In the small city of Arjona, Bolivar location approximately 40 minutes south of Cartagena, Engelberto is a member of the "Hand of God" trust group established by Opportunity. Using the loans made available to him, Engelberto purchases agricultural products from farmers to sell in his community while simultaneously selling food produce such as avocados, bananas, plantains and yucca depending on the season. He initially took out a loan of $180,000 pesos ($90) and is now in the process of paying back his seventh loan which has a value of $600,000 (approx. $300). With a family which include his wife and eight children, Engelberto's business is the only source of income that sustains them.
Up until 11 years ago when he relocated with his family to Arjona, Engelberto resided on a small farm in the country near the village of Maria La Baja. One day, he decided to take an early morning bus headed to Cartagena so he arrive at the market ahead of others. In an unfortunate turn of events, the bus he was on was stopped by armed who ordered all the passengers to get off the bus. The men were from a paramilitary group that sought to find guerillas by inquiring where each passenger was from. Those who answered that they were from a rural area were murdered. While Engleberto survived the ordeal, five of his closest friends were not as fortunate. It was on that day that he moved to Arjona with his family.
Today, Engelberto travels to Carmen de Bolivar by bus twice a week to buy between 250 and 300 avocados. This is a step up from the 40-50 avocados he used to buy prior to receiving the loan from Opportunity. He purchases from farmers or wholesales before returning to the streers of Arjona to sell three large burlap bags of avocados to his neighbors.
The money he has made from his business this year was put to use when his wife fell ill and was in need of surgery and medication. He blessed to be able to pay the $200 deductible for the surgery and medications as this was something he says he never would have been able to afford this. For the assistance that Opportunity has given him and the chance to care for his family is very grateful.
In a village close to Kupang, Indonesia, Marince grew up dreaming of becoming a teacher. Unfortunately, this dream was never realized due to the fact that her parents were not able to save enough to fund her education and needed her to join the family business of producing coconut oil to help support the family. Marince became accustomed to working long and arduous days by the time she grew up, married and started a life of her own. She and her husband Paulus both worked hard to make ends meet, with Marince taking care of their children while her husband worked as a fisherman to earn a salary that helped them get by.
However, life took a turn for the worst when Paulus suffered a stroke, leaving Marince to care of and financially support her husband and business partner who was bedridden and their two children. She said that, for a period of time, she struggled to feed the family once a day with a meal that did not provide sufficient nutrition and worried constantly for her family's health and future. Then entered Opportunity International. Upon being introduced to our organization, Marnice was able to obtain a small loan and business training which allowed her to successfully launch an income-generating business and increase her family income. She started sellling party and festival decorations by investing the loan to put up a kiosk and purchasing large bulks of crafting materials.
Marince currently earns up to $15 a day from her flourishing business. As for her family, she has since enrolled Yarny, her 10 year old, in school and has been able to provide nutritious meals for her family. Now she dreams of sending her children to university as her income improves—a dream that, with the help of Opportunity International, could very well become a reality.
In the southern Colombian province of Huila, the area is marred by fighting between the illegal armed groups and the army. Martha and her husband, who are originally from the area, lived in the country, had a farm where they were raising and would occasionally give lemonade to members of the army. During their time there, Martha and her husband lived in fear that the guerillas were thinking of forcibly drafting their son to carry their guns for them in the mountains. They found themselves forcibly uprooted one when a guerrillas told them they were being accused of being government informants and they were aiding the army. With 12 hours to leave their home or be killed. They sold what they could to their neighbors and fled to Bogota with little more than the clothes on their backs.
Upon arriving in Bogota, it took a long time to get assistance from the government offices which were overwhelmed by the number of displaced persons so they resorted to begging for food and getting jobs where they could. They constructed a home out of scrap wood, metal and tar paper on a piece of land in Usme on the outskirts of Bogota, high in the mountains where they were squatting. Once Martha qualified for a government training program and became a security guard, she met someone at work who informed her about Opportunity International's trust group program. Upon contacting Opportunity, she was told that there were no groups in her village and that she would have to form a group of 15 people in her neighborhood if she wanted a loan. Despite not knowing anyone in her neighborhood, she knocked on every door until she finally had enough people to form a group and today Martha is the president of the “Fig Tree Trust Group”.
Martha and her husband started making a corn and milk based drink using her first loan and a recipe that he learned in another part of the country. They started by selling about 40 glasses each day for about $1, which then grew to become 450 glasses per day after two years of loans and required large milk deliveries in a truck. Due to their success, they have a solid brick house, an industrial stove and have even purchased a used car.
Martha's future expansion plan includes increasing her production levels and purchasing a fleet of motorcycles to distribute her product throughout Bogota. Besides being a blessing to her family, the trust bank is strong and united to the point where the group even gave a basket of groceries to one member whose family has been struck by illness. Martha and her family are extremely grateful for Opportunity International, which has been their only source of finance throughout their journey out of poverty.