Thursday, August 13, 2009

Waterfalls and success stories

Hey everyone!

I wanted to give you a quick update about what’s been going on in the Dominican – I have been having QUITE the adventure as of late. I won’t share all the intimate details of each day, but I had the most amazing outdoors weekend here in the Dominican. I went to a city called Jarabacoa with six others. This is basically the outdoors center of the Dominican, as it is up in the mountains, has a slightly different climate, and has all sorts of outdoor activities to partake in.

Sunday was spent doing what is called “canyoning”. What exactly is that? Basically, there is a little canyon carved by a river and what I got to do was go down a certain section of it – which included repelling down waterfalls. It was AMAZING. There were 3 separate waterfalls which we repelled down with the first two being around 6 meters high and 10 meters high. The last one? 35 meters high. That’s over 110 feet. It was absolutely incredible! And also the craziest thing I’ve ever done. If I didn’t know what an adrenaline rush was before, this definitely confirmed that my body can produce it. I’ve never been one for going down completely horizontal to the ground from such heights, but I can say that this was a great experience for me. It helped me get out of my “I don’t like taking risks” shell a bit, in a safe environment. I wish I had pictures of the trip, but sadly we didn’t have a camera. Here’s a photo of the tall waterfall we repelled down so you can see it though:

Along with this repelling, we got to swim down the river, slide down various rapids on our (now bruised) behinds, and we even got to zip line (!!) down one. Basically, the experience was awesome.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights were all spent at an American boarding school which is in Jarabacoa. One of the interns spent two years there, and they were nice enough to rent out to us their guest house. We were able to make s’mores, cook our own chicken and curry dinners, and more. It was very relaxing and a great place to go back to.

On Monday, we went to what is called the 27 Waterfalls (27 charcos), which was described to us as one of the coolest things you can do in the entire country. Basically, there is this river up in the mountains where a river has cut out 27 waterfalls in close succession, ranging from 2 meters high to up to 8-10 meters. Some waterfalls are better to slide down, as they have carved paths where you can go down, and most are better for jumping. It was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. I have a couple photos here of our trip, and you can see how beautiful the scenery was. We just spent 3 hours in this beautiful setting, enjoying the feeling of jumping from rocks and good friends. I can’t think of a better afternoon to have. Enjoy the following photos! I highly recommend that you do this if you are ever in the Dominican. It only costs $14 and is an unforgettable experience.

I wanted to end off by showing you a copy of a ”Journal” which I did for Kiva recently. Basically, when a loan which is funded through Kiva ends, there is a follow up which needs to happen so that those who loaned are able to hear how the busineses are going, how the borrower’s situation has improved/worsened, etc. I was able to talk to one amazing woman named Inocencia. Her story is fantastic. I just copy and pasted the Kiva journal I wrote so you can see it here, followed with her picture.

Dear lender,

My name is Nate Sooter, and I am working with Esperanza International this summer here in the Dominican Republic. One of my opportunities is to catch up with borrowers who have taken out a loan with Kiva and Esperanza, in order to tell you, the lenders, how they are doing after the loan. I had the immense pleasure to speak with Inocencia Ortiz just yesterday, one of the La Amistad group members you lent to. I wanted to pass along an update to you about how her business is doing today, how your loan had a direct impact in her life and a few other updates.

Inocencia is happy to let you know she successfully finished paying her loan back a couple months ago. Her business is to hand-make, from her home, curtains, sheets and blankets for beds, tablecloths and more. She buys the thread and materials directly, and then uses machines in a room of her house to customize the orders she receives from those in her neighborhood. She also rides on a motorcycle with her son to other towns here on the Samaná peninsula to increase her sales possibilities. Though – she added with a laugh – she sometimes finds herself caught in an unpredictable tropical rainstorm. She is able to shrug this off with a good sense of humor and try to travel on only sunny days.

In fact, in these other towns, Inocencia is so well known and she is such a good businesswoman, she is able to sell on credit, and collects payments form those who cannot pay for their purchase immediately. This allows her to not only sell more, but allows her to help those who might not otherwise be able to save up for new bed sheets or a tablecloth.
After finishing the loan you gave her, she has currently been able to take out another loan with Esperanza – her eighth cycle. Inocencia is proud to state how she has never been behind on a payment in her nearly four years with Esperanza – including your loan through Kiva. With each loan, she tells me that her business has been growing. She is able to buy more varied materials and fabric. She is excited for the future of her business, and is very thankful for your support.

Inocencia also related to me how concrete of a difference your loan has made in her life. Through the microfinance process, Inocencia obtained enough profits to purchase the motorcycle I mentioned. This investment has allowed her to continue to expand her sales beyond just where she can reach on foot. The photo I included with this journal is of her on this motorcycle.

More importantly, while she was repaying back the loan you offered her, Inocencia was able to come to the aid of her son, who had a construction work-related accident. At 25, José was using a hammer and had an accident which seriously injured his eye. However, due to the extra profits Inocencia has received through investing in her business with the loan of you and others, she was able to get hospital care immediately for her son, medical tests, and eventually a surgery which saved the sight in José’s left eye. Many entrepreneurs I have spoken to in the Dominican have had a similar situation to Inocencia – the money goes to cover emergency medical expenses which otherwise would go untreated or would cause some to resort to receiving loans from moneylenders who demand upwards of 100-120% interest. This story alone can help you rest assured that your loan had a direct impact on lives here in the Dominican – José today can see out of his left eye in part due to your investment in Inocencia’s business.

In the future, Inocencia is hoping to save up money to continue upgrading her home. She hopes to fix the roof – which is currently just made of tin and can rust when the rainy season arrives – and hopes to construct some walls out of concrete blocks, rather than just wood.

Again, thank you very much for your loan to Inocencia and the others in La Amistad. Though I am only able to relate this story from one of the 15 members you lent to, you can be certain that your loan had an impact on each and every individual life of the borrowers. These loans through Kiva have a concrete and direct effect on the lives of women and men living here in the Dominican Republic, and I encourage you to continue lending on Kiva.

Now that this loan has been successfully paid back, consider giving to another Esperanza loan. For a list of all the Esperanza International loans currently seeking funding through Kiva here in the Dominican Republic, please click here: Currently Fundraising Esperanza Loans

Muchas gracias de todos aquí en la República Dominicana por tu préstamo a Inocencia!

Until next time,


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