Micro-credits for Baru Island entrepreneurs

by Fundacion Hernan Echavarria Olozaga
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Micro-credits for Baru Island entrepreneurs
Micro-credits for Baru Island entrepreneurs
Micro-credits for Baru Island entrepreneurs
Micro-credits for Baru Island entrepreneurs
Micro-credits for Baru Island entrepreneurs
Micro-credits for Baru Island entrepreneurs
Micro-credits for Baru Island entrepreneurs
Micro-credits for Baru Island entrepreneurs
Micro-credits for Baru Island entrepreneurs
Martha and Roger in their grocery store
Martha and Roger in their grocery store

Martha and Roger are married and they are partners in their grocery store called "The mustard seed."

“They say that the fifth year is the crucial year for a business and they say so, for a good reason! " declares Martha.

It was the year 2019. The year in which their store would reach its fifth anniversary, when a wave of family events took place and made Martha and Roger almost abandoned their business.

"We got very demotivated, lost interest and the necessary strength to continue, so we made the worst decision of our lives without knowing it: we rented the business, including all our inventory. We signed a one-year contract, and to summarize what we went through, during that time, they only paid us 2 months of rent, sold all the inventory and only occasionally stocked the business but with bad products, which made our customers leave" Martha relates, with obvious disappointment on her face.

“After several months of dispute that included lawyers, at the end of 2020, we got our store back. It hasn´t been easy, but we understood that our business is like a son to us and it is our duty to make it grow and prosper as strong as the tree that the little mustard seed becomes. That is why we currently sell more than 200 products and included new ones, according to what our customers need. We included the service of money orders, thanks to an agreement we made with a collection company. We came back stronger than ever, with a great lesson learned: not to give up despite the obstacles", Martha concludes while she gratefully welcomes her customers.

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Antonio, back on business
Antonio, back on business

In March 2020, because of the global pandemic due to COVID-19, the entire tourism sector in Colombia, including islanders, suspended their activities and services.

Shops, hotels and restaurants were temporarily closed, affecting owners, employees and independent workers such as Antonio, an artisan by vocation, who for more than 15 years has sold his handicrafts inside the hotels of Baru.

“In December 2020, after 9 months of crisis and desperation, the hotels began to open and their owners called us again to start selling our products as before. But first, they trained us in biosafety protocols, and they gave us face masks and alcohol to disinfect our products and tables”, says Antonio.

“At the end of December 2020 when I served my first client, it felt like me again; I felt as if my soul returned to my body and for a moment, it felt as if everything was just like before the pandemic. My family and I prayed a lot for this moment to come, we never lost faith and we knew that sooner rather than later, I would go back to work”.

“Sales are still far from being the same, but every day is better and I am convinced that as long as we all follow the protocols, we can control the virus. Every day we take one more step to defeat it. Thanks to the arrival of vaccines in our country, in the name of God, from now on, everything will be better”, points out Antonio.

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Karen with her Diploma
Karen with her Diploma

The first thing Karen has seen every morning for 24 years is the sea, as her house is on the shore.

"For me it has been something spectacular because not everyone has the fortune of living in front of the sea." When she was a child, the first thing she did when she got home from school was, in her words, “jump into the salt water”.

Her childhood and adolescence passed between friends and sea baths. When she was in the last grade of school, she got pregnant. When Karen graduated, her daughter was already borne and became her engine in life. “I realized that if you look for a job, the first thing they ask you for is your resume, and what would you write on it, if you had just graduated from high school? So, I decided to study and I enrolled in the SENA[1], were the education is free. I graduated from high school in December and in May I was already studying Accommodation Service. I learned a lot and I felt that the teachers knew how to teach me. On one occasion they exempted me from an exam for being a good student and for fixing the room really fast”.

When she finished her theory classes, Karen did an internship at a renowned hotel located in Baru, and she spent her first salary on her daughter: "I bought diapers for a month", she said. At the end of her internship, she obtained her certification as an Accommodation Service Technician.

“I sent my resume to a hotel in Baru and days after the interview, they called me to work as a maid. Thanks to this, I have bought a refrigerator, a washing machine and a stove for my house”. These investments show us how her quality of life has improved after studying and started working.

Karen advises young people in Baru to take advantage of the opportunities life gives them by saying: ”Being young is not easy. I would tell all young people in the island to concentrate on studying and working hard, to achieve all their goals and to progress, which would be good for them and their families”.

 

[1] Training and Entrepreneurship School.

Karen on a rainy day in Baru
Karen on a rainy day in Baru

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Yamileidis business
Yamileidis business

Baru is an island located in the south part of Cartagena de Indias, a city with a tourist vocation, its main attraction being the old city and its beaches.

The island of Baru is one of the most important tourist sites in the city, for its white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, as well as for its corals and mangroves.

Therefore, most of its inhabitants are engaged in occupations directly or indirectly related to tourism, many of which decide to start a small business.

And it is precisely the entrepreneurs who, through their products and services, offer a genuine cultural experience to visitors, while they dynamize the island's economy through businesses such as the sale of handicrafts, restaurants, bars, fish markets, shops, bakeries, water transportation and clothing stores, among others.

So, if one day you have the opportunity to travel to Cartagena and decide to take a tour or a day trip to the island of Baru, you will surely find Uriel's handicrafts, the delicious cakes and biscuits from Cruz Maria, a fresh juice from Yamileidis or you will discover yourself on a tour on Efren's “Que Que” boat, all of which are part of the group of entrepreneurs who have strengthened their businesses as they have actively participated in the project “Microcredits for Baru island entrepreneurs” thanks to the contributions received through GlobalGiving.

With the credit obtained in the project, Efren bought life jackets for adults and children for his boat, which generated greater security among his clients. Cruz Maria, diversified her products, increasing her sales. On the other side, Uriel, with the profit from the sale of handicrafts, opened a bar, generating additional income for his support and his family.

In the Hernan Echavarria Foundation we are very proud of the achievements of each and all of the entrepreneurs who have participated in the project and immensely grateful to all the donors, who’s contributions have allowed us to support and accompany them.

Uriel
Uriel

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Sergio
Sergio

Sergio is a 52-year-old Caribbean craftsman, who stands out for his charisma and great smile. More than two years ago, he shared with us his life story and his journey as an entrepreneur.

Starting 2020, just before the pandemic, he felt this was going to be a great year. Such was his presentiment, that this year he did not only want to sell handicrafts to tourists, but also to resume the business of water transport and tours, for which, with the savings of past seasons, the profits from the sale of handicrafts and an engine that he had for more than a year, he started this business that was not new to him and that was going to allow him in his words "to have two entrances". (Meaning: 2 sources of income).

During the second week of March 2020, he transported the last group of tourists from the port of Barú to the Hotel were he worked, to whom he also had the opportunity to sell his handicrafts. They came from countries like France, Panama, Cuba and Chile. "The last ones are my favorites, because they appreciate the culture and customs of the Caribbean very much", says Sergio while enjoying a corozo juice sitting in his house’s doorway.

And he continues his story by pointing out “I never imagined that a virus that was so far from our land would take everything away from us; never in my life I had spent this much time at home. I feel locked up, sometimes I go fishing but I don't catch anything”.

"Sometimes I feel stressed, and I feel like I have to take care of something, so my wife and I go to sweep the community beaches."

“With God's favor I hope that before the end of the year we can go back to work on tourism. COVID was a surprise and an opportunity to learn for everyone. The pandemic has taught us to value work, family and even to identify our true friends. People have lost loved ones, their businesses and jobs, but we must be strong and start from scratch if necessary. COVID has left each person a different lesson, but it has taught us all that we can be better human beings”, Sergio concludes.

Sergio in his boat
Sergio in his boat
Sergio's smile
Sergio's smile

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Organization Information

Fundacion Hernan Echavarria Olozaga

Location: Bogota / Cartagena, Cundinamarca/Bolívar - Colombia
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Ana Milena Ordosgoitia
Bogota, Cundinamarca Colombia
$1,829 raised of $16,920 goal
 
66 donations
$15,091 to go
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