Where Are They Now: The Valdez Family
Written by Becky Rosaler on October 22, 2015 in Where Are They Now?
Just off the winding road that takes you high above the shore of Lake Hatillo is the community of El Zamo. Colorful Caribbean homes peak out amongst the lush green foliage—a mixed-up blend of farms and native forest. In front of the orange and yellow cinderblock house stands a billboard advertising a candidate who is running for local office.
I first met Papolo through his parents, Susana and Augustine Valdez. It wasn’t in person. It was through the Hope of Change video that shared the difference Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) were bringing to rural communities in the Dominican Republic. VSLAs provide financial services not typically found in remote villages including a safe place to save money and the opportunity to take out a loan with an affordable interest rate.
If you’re like me, you wonder what long-term impact Plant With Purpose is having on partnering families. Three years have passed since being introduced to the Valdez family. And during these three years, Susana, Augustine, Papolo, the entire Valdez family, and the community of El Zamo has thrived.
Setting foot in El Zamo felt strangely familiar as faces I’d become acquainted with began to appear. Papolo was the first to greet us and graciously agreed—appreciating the humor of the situation—to taking a picture in front of the giant billboard with his image on it.
We then got to catch up while walking to his farm. Papolo was asked how the community has changed since incorporating VSLAs. He shared that former community groups used to strive to make improvements to the area but they didn’t implement savings. Little by little the community has changed with the introduction of savings. There is a culture of saving that wasn’t there before. Now everyone is striving to save. People are investing their loans into their homes. Houses that were wooden are now built out of bricks. Money from the VSLA has been used to finance improvements to the aqueduct. People are opening their own businesses and not waiting on the government to provide employment. People are buying property to build homes.
Papolo shared that he has been able to buy additional land as well as a car all because of his discipline of savings. And he concluded by saying, “The best thing that has happened to this community is working with Plant With Purpose. They do it all without taking a nickel from us. They have been an important organization in every moment of our lives. We’ve reached a higher standard of living.”
The most sincere moment took place next as a comment was made about the leadership skills Papolo received from Plant With Purpose. Papolo deflected the praise and said that it is first and foremost something that he learned from his mother.
El Zamo—the title translates to “becoming” in Hausa—continues to do just that, become all that God intends them to be with the Valdez family leading the way.