Monday, April 30, 2012

Board Member Visits Projects in Granada

About a week ago, one of our board members, Michelle Piche, and her husband, Jeff, came down to see our projects in action. Michelle wanted to share her experience so that you all could get an idea of what you could expect to see if you came down to visit. We had such a great time with Michelle and Jeff, and we're thankful for their continued support of our projects.

Alex

Jeff and I went to Nicaragua this April to learn a bit about what exactly PHPG did for those in Granada. What an eye opener! For one thing, just being in the country was amazing. It was quite warm (a balmy 95+ each day), and the country was stunning. Isabel and Alex took us to see one of the communities that they work with, a barrio just outside of the city of Granada. The way of living was a bit of a culture shock. They have power that is inconsistent, and it’s incredible the crude way in which they have their power lines. Many of the connections had bare or exposed wires. Water was pumped from a local area and then sent to water faucets in different areas of the barrios. Then the people could collect the water in buckets and brought it to their homes.

Michelle, Jeff, & Isabel pose with Teadora, a PHPG
loan recipient, and her family
While visiting the recipients of PHPG loans, the Nicaraguans were very eager to show us what they were doing with these loans. Some had opened pulperias, bought wood to chop and sell as fire wood, bought used clothes to sell as a second hand store, or purchased produce that they can then sell at market. Each family we met was eager to greet us and show us their homes and businesses. There was definitely a sense of pride. One of the recipients shared in detail how his three children were in school (an opportunity that not all can take advantage of) and his wife was taking courses at University. His son was also learning how to use the computer that they were able to purchase.

We visited another community that also receives loans. This was on a stunningly beautiful inlet near the islands. There are many fishermen there and some loans were used to buy items for fishing, some had stores, and one recipient was growing pepper plants to then sell at market.

The most amazing part of our visit was, of course, Isabel and Alex. They are greeted by many people in the city of Granada as well as in the communities. They are greeted with smiles, handshakes and, at times, gifts to show their appreciation (when I say gifts, it is usually in the form of food).

Needless to say, we both would go back in a heartbeat! It was an amazing visit.

Michelle and Jeff Piche

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hola!

Hello! My name is Tom Schroeder, and I’ll be joining People Helping People Global this summer as an intern. I came to Nicaragua at the beginning of March to study at the Universidad Americana-Managua (UAM), and I could not be happier to extend my stay throughout the summer.

 From the people, to the landscapes, this country is phenomenal! I’ve spent the majority of my college career at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Nebraska where I study Political Science and Spanish with a minor in International Affairs. This last year though I stepped outside the normal classroom setting and decided to get a truly experiential education.

 I spent three weeks of this past summer in India and came back to the United States with a fresh gleam of idealism in my eyes and set to work trying to save the world one child at a time as a teaching assistant with Americorps-VISTA. However, that idealism faded as I set off to Hong Kong to spend a semester abroad at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I made fantastic friends, great business connections and had plenty of hazy nights courtesy of Hong Kong’s “Work Hard, Play Hard” philosophy, but I lost track of the person that I was. I left the country feeling jaded with my mind dominated by thoughts of stock options and internships with financial powerhouses.

Now, after travelling independently and studying in Nicaragua I have gotten back to the person I truly am, someone that just wants to help others smile as much as I do. I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunities to chag├╝itea with the locals, traverse this beautiful country and build houses at “La Chureca."

Apart from working with PHPG this summer, I will also be working in Managua at Research Triangle Institute International exploring more institutional based development. I hope that from these experience with PHPG and RTI I don’t just walk away with a greater knowledge of developing countries, but also a feeling that I made a difference.

Cheers,
Tom

Friday, April 6, 2012

Intern #5...!


Hello! 
I’m Alex Bergonia and I will also be working as an intern for PHPG this summer in Granada! I am currently finishing up the last few weeks of my junior year at Claremont McKenna College where I am studying government and economics with a concentration in international development. I am originally from Kenilworth, Illinois and went to high school at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Since high school, I have had the opportunity to embark on numerous adventures abroad, and have come to know many diverse cultures around the world. I have traveled around Europe extensively and have also been to China. I have spent six-weeks living and working in the Salta region of Argentina and have visited Brazil, Mexico, and several Caribbean Islands; however, I have never visited Central America.

While I have been interested in international development since I began college, my desire to work in microfinance was cemented over the past year. I spent a total of six months abroad – four in Cape Town, South Africa where I was also able to visit Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. While there, I conducted an independent study that sought to uncover the reasons why the post-apartheid government’s system of affirmative action, Black Economic Empowerment, has failed to empower the majority of disadvantaged South Africans. I discovered that BEE was based on corruption, favoritism and political patronage, and had only succeeded in empowering crony capitalists and creating a wealthy black elite. There is enormous entrepreneurial potential prevalent in South Africa’s townships and cities. The absence of successful government systems of wealth redistribution necessitates the involvement of outside actors to fill the void. This is where microfinance comes in. My studies and experience in South Africa cemented by belief that a small amount of capital invested in individual business ventures is the most effective way to combat poverty. After my experience in South Africa, I knew that I wanted to learn more about the grassroots implementation of microfinance, and how foreign aid and charity can be sustainably invested and maximized abroad.
I am so excited to have the opportunity to study microfinance this summer with such a young and vibrant organization. I can’t wait to meet my new co-workers and the people of Granada, improve my Spanish and come to know a new part of the world.

I’m counting down the days and can’t wait for this summer!!
See you soon!

Alex

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Intern #4!!

Hey guys!

I am so excited to be working for People Helping People Global this summer. Aside from a brief trip to Mexico to fulfill the quintessential college spring break experience, I have never traveled anywhere in Central America.  The chance to work and live in Nicaragua for two months will be a new and adventurous opportunity for me!

A little about me… I am currently a junior at Claremont McKenna College studying International Relations with a focus in third world economic development.  Coming originally from the east coast, I am absolutely loving the California lifestyle – it’s active, endlessly sunny, and teeming with cheery, happy people.  My interest in working for PHPG is directly related to my academic concentration and my future career aspirations, both of which are manifested in past travel and work experience.  I am fascinated by the so-called ‘culture of poverty’ that exists throughout the world and the seemingly unanswerable questions that often inhibit progress.  As a result, traveling  and experiencing new and diverse cultures has become one of my passions in life – and one of the ways in which I have attempted to gain insight into the mystery of perpetual poverty.

In addition to living and working in Fiji for a short period after 9th grade, I recently returned from spending a semester abroad in Madagascar where I gained first-hand experience living with local Malagasy people, some of whom live day-to-day off of less than the equivalent of $2 dollars per day.  It was a crazy experience, to say the least, and one that taught me a lot about Malagasy culture, about personal relationships, and about life in general. In terms of development, my experiences have taught me that every situation in which poverty is a pertinent problem in any given community is caused by factors that are not consistent throughout the world: people are poor, become poor, and arise from poverty for different reasons. I have chosen to pursue this internship because I believe that grassroots microlending targeted at specific communities is the most efficient way of tackling the issue of poverty in the particular case of Nicaragua – and I would really like to be a part of that effort.

Thanks so much and I can’t wait for this summer – counting down the days!

All the best,
Emma