I have continued to be interested in microfinance since my first meeting with folks at Unitus — so much, in fact, that I decided to attend their Partner Expedition to Mexico to visit their partner, Pro Mujer Mexico.
On April 20, I flew to Houston and then on to Mexico City. My first impression of Mexico City, from the air, was how massive it was — I later learned that its population of 18 million is much larger than New York City!
I met the main group in the airport and we then hopped on our bus for the 1-2 hour drive in heavy traffic to Tula (an area north of Mexico City) — the other travelers were several Unitus employees and 6-8 others like me who were interested in learning more about what Unitus does, and how microfinance impacts poor borrowers. We arrived at our hotel in Tula, the Hotel Real Del Bosque, which was quite nice, and then crashed. The next day, we went into Tula and visited the main Pro Mujer Mexico office — the center’s director, Armando Laborde, introduced us to his staff, showed us a map of their different loan offices, and talked of their growth plans — it was really compelling to see how hard they were all working, and also how much they truly seemed to appreciate the relationship they have with the Unitus team.
I’ll leave out a lot of detail, but the remainder of the day and the following day were amazing — we were able to sit in on a loan repayment meeting, where women came to make their bi-weekly loan payments (remember that many of the loans start at levels as low as $100, and then have short 6-month repayments; when they repay their loan, they know that they’re automatically eligible for a follow-on loan), contribute their required savings, and then watched their training class (the topic on this day was ‘Communication’).
After that, we went out to the markets to visit Pro Mujer borrowers at their businesses — we met with shopkeepers selling produce, dresses, and more, and also visited a home where a woman used her loan to purchase cooking materials and supplies to make cheese, and then sell it door-to-door to friends — she was quite proud of her operation… she showed us how she mixed all the ingredients and then shared some of her finished product… the cheese was delicious, and the proceeds have allowed her to support her family of 4 children and a husband who has been laid off for the last 6 months — very impressive.
We also got some touristing activities in… got to visit the pyramids… always amazing to see these tremendous feats of determination!
In the end, the personal introduction to microfinance was very powerful — was inspirational to see the Pro Mujer Mexico staff, especially, as these people don’t need to be doing this… management is staffed by professionals who could easily find higher-paying work in Mexico City; however, they believe in what they’re doing is making a difference, and honestly, I agree with them.
If you’d like to hear more about the trip, contact me!