Guatemala is filled with the indigenous Maya people like Raul, one of the NGO Long Way Home’s employees. Over the course of my weeks volunteering at the school construction site, I never saw Raul without a genuine smile on his face and a tool in his hand. Raul is one of countless survivors of Guatemala’s volatile history. He also happens to be one of the first recipients of Long Way Home’s new microcredit program.
Ever since learning that microcredit existed, I thought it would be a great way to help at-risk populations work their way out of poverty. I was so excited by this concept that I told everyone I knew about it. I was even able to convince my incredible wife, Stephanie, to give a portion of money that we received at our wedding to this idea.
All of my professors were in support of my interest too. As with most things, a particular professor stood out among the rest. Professsor Connie Daniel invited me to teach a class dedicated to this pilot microcredit program. She also set up a grant from Westfield State University to fund this program.
I was so energized by this grant that I told my friends at Long Way Home. They agreed that it would fit in with Long Way Home’s vision as a nonprofit. Genevieve Croker, the organization’s Director of Development, took it under her wing and used her expertise to create the program. Connie and I were able to provide $3,000 in seed funding to provide small loans when I arrived in March.
In the first process, we awarded three loans, one of which went to Raul. He is using the money to build his family a bathroom, and a kitchen with a fuel-efficient, ventilated stove. This stove will replace the cooking fire that currently billows smoke in his home.
The folks at Long Way Home are here to help Comalapa – a remarkable town with a rich Mayan heritage. It’s clear to me that Long Way Home exists to support the community while it heals itself from tragedy and moves above the poverty line with its identity intact.
by Alex Sinclair
LWH Volunteer, Donor and MicroLoan Committee Member