DOMINICAN REPUBLIC—Missions and business commingle in the Dominican Republic, where Buckner International will work alongside Wilshire Baptist Church and Esperanza International, a 14-year-old Christian microfinance organization, to make an impact on families through small-business start-up loans and community programs.
“Our first priority will be starting a Community Transformation Center in the Los Alcarrizos province in the capitol city,” said Tricia Dominguez, director of Buckner Dominican Republic. “We will also begin making connections with government officials in hopes of starting a foster care program.”
Dominguez, an attorney, worked for Esperanza two years as education coordinator, helping to establish an after-school program in Los Alcarrizos. Education is just one of piece of the transformation puzzle, she said.
“Esperanza is best known for their microloans, but we want to focus on transforming the whole community. This is where Buckner will be a great fit,” she said.
Esperanza International has helped 37,000 individuals start businesses in the Dominican Republic and has a current loan portfolio exceeding $2.2 million, with a 98 percent repayment rate. The average loan is about $196.69.
The small start-up business loan helps women who would otherwise be unable to get a loan, and it helps them support their family, Dominguez said.
The micro-finance expertise of Esperanza will be part of Buckner’s strategy for support through its Community Transformation Center, where clients will be assigned a caseworker to support them with immediate needs and long-term goals.
Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas has committed to support Buckner’s start-up work in the Dominican Republic in 2010 with a one-year agreement and $50,000.
The church recently completed a three-year commitment to Busia, Kenya, where volunteers built a child development center, medical clinic and water well. They also traveled there about three times a year to work with orphans.
Wilshire was attracted to the Dominican Republic because of its close proximity and opportunities for a variety of service, said Mindy Logsdon, minister of missions. The church also was interested in the business model Esperanza supports.
“A lot of people in our church are in the business world—law, education—and they want to use their gifts and talents to help others,” she said.
“We have two men who are economics professors, and they are thrilled to go and help small-business owners make a better business plan and learn how to make more money to support their families.”
Wilshire already has planned four mission trips to the Dominican Republic in 2010, including a trip in June that will bring 90 members of the youth choir.
It will be first time the church has sent its youth on an international mission trip.
“We’re all called to serve, every one of us,” Logsdon said. “Whether it’s in our state, nationally or internationally—whatever it is you like to do, we want you to do it.”
To learn more about church involvement through Buckner, contact Jim Huey at (214) 758-8050.