By Charlene Bearden, District 5360 District Executive Secretary
I had the opportunity to go to Honduras with Steve Rickard from the Rotary Club of Calgary West, Wally Gardiner from the Rotary Club of High River, and Jim Louttit from the Rotary Club of Toronto-Sunrise, all of whom are instrumental in the Honduras Economic Community Development (HECD), a microfinance project implemented by the Rotary Action Group for Microfinance and Community Development (RAGM) in collaboration with the District 5360 Microcredit Task Force.
The groups worked with the Rotary Club of Real de Minas Tegucigalpa, Opportunity International Canada (OIC) and their operating partner in Honduras, Instituto para el Desarrollo Hondureño (IDH), to provide microfinance services in the region.
During my visit to Honduras, I got to see the great impact the project has had on the community and the people. A small loan makes such a big difference, both for the original loan recipient and by sparking ideas and initiatives amongst family and friends. As a result, spin off economies develop and often the people close to the loan recipient sign up for loans themselves.
There are more than 8,000 beneficiaries from the HECD program! One of the projects we visited was a shoemaking business where I met Milton, who was able to acquire raw materials and shoe molds through the loan program. Another beneficiary, German, was able to repair his moto-taxi. Martha, who makes the best tortillas, was able to increase raw material supplies so she could expand into wholesale selling.
I also met Marvin, who spends hours in the open sun baking bricks with his brother. A loan allowed them to erect a lean-to so they could continue working during the rainy season. The loan was used to stockpile raw materials and increase production. Marvin has contracts to supply his bricks wholesale and is now making environmental clay ovens for export; the clay ovens produce better heat, burn less wood and burn cleaner than similar stoves.
To actually witness the impact my district is making is something I will always carry with me. I’m inspired by all Rotarians who do humanitarian work at home and throughout the world, by every project you take on and by every person you touch.
The Rotarian Action Group for Microfinance and Community Development (RAGM) is a group of Rotarians whose purpose is to provide global leadership to assist clubs and districts in effective Microfinance and Community Development programs. Contact the group for assistance with your economic and community development projects.