I am exactly one month into my internship with MEDA partner MiCrédito in Nicaragua and I have fallen in love with this country and its people! My first four weeks have been a whirlwind, but I am grateful for the diverse experiences, both personal and professional, that I have gained already. My days have been filled with everything from touring churches in colonial cities to visiting MiCrédito clients at their farms and businesses.
One of my first tasks as a MEDA Rural Microfinance Intern was to assist MiCrédito’s management team in preparing its 2015 annual report. For me, this task was perfect as it gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about MiCrédito’s history and mission. While learning about the institution, I have been consistently impressed by its scope and reach in Nicaragua. MiCrédito was established with MEDA’s support in 2004 and now boasts 11 branches throughout the country and 7036 clients benefitting from diverse products including small business loans, sanitation and housing improvement loans, and preventive health care services, just to name a few!
While I have significant experience in Latin America (I have studied in Argentina, travelled to Guatemala, Chile, Uruguay, and the Dominican Republic, and specialized in the region during my Master’s degree), I am so grateful for the opportunity to gain work experience in the region. Even in the space of a month, I feel as though I have learned so much about Nicaragua’s business culture and microfinance sector. In addition to the expansion of my vocabulary in Spanish to include words like “equity” and “balance sheets,” I’ve also had the opportunity to learn more about the microfinance industry, and especially the concept of “inclusive financial services.” While MiCrédito is a private company, its mission is to “create business solutions that include both social and financial support to micro and small entrepreneurs.” MiCrédito staff know that access to financial services is a matter of social justice, because those without these services, micro and small entrepreneurs experience insecurity and limited opportunities for business expansion.
In the next five months, I am looking forward to supporting MiCrédito’s work toward this mission of socially and financially including Nicaraguans that have been overlooked by the formal banking system. Some of my planned responsibilities include conducting a social impact assessment of the institution’s student loan, sanitation, and women entrepreneurship programs. I am also going to be helping to draft a proposal for a new MiCrédito branch in Río Blanco and will be assisting the communications team with promotional material including client impact stories and news articles.