My name is Ha Lam and I am the National Projects Photographer for Whole Foods Market. Over the last two years, I've had the opportunity -- and privilege -- to meet several recipients of Whole Planet Foundation micro-loans. Those trips, which spanned South and Central America, have been nothing short of amazing. Though our time was short with each borrower, I felt a connection with each woman. At times I wondered: How much can you really learn about people after being in their homes for just a few hours? The relics of our lives, the ones we live with every day, the ones we quit paying attention to years ago -- those are the things that often say the most about us.
When we meet the women, they generally meet us with proud, warm smiles and open arms. They tell us about how the loans have helped them, how the money has changed their lives. But they also tell us about their struggles, about the wars and crimes and job migrations that also have reshaped their worlds.
In Honduras, one woman we met sits on the bed, on which she sleeps in the middle of her one-room store. She holds the dog tags belonging to her son, the one who could not find work in their small village and so he moved away. She is surrounded by the inventory she’s been able to purchase for her business, all because of the loan. We can see the hope in her face.
Elsewhere in Honduras, we met a small group of women in a quiet costal community. Most of the men in the area had moved away, also unable to find work there. To better their lives, and care for their children, these women obtained a loan together. It made these longtime friends closer.
At times the streets in the village are almost eerily quiet, broken only by the sound of their children playing in the streets -- the echo of joy and hope. Hope is the one commonality I recongize in the faces we meet in every country we visit. Regardless of the situation the borrowers are in, the loans, it seems, is all they need for the proverbial door to open a bit wider for them. And I am so proud to have had the chance to witness, and help chronicle, those hopes and successes.