Day One – November 27
Christina and I arrived yesterday afternoon. Jen and Kathy arrived late last night. Jennifer with Opportunity International picked us all up at the airport.
We got a great night sleep and we are off to visit the first group of women business owners.
Nicaragua is the most impoverished country in Latin America. 43% of the people live on under $1.90 per day. Through OI, these women are able to secure a loan to start their business. The average starter loan here is around $100.
We will send another update at the end of the day!
Day Two – November 28
Today was our first full day in Nicaragua. We were woken up with firecrackers going off at 4am and then 6am, only to find out it is a Virgin Mary celebration this week. Quite fitting, as we celebrate and appreciate the miraculous work of women on this trip!
We started by visiting a trust group made up of 21 people, 19 of which are women. The trust groups cross collateralize their debt and therefore they are all on the hook for each other’s debt.
We listened to each person tell us about their business such as a convenience store, selling used American shoes and a pastry shop. Some women were new to the group, receiving their first loan to one woman who had been in a trust group for ten years.
In the trust groups, they learn business skills, leadership skills, personal finance as well as health care information.
We also heard from the women how this loan has helped their businesses grow. One woman shared that she was able to support her family as well as get a cornea transplant because of the money she made through her business.
We then visited two businesses that are part of the Solidarity Group. These businesses are larger enterprises and receive larger loans. We visited a woman who makes children’s dresses. She received a $2000 loan to buy equipment for her business. It is a family business where everyone in the family has a role to play. This family lives with dirt floors and a chicken running around the house and yet the dresses that she makes are beautiful and she has pride of owning her business. One realization I had today was that these women don’t start their business out of wanting to be an entrepreneur, but they become an entrepreneur out of necessity.
Finally, we visited a school run by OI. This is a high school that teaches the kids how to discover their talents and turn those talents into a business. The trades are focused on agriculture and hospitality. And teaching these kids about entrepreneurship will bring up another generation of business owners.
We closed the evening with a fireworks show outside our hotel. And we celebrate all the women business owners making an impact in their communities!