How The Colombia Project Helps Colombians Rebuild Their Lives
Zoraida supports a sick husband and 6 grandchildren thru this restaurant where she cooks under a tree outside a church in Santa Marta. A loan of $300 from The Colombia Project helped her to buy the table and chairs and some of the utensils. She is also providing a valuable service to people in her community who don’t have the time or resources to prepare a well-balanced meal in the middle of the day for themselves or their children. Thanks to economies of scale, Zoraida can purchase a chicken or a piece of meat and the variety of vegetables needed to make a tasty and nutritious lunch and still earn a profit to feed her own family while charging an amount low enough to make her lunch accessible to those who lack the buying power or facilities to prepare an equivalent lunch for themselves.
After Gloria and her family were displaced by construction of oil facilities in the Guajira, she organized families in similar conditions and established a cooperative of Wayuu and Arzario weavers. Working alone, it was difficult for the weavers to afford the variety of vibrant colors that distinguish their work and they had to pay a premium when buying locally in small quantities. Even if they bought the cheapest materials and sacrificed quality workmanship, they could still not compete successfully with the typical Colombian bags called mochillas that are mass produced and sported by every student. During this time period in 2004-2005, the much-anticipated arrival of the first big cruise ships in Santa Marta proved a disappointment. While the shiploads of tourists came to buy, they primarily looked for bargains and were not prepared to pay more for something just because it took someone 1-2 days to make by hand. Fortunately, Gloria was able to recognize an opportunity to preserve the traditional Wayuu and Arzario artistry by marketing instead to 5-store hotels and high-end stores where customers could afford to pay $50 - $100 for quality. With an initial loan of $300 from The Colombia Project, Gloria was able to produce high-quality, intricately designed samples. Based on her initial success in Colombian hotels and with orders from Italy and London as well, The Colombia Project and FUNDEHUMAC worked together to successfully apply for a $6000 indigenous-project grant from AMB Foundation to purchase materials to expand her project to now provide income for 90 Wayuu and Arzario families. It is a start.
The displaced Indians still mostly live on the outskirts of town, often lacking basic services such as water or electric or public transportation, but they are lifting themselves, one rung at a time, up the ladder and out of poverty. The beautiful thing about Gloria’s project is that her group is already giving back to the community. They put aside a small percentage of their earnings so that they can help any Indian of any tribe who is in need in Santa Marta.. At a September, 2006 ceremony Gloria told the Mayor of Santa Marta that she no longer considered herself a displaced person but an entrepreneur. The beauty of micro-credit is that it empowers people like Gloria to be part of the solution for themselves and others.
Luis Carvajal and his wife ran a profitable ranch which provided a living for themselves, their children and hired employees in Piemonte in the south of Colombia before credible threats forced him and his wife to leave their spacious home and their lifework to flee for their lives to the outskirts of Popayan. Roberto and his wife received a series of $300 loans from The Colombia Project to raise and sell guinea pigs and chickens. With the profits, they slowly built a house on land provided by the Colombian government. When The Colombia Project representatives visited them on a rainy February day in 2004, the concrete-block house was cold and drafty. Until they could afford windows and doors, they had only plastic to cover the openings and shield them from the elements. They made the choice to build their business first in order to provide a more secure future. They spoke with the confidence of people with plans and dreams and they spoke of their gratitude to The Colombia Project and ODRI for providing loans and support when they needed them most.
Roberto De La Cruz
Roberto spent $300 on a washing machine then equipped his bicycle with a big basket to deliver the washer to homes for rental by the hour. He now has a job at the university and his sister is managing the business.
Sewing projects in Cartagena
Ercilia Serrano received a loan from The Colombia Project to purchase a sewing machine which she uses to sew school uniforms and other clothing. Ercilia is part of the group of women entrepreneurs in San Jose de los Campanos on the outskirts of Cartagena.
Hipolita’s $300 bought the stove where she makes bocaditos to help put her sons thru college. Hipolita’s son and Roberto are examples of how The Magdalena Foundation scholarships and the Colombia Project micro-loans work together in Santa Marta to change lives.
Knife project in Santa Marta
Carlos Prada Chole helps to support his wife and three children by making fishing knives from used saw blades, fashioning knife handles from plastic lawn chair legs. He also also makes fish scalers and sharpens knives. Business is steady but not enough to meet his family's needs, so his wife also works by sewing curtains and bed covers.