I was an intern in the Dominican Republic for three and a half months. And throughout my time spent in the field, there were multiple times that I told myself — and my supervisor — that I would definitely be done with my projects in the next week or so, and would need to look for more work.


The thing was, the work just seemed to find me. I came here with the idea that I would work with savings groups, in whatever capacity was needed. I started by conducting audits for each savings group, and discussed their system with local coordinators and members of the administrative committee. Based on my findings, I realized that there were a few adjustments that could be made to improve the system. To best address these adjustments, I write a manual and worked with the coordinators on an improved structure for training the groups. I kept adding material, and changing it, based on my observations and conversations in the field.


Nothing ever seemed to reach the perfect, final product. Even the night before I printed out the final accounting books for the group, I looked over them to make sure the borders were right, the titles made sense, and that everything was coordinated.


When I arrived back in the States, I worked on sending a final report to Soluciones Comunitarias, our sister organization in the Dominican Republic, about the work I had done and my recommendations for moving forward. And even then, as I was writing, new thoughts came to me: how to improve the system, or better coordinate with the groups and local communities.


But that’s what work is — what life is. It is a constant march towards an unobtainable perfection. The answers don’t come to you all at once and the work must adapt in this changing world to stay relevant. But at the same time, there needs to be consistency. Clients need to be able to understand the system, learn it, and use it well without daily changes.


So how is that possible? I was only at this internship for a few short months, and I made a lot of adjustments, recommendations, and observations in that period. It was difficult to leave, especially when I felt that there was still so much work to do.


Shannon with local savings group coordinator Franklin, during a meeting in Los Pelados. Photo courtesy Lia Hulit.


I started by deciding what needed to be in its absolute final form before I left. Mainly, that included the actual accounting system. For now, the groups would need to focus on learning it in order to become more comfortable with using it on their own. Our goal with these savings groups is long-term sustainability: therefore, the system itself has to be sustainable. I tried to address every issue that might come up, and altered the system every time I encountered one.


Of course, down the road there might be a technological advances, or changes to the group that make other accounting systems a better fit. And at that point, it would be important to adjust the system, with feedback and ideas from the coordinators and group. For now, the main goal was to create a system that served the needs and wants of the savings groups and coordinators, while empowering them to use a system that they were comfortable with.


When I left the Dominican Republic, I had made an accounting system that I was proud of — one that responded to the observations that I had made in the field. And, I encouraged Soluciones Comunitarias to make changes as necessary, moving forward with the new system.  The new accounting system has been put in place, but new strategies for teaching it will always be welcome, and necessary as the needs or goals of the group continue to evolve.


Before interning with Soluciones Comunitarias in the Dominican Republic,  I was a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. When I left my Savings and Loans Association there, no one was coming in behind me to continue support. The members were left only with the materials I had printed out for them — no way to adjust them, no way to have guidance if they ever wanted to train a new group of people.


This time, however, I leave behind an organization with the goal of growing and improving upon the work that I was able to do in the field. This time, I leave with the confidence that my ideas were just one small step in making this program a long-term, and sustainable success story.


Someone else picks up the march towards that unobtainable perfection. That is the work; that is life.