a life changing moment. I was shocked to see how many of our borrowers showed up to meet us. They treated us like royalty and Sonia even welcomed us into her beautiful home, she is soon to be the recipient of her second loan. She is amazing individual and it was a pleasure getting to meet her in person.

The Borrowers Waiting for their Introductions

Kevin asking the borrowers how GLOBE has changed their lives

GLOBE Borrowers Watch the Video SJU
 made about the last GLOBE Fellows Trip

GLOBE Borrowers Watch the Video SJU
made about the last GLOBE Fellows Trip

GLOBE Borrowers

Kevin, Sonia, Miriam, & Mariam

Sonia & Chinyere

Mariam, Sonia, & Ola

GLOBE Family with their Newly Made Bracelets from SONIA

No words to describe it

On Tuesday we got to go to PHPG (People Helping People Global). We met with Berly and Martha who were the two ladies that we're going to go on the collections and distribution of money with us. Berly spoke English while Martha only spoke Spanish, but we honestly bonded with both of them. PHPG targets communities where people make 2-3 dollars a day. They use a group lending model so the group will insure it's own members when each member takes out a loan, and the members can take out more then one loan when they repay the previous one, they go by levels. They don't charge interest because they're trying to help the communities and want to make it easier for them.

Going on the collections and distributions was absolutely amazing! Each family welcomed us with open arms into their homes and let us see what the money was being used for. At some points it was overwhelming, seeing the struggles, and how hard they worked to overcome them is something that can't be described in words. Getting to go with them was so amazing I thought it would be the highlight of the trip, but our borrowers stole that spotlight. 

On Wednesday we got to go see the daughters of charity and met our borrowers. It was such a rewarding experience getting to put faces to all the applications we I had worked on. Hearing the stories of how the loans have changed their lives and how grateful they are was easily the most moving thing that has happened. As a student who had never met them before I already had a connection with them. Their smiles, their pain and their journey was something that we got to witness. This is what GLOBE was meant to do, change the lives of others and help them take control of their situations.

- Kevin 

Nicaragua, you are beautiful

We have only been here for a few days but I am going to have to get dragged out of this country. There hasn't been one experience that was not humbling and life changing. We spent our first day with Fabretto, seeing the products of dedicated women who weave baskets and make jewelry. It was hot; it was tiring; but so worth it.

Our second day, however, was beautifully overwhelming. We dragged each other out of bed at 5:30 to drive out to Matagalpa. Our crankiness quickly escaped us as we met with the members of People Helping People Global. We visited one of their borrowers in her home and in a split second, everything in our lives were put into perspective. She was a beautiful mother who walks for two hours every three days carrying a 100 lbs bag to make tortillas. She had just gotten her loan and the first thing she did was hire another woman from the community to help her out. You would think someone like that would want to make the extra few dollars to spend on her family; but she chose to bring that joy to someone else. We were speechless. We walked into her home to see how the organization works but walked out changed people.

We also had the opportunity to visit the school in that community that goes from first grade to fifth grade. Nicaraguan Mother's Day is on May 30th and so we interrupted their arts and crafts day as they decorated hearts and practiced performances for their moms. I don't think there is anything that compares to the innocence and joy in the eyes of children in this country. It's refreshing to be around them. No iPhones; no one complaining about how their outfit doesn't match; just simple, pure joy. They're contagious. You can't be around them without having the biggest smile on your face. Those children were beautiful, joyful, and contagious.

Thursday was our day

Today was our day. We got to relax, sigh see and spend some time with one another. I do not think I have to add more to that. Pictures show it all.