Microcredit in El Salvador

What Storm

Today was a big day – fun motorcycle ride, first time several rural roads have been open since the hurricane started, first sampling of popcorn with lime and chile, final borrower visit of the week.

The visit started great – blue skies, clouds, fresco (great temperature). But right after we walked inside of Ana Ruth´s house in Colonia San José on the outskirts of Gotera, a big bang of thundered shuddered through her house.

Ana was busy in the back of her house, making a big batch of atoll (oatmeal-based drink with cinnamon, cardamom, and lots and lots of sugar) and corn tamales under her tin-roof-covered patio, while rivers of water started to get bigger and bigger in the backyard. She was excited to see us, and especially Alex, the loan officer I went with, who had recently introduced her to someone who´s going to help her with delivering tortillas and firewood to people in her neighborhood. Ana´s 35, and lives in her house with her four children, aged 6 to 18. Ever since their dad moved away, Ana´s been waking up at 4:30AM to start preparing tortillas and tamales to sell for breakfast. At 7, she takes a break and gets everyone ready for school, and once they´ve all arrived there she returns home to make rounds to many of her neighbors, who count on her for breakfast and for supplying their wood-burning fires.

We spent a lot of time with Ana and her kids, who were very excited to learn new “gringo dances.” Ana´s been making plans to grow her business and expand delivery, and has been working on the best way to prepare for the expenses coming with her children´s education. We talked with her about her goals, and the best ways to plan for the expenses of her loan payments and savings schedule. Ana was a great example of both someone who´s acting on their ambition and following through on the tough decisions that come with saving money and using credit, and someone who has absolutely no access to financing from traditional sources. Ana had never thought that anyone would loan her money to try to grow her business, and she has a really strong feeling of obligation to follow through on her agreements to pay back the faith that her creditors have placed in her. We spent a long time in her house waiting for the rain, and after a lot of recent ups and downs I felt really good about the world leaving her place.

Actually driving away on the motorbike, however, was a little trickier.

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