When you manage a large, global organization, the temptation is to reduce the people you work with and the clients your serve to a stream of colorless statistics. Everything changes when you go to the field and the numbers turn into real people, with real lives.
I had the opportunity to visit one of our branches in Quito, Ecuador, this week, and talk with our frontline staff. Carlos, one of our credit officers, was going over his payment arrears list when I stopped in, and we spent about a half hour chatting. He had about 3% of his clients experiencing repayment problems, and I asked him to go down the list of names and explain to me what was behind each of the outstanding sums.
“This woman’s son was in an automobile accident,” he explained. “He’s now in a vegetative state, and everything she earns has to go to keep him alive. Fortunately, his accident will be covered by our health insurance, and she will have money to cover the costs.”
He pointed to the next name on the list. “This man drives a truck, and he hit and killed a pedestrian. He claims it was not his fault, but they put him in jail anyway. Now the family of the deceased is offering to drop the case against him if he comes up with $10,000. The other members of his Village Bank (a borrower group) are holding a raffle to help him raise the money.”
The lives of the world’s poor are fraught with risks and perils most of us can’t imagine in our worst nightmares. They reside in neighborhoods where crime is prevalent. They and their families are exposed to risk every time they have to travel from one place to another. Their lives are struggle enough, but when they get hit with an unexpected tragedy, like these two FINCA clients, then things can become unbearable. Fortunately, being part of the “FINCA Family”, we can offer some recourse.
I’m proud of the work our team is doing in Ecuador.