For 34 years, Diaconia Nacional de Honduras has been providing support to their community in the agricultural and environmental sectors, through community transformation and health initiatives, and through their microfinancing programs, which have helped to create almost 700 jobs in the past 15 years. They’ve seen businesses succeed, fail, start over, and everything in between, and have been committed to walking alongside them.
But, as it has with business owners across the globe, COVID-19 has brought new challenges for their members.
For many clients, their businesses have not grown to create enough income to survive and so they also depend on funding from family members. Lety Tajada, Loan Program Coordinator for DN, shares: “Much of the income our clients receive is from their businesses and family businesses, but also a very high percentage is derived from remittances. Most of the member’s relatives who send remittances from the US have either lost their businesses, have died, or are unemployed”.
Because of this, at least 60% of their clients have not been able to make payments on their loans. Lety has been actively calling clients one by one, asking how they are doing and how they are coping, giving words of encouragement and praying for them. However, as the economic situation in general has been getting worse, she has noticed that most people are simply trying to survive.
“Most people are asking for basic food, to be able to survive, as they live from daily sales.”
Those who are able to think about repaying their loans have asked for loan restructuring, lower payments, grace periods, etc. and DN has been evaluating each case depending on the business. Lety shares:
“It’s important to analyze each business separately because there are businesses that have closed completely, but others have innovated and progressed, taking advantage of current needs”.
One such example is a young business owner who has a saddlery and used to make leather bags, wallets, and shoes. However, since these types of products are nonessential, he adapted and is now making equipment for horses, horse saddles, and boots. This has worked well for him because many agriculture-centered businesses are still open and people working in the field are in need of equipment.
There is another client who was an educator, but has pivoted to doing door-to-door sales for as long as she needs to, and other businesses have been able to change their model to adapt to the circumstance. Some are selling fruits and vegetables through mobile avenues such as trucks or pickups, going from one neighborhood to the other in an effort to make the food accessible and not allow it to rot.
Additionally, Lety and her team have been creating online groups to be able to connect the clients so that they can sell their products to one another, and the overall response has been positive although they each still feel the weight of their lack of outside sales.
DN has been active in leading campaigns to collect funds and distribute basic food packages to the most vulnerable, as well as communicating the need to those that can help at a local level. When the economy starts to reopen, Diaconia desires to provide relief loans to their clients, so that they can survive either starting up from scratch again, or building on top of what was left before COVID crisis started.
DN plans to keep mentoring in one-on-ones and to recover loans as much as possible when the crisis ends, but their main goal is to continue strengthening relationships and seek every possible way to help the businesses recover from the crisis financially.
“In the future", Lety shares, "we will continue to connect with the PW partners, the business affiliates, and the staff members to make connections for ongoing mentoring, training, and access to capital.”