While we knew it was going to be a short trip, seven members from the Pro Mujer Junior Committee (PMJC) were eager to leave the comfort of our offices in New York City and travel 6,000 miles across the Gulf of Mexico. Though most of us had been volunteering with the PMJC for over a year, this trip was to be our first direct interaction with any of the clients Pro Mujer serves in Latin America.
By the time we arrived at our hostel in León, it was late but we ventured into the streets to sample some local fare. After 9 hours in various forms of transportation, a $1 taquito from a street vendor hit the spot. Early the next morning we boarded a van and drove through the narrow colonial streets of León to the Pro Mujer office in Nicaragua. We received a warm welcome from the Pro Mujer staff, many of whom were former clients, and toured the facility. It couldn’t have been much later than 8:30 am, but the 20 plus staff members were already hard at work. It was great to finally meet the in-country staff that is critical to Pro Mujer’s day-to-day operations.
We left the León office and arrived at our first loan repayment meeting where Pro Mujer clients gather twice monthly to repay loans and receive training and healthcare services. A Pro Mujer staff member led a workshop on domestic violence – a topic that is rarely addressed in rural communities in Latin America. Despite the presence of seven foreign visitors, the group members eagerly participated in the discussion and pledged to take steps to prevent domestic violence in their lives. Once the formal portion of the meeting wrapped up, we had the chance to speak with individual clients and learn about how Pro Mujer’s support had helped them.
The following morning, we boarded our van and headed northwest to visit one of Pro Mujer’s regional offices in the town of Chinandega. We were greeted by an energetic woman that gave us a brief history of the region and pointed out some interesting facts about Chinandega:
- Chinandega is situated between several volcanoes, which make the soil ideal for agriculture.
- The city was home to colonial Nicaragua’s most important Pacific port. Unfortunately, the beautiful port was ransacked by pirates and few ruins remain.
- Pro Mujer’s Chinandega office is home to Nicaragua’s coolest staff members
Our next stop was a semi-rural community outside of Chinandega. A Pro Mujer staff nurse conducted a lecture on the importance of regular Pap smear tests (provided by Pro Mujer) and sexual health. Following the lecture, the group conducted their loan payments and produced a comprehensive account report for the Pro Mujer staff.
Later that day, we met a client who used a $100 loan to build a bread shop in her community which employs 9 people and has paid for two of her kids to attend college. It was amazing to see how $100 can transform the life of a woman in Latin America.
On our way back to New York, our group of seven was buzzing. We had read Pro Mujer’s literature and attended microfinance conferences but never had the opportunity to speak with some of the incredible women that Pro Mujer serves every year. Our plane had barely lifted off from Managua and we were already eagerly planning another trip.
If you would like to join our growing Junior Committee team and get more involved, please contact Jason Wu at firstname.lastname@example.org