Archive for the ‘Economic Developement’ Category

A Better Economy

I want to tell you the best story I’ve heard lately.

I heard it while we were out in Matilde, a small farming community about an hour and half from Chinandega. We’d headed out that way to visit with Don Celso, a farmer and participant in Amigos for Christ’s MicroLoan program, in the hopes of getting to know him a little bit better and asking him a few questions about his experience in the program. 

Don Celso Family 2

I love spending time with Don Celso. He has kind eyes and an easy smile, and when he tells you (after only knowing you a few minutes) that he already considers you family, you believe it. Plus, he’s a spectacular storyteller; almost every sentence starts with, “Let me tell you a story…” and is full of the humor, sincerity, and wisdom that seem to characterize all the other parts of his life, too.

So, we wiled away the afternoon lounging in plastic chairs and swinging on hammocks, and Don Celso generously invited us into his life, sharing story after story about the hardships and triumphs he’s experienced during his life as a farmer in rural Nicaragua. Before starting with the MicroLoans program, Don Celso told us, he was hopelessly stuck in a terrible cycle of debt. Nicaraguan banks typically charge up to 50 percent interest on loans, when they give them at all, he explained, making it almost impossible to turn a profit and leaving families like his at perpetual risk of losing everything if they have even one bad harvest.

Since receiving his first low-interest MicroLoan four years ago, though, things have been different. For the first time in his life, Don Celso told us, he’s begun to really believe that his life can change; he has a vision for his future and hope that, one day, he’ll actually get there.

He talked about moving his family out of the palm branch shelter they lived in before and into the new house he built himself, and how it’s the first time in his life he’s actually owned a real brick-and-mortar home. He talked about his kids – two grown up and three still at home – and the future he wants for them, about high school and college and new opportunities he never thought they’d have. And he talked about peace, and rest, and how for the first time he comes home at night after a hard day’s work and has a sense of wellbeing, a belief that everything will, in fact, be okay.

There was so much he had accomplished, so much that had changed over the years. Which of all those years, we wondered, did he earn the most? Which was his best year? We, of course, were speaking specifically in monetary terms, looking for a number that could help us wrap our minds around exactly how much something like a MicroLoan could impact a family like his.

Don Celso reflected for a moment before he answered. “Well, I don’t suppose this is probably the answer you’re looking for, but let me tell you a story…

Two years ago, Don Celso began, his wife Reyna was pregnant with their youngest daughter, Sulmi. Although basic medical care is provided free of cost at public hospitals and clinics, patients are responsible for paying for all the medications, equipment, and transportation, and any special circumstances could cost extra. And, like everyone in their remote community, Reyna had to travel over an hour to the closest hospital when the moment finally came for her to give birth.

Once she arrived, however, the doctors gave them the kind of news every parent dreads: the umbilical cord was wrapped around her baby’s neck, and if they didn’t operate immediately it was likely that neither mother nor daughter would survive. “The extra costs for the operation and recovery were expensive, and normally I would never have been able to afford it,” said Don Celso. “I was going to lose both of them.”

“But,” he continued, “I’ll tell you what happened. Because I had my earnings from my MicroLoan that year, I was able to pay for it all, and it saved the life of my daughter and the life of my wife. And now, look at them,” he said, gesturing toward Sulmi learning shyly against the door frame.
“She’s here, the light of my life, and she’s alive.”

Spellbound until that moment, I was pulled back to the present as I looked over at that precious “earning” watching us with bright, curious eyes a few feet away. I didn’t know how much all those extra medical expenses cost, but suddenly the amount of money he earned that year – whatever it was – seemed priceless.

“So, I guess it’s not what you were asking,” he went on, “but that’s my answer. My daughter and my wife are alive and they’re with me today, and that’s the best earning I’ve ever had.”

Actually, Don Celso, you’re mistaken; we didn’t know it before, but that’s exactly what we needed to hear.

Thank You for an Amazing 2013!

With your help we made a huge difference in 2013. We installed 3 clean water systems.We installed 78 Clean Air Kitchens!We prepared meals for 895 students. We provided 72 micro-loans!We hosted 1407 volunteers!

The Opportunity to Build

“I never thought that I would be able to do all this with just one animal,” reflected Juan Martin Ruíz Lopez as he sat in front of his newly constructed house, which he built using the money he earned selling the offspring of a single pig.

 

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Like many of the families in their community of Dulce Nombre de Jesús, Juan and his family had lived most of their lives in a house made of scrap material and palm branches. “Before, I did not think it would be possible for me to build a house,” recalled Juan.

 

But, when Amigos for Christ came to help his community repair their well in 2006, Juan heard about the opportunity to own livestock through the Pay It Forward program. He requested to participate, and his family received a pregnant pig that gave birth to 11 piglets a month later, each of which sold for about $40.

 

Thanks to this new source of income, Juan realized his pig could change their future in much bigger ways than he could possibly have imagined before. Instead of living on the edge of survival every day, Juan and his family began to dream about growing in previously unimaginable ways. “We were able to start thinking ahead to the future,” explained Juan. “I told my wife, ‘With this pig, we are going to build a house.’”

 

Since then, their pig and its offspring have given birth to a grand total of 97 piglets, an abundant blessing that made their once far-off dream a concrete reality when Juan began construction on their house about a year ago.

 

Besides enabling them to construct their home, the money they’ve earned from the sale of their piglets has also allowed them to dream bigger in every area of their life. “We can provide for our children and enable them to have a life of pride and dignity,” explained Juan. And, in the future, their earnings will enable them to afford the biggest dream of all for their children: education.

 

Thanks to just one pig, Juan and his family are able to imagine of a better story for their future and have the resources they need to make it happen. To give a gift that can empower a family to dream bigger and build a better future, visit www.amigosforchrist.org/giftsofopportunity and give the Gift of Opportunity today.

The Opportunity to Grow

To see a photo timeline of what the gift of a micro loan can make possible, click here.

 

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Six years ago, Felix Rivera was farming about 2.5 acres of land in the community of El Capulín and fighting to make ends meet for his wife, Dinhora, and three children, Melba, 17, Felix Jose, 13, and Genesis Primavera, 5. In particular, Felix struggled under the burden of high-interest loans from local banks. “I would borrow $400 and end up paying back $615,” recalled Felix, an interest rate of over 50 percent. “It took me a long time to pay it back.” Caught in a cycle of crushing debt, Felix was unable to save money to invest into expanding his business, and his family seemed stuck on the edge of survival with little hope of ever achieving financial security.

 

But in 2007, that cycle changed when Felix received his first loan of $200 from the Amigos for Christ Mirco Loan program. At 1.6 percent interest, the loan enabled him to generate significant earnings and start really investing in his businesses. “When I received the first loan life was very difficult,” explained Felix. “My boat and farming equipment were in disrepair, so I used the loan to fix these things so I could improve my farming and my fishing businesses.” Since then, Felix has received and paid back six loans, each time earning enough extra cash to reinvest in his work in the form of land, tools, and materials.

 

Today, Felix farms 8.5 acres of land. “Now, I have what I need to provide for my family,” he said with a smile, and he also has the extra cash he needs to invest in his other businesses, including fishing, carpentry, and welding. “When I get the money from the harvest, I always use it to invest back into my businesses instead of just spending it,” said Felix. “Sometimes my fishing business isn’t reliable, and sometimes the planting isn’t reliable because of the weather, but because I’ve been able to invest in the other businesses
my work is more stable,” he added.

 

Thanks to their newfound financial stability, Felix and his family have shifted from merely surviving every growing season to thriving in the present and dreaming for the future. “Being a part of this loan program has really changed my family’s life,” said Felix, adding that he has plans to invest in home repairs this year and his dream is to buy a truck one day. In addition, he hopes to pass his many skills on to his son, Felix Jose. “When you live in a rural area, if you only know one trade your life is a lot riskier,” he explained, “so my dream for my son is to teach him all the trades that I know.”

 

Now, Felix has joined a pilot group in the Micro Loan Program that will begin putting 20 percent of their annual earnings in a savings account, to which Amigos will add the interest paid on the loan. At the end of five years, the entire savings is put back in the hands of the program participants, a fund that will hopefully enable each farmers to become financially stable enough to manage their business independent of Amigos or any other organization. “These loans have allowed me to work how I’ve always wanted to work, and I’m proud of that,” Felix concluded.

Below, check out a timeline of the growth made possible by Felix’s participation in the Micro Loan Program. To become part of a story like this one, visit www.amigosforchrist.org/giftsofopportunity and give the gift of opportunity today.


Seven years of opportunity:2

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2010

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2013

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