FSD Nicaragua Alumnus 2016 Spotlight: Jose Sandoval
While in Nicaragua Jose worked with FSD community partner, Alternativa, which is a microfinance organization located in Masaya. During his nine-week internship Jose worked with Alternativa to create a structured process, which allows Alternativa to train, equip, and unite small business owners that work in similar business sectors the ability to work as a group. This allowed these small-scale entrepreneurs the opportunity to attend workshops focused on product development and administrative knowledge.
Living in Masaya offered Jose the opportunity to not only experience microfinance with Alternativa, but he was also able to take advantage of the cultural immersion aspect of his FSD internship. Living next to the central plaza in Masaya allowed Jose to take place in all the cultural celebrations and holidays celebrated in Nicaragua.
An impactful person during my time abroad was, Don Leonardo, the head of Alternativa. He always demonstrated a positive attitude and an eagerness to help and was readily available and was constantly suggesting different places and people to visit to get a better understanding of how I could improve my project. I can definitely say that if it were not for all the time that Don Leonardo took from his schedule to help me, my project would not have turned out the way it did.Visiting Dona Leticia, one of the women in Alternativa’s textile network, was an eye opening experience. Although she lived in the outskirts of Masaya in a small tin roof house, she was always extremely welcoming and receptive to all our advice. Going to her house and seeing her reality made me realize how much of a technological and educational disadvantage that she was in. On the flip side, it encouraged me to try to make my project even better so that people like Dona Leticia could benefit from it.
Through my experiences with Alternativa, I tried to implement accounting journals with the loan recipients. People would use these journals to make sure they weren’t losing money in their small business. After providing an example of the revenue and the costs from data that I collected from the business owners we were helping, the profits they were making were close to none. What specifically stands out about these accounting journals and subsequent workshop was that at the end when I asked for people reaction, Dona Leticia instantly responded, “I’m losing money”. The startled look on her face said it all. Although nobody would like to be informed that they have been losing money in his or her business, at least knowing that she was losing will have her reconsider her choices moving forward.
Because of this, one development principle that kept coming up time and time again was how essential needs assessments are. I think many times interns come into this internship with a preconceived notion of what a certain organization or group of people should do without really evaluating what they need help in. Therefore, understanding that one of the most important and fundamental aspects of development and this internship is to detach yourself of what you “think” and look at what the particular “need” your project is addressing.
The Impact of an FSD Internship
I came away from my internship with a completely new perspective of how I view my life in relation to other people’s lives in the rest of the world. It helped me understand how fortunate I am to be a university student in the U.S. In part, because there are a myriad of opportunities within my reach. In a nutshell, I realized that I am among the world’s top 1% in terms of the opportunities within my reach.