By Jacqueline Steinkamp – Communications Intern, Self-Help Nicaragua
Early in the morning, the sun beams its light into small wooden crevices on the right side of a little house in a small town called Azucena. The doors are opened up on both sides, welcoming the faint breeze that passes through the clay-dusted streets. This is where you’ll find Adelina, sitting in her wooden chair from 8 am each morning until dusk at 5pm. She is one of the beneficiaries of Self-Help’s Micro-Credit Program for women. With Self-Help’s assistance, Adelina entered the program with one sewing machine in October of 2013, with the dream that one day she’d be able to have her own business and make personalized clothing for her community.
Three years later, Adelina now works with 5 machines and has 3 other women working for her business. In a typical day, she can sew 3-5 articles of clothing a day, making shirts, skirts, uniforms, and unique personalized clothing at the requests of her neighbors. She successfully meets the demand for her products in her town, and now also for neighboring communities. With the money she earns, she continues to buy new stylish fabrics. At the age of 60, she works Monday through Saturday to support her family as a single mother. Currently, her youngest daughter studies in a local high school, exceeding Adelina’s education level (4th grade).
Through the training from the women’s Micro-Credit Program Officer, Adelina has been able to learn additional skills, from financial literacy to practical classes such as how to start up a kitchen garden; how to add value to raw produce such as turning hot peppers into hot sauce, fruits into marmalades, and vegetables into pickles; how to build an improved oven; and how to bake a variety of breads including funeral bread. Adelina attended 8 trainings, with each session lasting 4 hours. After successfully completing all of the trainings and acquiring the skills for her business, she is now part of the La Amistad group, one of several newly formed women’s micro-credit groups in the community of Las Azucenas.
Like Adelina, there are over 135 other women that have been given the opportunity to jump start their business. Self-Help International empowers women to make their dreams become a reality. They are able to build self-esteem through their training program and build community relations. When one woman receives a loan, the surrounding community is positively impacted. One business may create employment opportunities for other women in the neighborhood. Additionally, Self-Help provides support throughout the process, and follows up with the women to ensure they are able to maintain their successful business structure. The organization is able to provide these loans at an interest rate of only 2%, allowing the viability of the women’s businesses to remain successful through all seasons of the year.