I recently traveled to Estelí, Nicaragua to fulfill one portion of my job as the Development Associate for Whole Planet Foundation, Whole Foods Market’s non-profit that supports microlending programs in countries and communities where we source products. Microcredit is small loans given to the poorest of the poor, with a focus on women, so that they can invest in their own businesses and pull themselves out of poverty over time. I was on a mission to meet with the women we are supporting through this microlending program to discover if we are having an impact. Does microlending work? What is being done with the microloans?To learn more, I spent time with the women (and some men), in their homes and visiting their businesses. Our partner on the ground, Pro Mujer, a microfinance institution, has long standing relationships with these communities and due to that strong friendship, I was welcomed by the individuals we support. One of the women I met with, Aracely Cruz, runs a cake business out of her very modest home. Until recently, she did not qualify to receive a loan from a traditional bank and without cash, she didn’t have a way to grow her business which is the sole source of income for her and her four children. One of the true values of microlending programs, is that they don’t require collateral or request that the individuals sign a contract. When Aracely learned about Pro Mujer, she was brave enough to take out a loan of $150. The funds have enabled her to buy greater quantities of ingredients for her cakes and she increased her production from 10 to 55 cakes per week. Aracely told me about her plans to move her wood burning oven into her home and repair the dilapidated walls in her house with profits from her cake business. Extreme poverty is evident in Aracely’s neighborhood –we saw children dig through landfills looking for small pieces of metal to sell for extra money- so Aracely’s success with microcredit has given real hope to her family and peers. Aracely expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to take out a loan without having any collateral. She is determined to grow her business and create a better life for her and her children. She told me, confidently, “My word is my collateral.”Whole Planet Foundation has provided loans to over 16,500 individuals, like Aracely, in the developing world since its inception in 2005. Meeting with borrowers is an important part of our work as a Foundation and we are continually amazed by their resilience and hard work to create a higher standard of living for their families and for their children’s future.Hallie is the Development Associate for Whole Planet Foundation. In this role, she supports the team in communications- including writing borrower stories, partnership development and fundraising programs. She has extensive travel, study and work experience in Latin America and is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. Hallie has a BA in Psychology from Texas A&M University and enjoys traveling, music and rock climbing.