Paige is GlobalGiving's Champion for Customer Bliss in our office in Washington, DC. During a trip to Colombia, she had the chance to visit some of GlobalGiving's projects. Here is her postcard from the field.
What one thinks of when hearing “Baru” and visiting Cartagena is generally turquoise waters and powdery, white sand beaches. However, there is another side to this tropical paradise, and it isn’t as simple as a coco loco on Playa Blanca.
I was picked up by the Hernan Echavarria Foundation’s fearless leader Ana in Cartagena, and we started making our way south of the city to Isla Baru. Recently made more accessible thanks to a bridge and paved road, the island is beautiful and rugged, but due to it’s previously remote nature, quite rural. This is where the foundation comes in! On top of the microloan program that is the focus of their GlobalGiving project, the Hernan Echavarria Foundation has a deep and broad portfolio of projects on Isla Baru including the creation of a entrepreneur’s school, an elderly community center, a road refurbishing advocacy program, traveling health care workers to offer free consultations, and much more. However this trip was focused on the impressive work that’s being done with their youth micro-loan program.
Bouncing down some dirt roads we came to Hernan Echavarria Fondation’s offices in the heart of the town of Santa Ana on Isla Baru. Their offices are clean, open, and welcoming for the community members wandering down the main road past it. Ana and I chatted in their recreational/multi-purpose room where trainings and workshops for the local mirco-loan recipients are held and munched on dangerously delicious cheese empanadas. After brainstorming about how GlobalGiving can further help their work we went out to visit some of the loan grantees!
First was a stop with Ana, a bright, smiling young woman who has a convenience stop in the town out of her home. “We chose her because she’s smart and organized! Everything is always perfectly in order.” Ana is training to be a receptionist in Cartagena, so on top of selling standard wares in her shop, she also takes orders for those unable to make the (costly) trek to Cartagena. When asked if she’d be closing the shop after completing her studies as a receoptionist she giggled and said no. She loved having her shop and she wanted to continue to expand and grow.
The second grantee I met was a woman who was on her second round of a loan working as a tailor in the town. Her home was crowded with kids and family and was also clean and well kept. We saw her workshop in the back of the building which housed her two sewing tables, a work table, and a series of screen printing patterns. Gina radiated confidence and assurance. She was indeed the queen of her castle. When I asked what the most important lesson was she had learned through the loan program, she said without hesitation, “Independence. I was able to move into my own home, have my own business, and now I’m teaching my daughter the importance of independence.”
And there lay the unexpected, but equally important windfall bonus to the microloan program on Isla Baru. Not only were young entrepreneurs (both men and women) creating new lives as business owners, but young women were becoming empowered.
Our fifth report will consist on Victor’s story, one of our credit beneficiaries. We would like to tell you about him, his life, how and why he started his business, how the project you have supported have impacted his life and his business and what are his plans going forward.
Víctor was born on 1990; His parents separated when he was 1 year old.
His mother then worked as a cook on a farm. After 6 years, she met Victor’s stepdad and his 2 brothers and sister were born.
His mother and stepfather raised him, both of which are merchandisers. His stepfather works selling seafood cocktails at the beach and his mother sells food at the beach.
Victor is single; he lives with his parents, one brother and one sister.
He went to school at Luis Felipe Cabrera’s institution in Barú, were he finished tenth grade. When he was in eight grade he studied in the night because his mother was sick and his family needed him to support them, so he started working with an uncle. He didn’t graduate because the school haven’t open eleventh grade in the night.
When Victor was born, he had a disease on one eye. At the age of eighteen he had surgery. He recovered a little vision but he was told he couldn’t run or have too much physical activity. This has been difficult for him because he loved playing soccer.
¿When, how and why did the business started?
The business started when his stepdad went to work for a short time to Margarita Island (in Venezuela), selling handcrafts. When he came back with his savings he bought one refrigerator.
One of his mom’s cousins that worked selling fish wanted to help them; she lent them fish so that they could start.
Then, his mother saved her own capital and started buying fish for the family business.
On the other hand, Victor started working with an uncle, that taught him how to make seafood cocktails. As we said before, he started working when his mother got sick and the family needed to improve their income.
After a while, Victor became independent (selling cocktails at the beach) and started selling fish and seafood with her mother at home.
After two years he realized he needed to invest in his business in order to grow it.
Then, he heard about our project and he decided to apply for credit in order to buy a new refrigerator and more products to sell.
The Project’s impact
Victor received a $2.500.000 loan, which he invested in a refrigerator and in fish and seafood.
When we asked him about how the project has impacted him, he textually said:
“Everything has been good. Counseling has taught me how to increase the money. I learned to handle expenses. Before, we took out a lot of money to pay for services. Today we have a bike, two wheelbarrows, one boat and so we have been reducing expenses”.
Victor told us, during the assessments he realized that he was paying for a lot of services in order to sell his products. He paid for the transportation of the products from the port to their house. This is why they (he and his parents) bought two wheelbarrows. He used to pay about $50.000 to go to Cartagena to buy fish. Since they (he and his parents) bought the motorcycle, they are saving $30.000. He used to pay for the transportation of the fish and the seafood to the beach. Now they (his parents and him) have their own little boat.
When we asked him about the impact of the project in their lives, he textually answered:
“It has taught us to be organized and save money. Also to be responsible.”
What are his plans going forward
"I want my family to succeed and to become professionals. I want to be a professional; I'm waiting for the night school".
Thanks to all of you, to your constant support, the project has really impacted Victor and his family’s life.
For us in the Hernán Echavarría Foundation, it has been a great opportunity to learn from him and his family. His desire to succeed and to improve his quality of life, are an incentive for us to keep working.
We invite you to continue to work with us in order to achieve our total funding goal of $10,490.
Ana Milena Ordosgoitia M. and the Hernán Echavarría Olózaga Foundation team
As we continue to work towards improving quality of life of Colombian vulnerable people, we would like to briefly tell you about the progress of the project Micro - credits for Baru Island young entrepreneurs, you have supported:
1. On January 30, the team visited the credit beneficiaries for the second advisory meeting, which was about fixed, and variable costs.
We recommended all the beneficiaries, to keep accounting records (purchases and sales) and to determine their salaries in order to have a better control of their costs.
2. On February 18, the team visited the credit beneficiaries for the third advisory meeting in order to help them define the contribution margin and the breakeven point of their businesses.
The team gave them a chart to help them determine their products costs.
3. On March 31, the team visited the credits beneficiaries for the fourth advisory meeting and worked with them in the balance sheet of their businesses.
All the beneficiaries have paid on time their monthly fee and their businesses are working well.
They have employed at least one person and their average income is of $300.000 COP.
They all have to keep on putting into practice what they learn at the advisory meetings.
In the coming days we will continue to:
We would like to finish by thanking you again for your generous donations we have continued to receive during this year.
Happy new year! Our best wishes for a very successful 2014!
We would like to start by thanking you again for your generous donations to the project "Micro - credits for Baru Island young entrepreneurs" on 2013, with which you are partering with us to work towards improving quality of life of Colombian vulnerable people. We invite you in this new year to continue to work with us.
The following is a brief summary of the progress of the project, you have supported:
1. After the first 3 meetings we had with young entrepreneurs of the 3 towns located in the Island (Ararca, Santa Ana and Baru), we had to do another one with more young people living in Santa Ana, interested in the project, as they asked us for.
2. After the deadline, 52 young entrepreneurs interested in the project, returned the completed forms, and provided the documents they were asked for.
Of those 52 people, 12 had between 18 and 25 years old and 8 out of the 12 mentioned before, had a positive report in the risk management centers.
3. The 8 young entrepreneurs preselected (3 from Santa Ana and 5 from Barú), were trained in preparing their businesss plans.
4. On November 16 the team visited the candidates´s homes and businesses to verify the information provided.
5. On December 12, the first credit committee was held, in which 4 credits were approved:
Beneficiary´s Age Business Credit (COP) Term Monthly fee (COP)
23 Seafood sales $ 2.500.000 24 $ 126.265
22 Fish sales and water sports $ 1.800.000 24 $ 90.911
22 Fast food sales $ 1.000.000 18 $ 64.379
19 Liquor and soft drink sales $ 2.000.000 24 $ 101.012
6. On December 13, the selected beneficiaries recieved the money of the credits approved and signed a commitment letter, in which they commited to observe the project´s rules.
7. On December 19, the team visited the credit beneficiaries to verify they had invested the money according to what they stablished in their businesses plans and in the credit committee, finding out that they all invested it properly: They invested in a freezer, in fish and seefood, in a surfboard, in a fast food cart and in working capital, among others.
We will continue to post regular reports to keep you informed on the project progress.
First of all, we would like to thank you again for your generous donations to the project "Micro - credits for Baru Island young entrepreneurs".
1. On Friday, October 4, we received the resources initially raised: 11.964.409 Colombian Pesos.
2. On October 24, after searching for an entity with great experience in managing micro - credit with low-income people in Cartagena, we partnered with Fundación Indufrial.
3. On October 31st we had 3 meetings with young entrepreneurs of the 3 towns located in the Island (Ararca, Santa Ana and Baru) interested in participating in the project.
During the meetings, we talked to them about several topics: a) The resources raised through the Give for Youth and Global Giving's platforms, b) the Hernan Echavarria Foundation and our partnership with Indufrial Foundation, c) the project, d) the project conditions, and e) the project schedule.
64 young entrepreneurs assisted and showed interest in participating in the project, by taking with them the forms to fill them.
The deadline to return the completed forms is November 1.
In the coming days we will review the information provided and check if any of the interested are reported in a risk management center.
Those who are not, will be called for the first training on November 4, on how to develop a business plan.
Ana Milena Ordosgoitia
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