Posted by Deborah Held, USNO Board member
Back in the van to our last program of the day, I'm a little wilted from the midday heat and the demands all these new experiences make on my attention. We walk a few feet from the main road, across the white dusty earth and suddenly there is a cool shaded village by a clear pond. Boys are diving and swimming and shouting. We are here to visit a community savings and loan cooperative, initiated by Plan, run by the people of the village.
The heat in the community center was relieved by the ceiling fans above us. The people of the village had built the center with money raised by their savings. They didn't need a bank; they had created their own bank. It was quite impressive. Plan had started it off ten years earlier with a small amount of seed money and helped set up the model for the people in the co-op. The people had made it work for them.
One of the men in the group, friendly but direct, stood up and addressed us. The translation was easy. He asked, “We have had a lot of visitors travel from far away to our community center asking us questions about our savings and loan. Can you each tell me why you came?”
It was a good question. Why was I there? I stood up to answer the man. “I want to see for myself if this is a good way to help you help your children achieve their potential.” And, I thought, to share what I see with people back home that care.
We saw many more programs in beautiful Barahona, Early Childhood learning centers, other micro finance and savings and loan programs, a community/Plan built school... We had the great pleasure of getting to know some of the Plan Dominican Republic staff: Country Director Brechtje Van Lith, young Dutch mother of three children, the deeply dedicated Dominicans who work there: Ara Martinez, expert in gender issues and Olga Figuereo, Program Unit Manager. We asked these experts anything and everything that occurred to us and they were happy to answer our questions, explore our suggestions and give us great confidence in the work they do in the Dominican Republic. And I can report: Yes, what Plan is helping these parents and children do is a good way to help the children achieve their potential