Author Archives: bmoore

About bmoore

Rebecca Moore is pursuing her Masters in Global Policy Studies with a focus on international development at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.  She is expecting to graduate in December 2012.  
Rebecca attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY and graduated in 2008 with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering.  After graduating from RPI, she taught English at a high school in northern Thailand.  Originally from Westchester, New York, she moved to Austin in August of 2010 for graduate school.
Rebecca is currently interning for People Helping People Global, a micro-lending organization, in Granada, Nicaragua.

A day in the life of…

For my last blog, I’d like to talk specifically about one individual loan recipient, Miriam Mendoza, whom we had the pleasure of interviewing for a short promotional video for People Helping People Global.

Miriam is 38 and lives in Nueva Esperanza, a community on the outskirts of Granada, Nicaragua. With her loan from PHPG, she and her husband started a small business selling firewood out of their home. They purchase large logs and then chop, bundle, and sell it as firewood to local pulperias (convenience stores).

Miriam has 9 children (ages 7 to 25) and 2 grandchildren. Her oldest daughter lives in a small house on the same property with the 2 grandchildren, and Miriam lives with her husband and four youngest children in a slightly larger house. Miriam makes a modest income with her business, but her earnings have allowed her to make repairs on her house and to replace the plastic walls of her daughter’s house with wood paneling. She told us that as a young woman, she had hoped for an office job, but never received the education that would qualify her for one. During the interview, when asked what her dream job is, she replied, “To work more.” She is truly grateful to be working to support her family.

During and after the interview, we played tag and joked around with Miriam’s adorable family. We took countless pictures of and with her family. Her elder daughters loved using our camera, and all of them were excited to see the pictures afterwards.

The individual interviews we did for the mini-documentaries were among the best days of my time in Nicaragua. It was wonderful spending time with individual loan recipients and their families and getting to know them on a personal level. We spent one morning with Oswaldo Calderón, who is on his second loan with PHPG. Oswaldo is one of the most friendly and energetic people I’ve met. His smile is contagious! Here is the video from his interview:

My last project for the internship, which I will work on in Austin, is to edit the footage from Miriam’s interview to create a short video that captures the essence of her life, family, and job.

I’d like to give a special thanks the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the Crook Fellowship for making my internship in Nicaragua possible!

Update from Nicaragua

An update on the past several weeks…

June was full of interviews. There are a total of 75 loan applicants and over the course of June, we interviewed each and every one of them. The interviews themselves were fairly straight forward, although, at times, I had to repeat my questions and the loan applicants answers to make sure I was understanding correctly and getting all the information we need.

An interview in Pantanal, Granada, Nicaragua

The most difficult part of the interview process was finding where each applicant lives. There are no formal addresses in Nicaragua, especially not in the communities on the outskirts of Granada where we work. Addresses are described by distances and directions from major landmarks, such as a school, a church, the health center, or the old water tank. The first few days of interviews we spent a lot of time trying to figure out where people lived. Even with Gilberts and Marcela, the Nicaraguan employees, we had a hard time finding some of the applicants. There was one group that was particularly hard to find. The directions to their house (translated to English) said ‘From the health center, 3 blocks to the west and one to the east.’ We asked a woman who lives in that vicinity and she did not know any of the women we were looking for. We found the group of women eventually, but it took a few days and a lot of asking around.

After finishing the initial interviews with new loan applicants, we switched focus to interview each current loan recipients in Granada; there are over 150 current recipients! These mid-loan interviews focus on collecting information about our clients’ quality of life, how the loan has helped them, suggestions for how we can improve the organization, and what other programs they would like to see in their community. Suggestions for new programs have included computer classes, sports programs for children, educational programs for children, vocational training, and groups for new mothers. My original idea was to try to incorporate health education into the micro-finance model, but we decided it would be better to gauge our clients’ opinions on what they would like to see in their community in order to create a more sustainable program. Not all of the suggested programs fall within the mission of People Helping People Global, but for those that don’t PHPG could help organize or link community members to other organizations that offer other programs in the area. We had hoped to be at a later stage in analysing the responses to the suggestions for new programs by the end of the internship, but we will have to leave that for the founders or future interns. Our progress on the interview front was slowed by two unfortunate events: the death of Gilberts’s father and the death of Marcela’s uncle, both about a month and a half ago. Since then, Gilberts has taken over his fathers’ business, which has been a tough transition for him and left him with little time to work with PHPG.

The interviews themselves are wonderful. We’ve really enjoyed getting to know our clients better and making stronger connections with the community. In addition to the interviews, a few of us have spent a few mornings and afternoons shadowing and filming a few clients in order to create mini-documentaries that show a glimpse of their everyday lives: their jobs and families, what they did with the loans, and how the loans have helped them. These have been the most rewarding experiences for me and my fellow interns. I’m putting together a brief profile of one of the loan recipients we shadowed in the past few weeks for my next blog post. Stay tuned!

Summer Internship with People Helping People Global (PHPG)

Hello All,

My name is Becca Moore. I am pursuing my Masters in Global Policy Studies at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, focusing on international development.  Now granted the opportunity to apply my academic knowledge to a practical setting, I have begun a rigorous internship with People Helping People Global (PHPG), a non-profit micro-lending organization based out of Vermont.  PHPG offers micro-loans to individuals in Nicaragua who earn less than $2 a day, enabling disadvantaged entrepreneurs to start or expand their business.  The majority of the loan recipients live in Granada, which is where I will be based for the duration of my internship in Nicaragua.

While in Granada, I am working directly with PHPG’s Nicaraguan employees, Gilberts and Marcela, and receiving guidance from the organization’s co-founders, Alex and Isabel, who are currently managing PHPG’s microfinance activities from the States.  My role within the organization is to assist the local staff in the loan process, to identify ways in which to increase PHPG’s efficiency and effectiveness, and to act as a liaison between the donor community and the loan recipients.

This past semester I researched how health education programs have been combined with micro-finance programs.  My goal is to apply what I learned through this research to help develop and implement a health education component to the loan process.  I plan on working with the local employees, loan recipients, local health professionals, and fellow interns to explore this idea.

Through shadowing Gilberts and Marcela during the repayment meetings, I have become familiar with the community and some of the loan recipients.  This week, we (the local staff and summer interns) began to interview prospective loan recipients for a new set of loans that will be given out in August.  The initial interviews both assess the applicants’ respective incomes and business plans to determine whether they qualify for loans and gather information about their families and quality of life.  Over the next few weeks, we will be interviewing a total of 75 new recipients.

I want to end my first blog post by thanking the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the William H. Crook Program for the Crook Fellowship that made this internship possible!