Livelihoods & Business Development
Below are a few short profiles of participants in our Microfinance Initiative:
Henry Ney - Baker
When we met Henry Ney in April, he was in the first phase of starting a bakery business. Henry had previously run a successful bakery business in El Salvador, employing five people and providing a popular service. However, he was forced to leave El Salvador due to the incessant political and social instability in that country, and moved his family to Nicaragua where he has been working as a migrant worker to support his children. With his loan from Manna, Henry bought the supplies he needed to begin producing baked goods again. Additionally, he used part of his loan to buy the resources necessary to build a structure around his oven, protecting it from rain and allowing him to be more productive during the rainy season. Through our education initiative, we are working with Henry to develop strategies for accounting and client recruitment. Henry has big plans for his business, and looks to use his experience in baking to repeat the success he had in El Salvador.
Henry, his wife and son in front of the oven they use to bake bread and other goods
Carolina Lopez - General Store Owner
Carolina Lopez previously worked as a house keeper and nanny, but lost her job when her employer left the country. With this loss of income and her husband’s insufficient pay as a security guard, Carolina was forced to pull her daughter, Maria, out of university. Motivated to earn the money necessary to put Maria back in school, Carolina requested a loan from Manna Project with the intention of starting a business selling milk products and clothing in Cedro Galan. The clothing side of her business has proved most successful, due to the high demand for brand name clothing that Carolina is able to buy in bulk at a church in Managua. Carolina cites her involvement in Manna’s Business Development Program as a source of empowerment both inside and outside of the household that has enabled her to realize her full potential as a mother and provider. In addition, Carolina and Maria have recently joined our Women’s Exercise classes and are excited to continue their work with Manna.
Carolina at her home along with Carrie, a member of our Business Development Team
Patricia Francisco - Clothing Vendor
Before working with Manna’s Microfinance Program, Patricia Francisco sold vegetables in a nearby market, but was unsatisfied with her prospects and aspired to self-employment. She had the idea to sell used clothing with the help of her mother-in-law, who is able to purchase clothing in bulk for low prices and transport costs. Patricia used her loan to cover the upfront costs of purchasing the clothing and transporting it to Cedro Galan. Patricia’s small business supplements her father’s income and helps to support her two young daughters, whom she hopes will one day attend university and become self-sufficient professionals. Her current goal is to make a return to the local market, this time with her own clothing business, renting a stall in order to reach a greater number of customers.
Patricia and her daughter along with a sample of the clothes they sell in Cedro Galan
Pedro Argeñal - Packaged Meats Distributor
Along with his wife, Pedro Argeñal previously owned and operated a successful general store in El Salvador. However, after experiencing their third robbery, they decided to bring their family to Nicaragua in search of a more secure life. Don Pedro came to Manna Project for a loan to start a meat distribution service, selling and delivering to local general stores. Don Pedro used Manna’s loan to cover the upfront costs of purchasing the meat and the gasoline used to deliver the meats in his taxi. He lives with and supports multiple generations of his family. Two of his daughters, Suyen and Maria, attend Manna’s Beginner English classes.
Pedro Argeñal with his wife in front of the taxi they use to deliver meat products
Ariel Jimenez - Cinder Block Maker
Ariel Jimenez came to Manna Project for a loan to cover the costs of buying the raw materials necessary to make and sell cinderblocks. Ariel was inspired to pursue this work in order to support his wife, Braysis, through medical school. Braysis, who used to be a regular in Manna’s English classes, dreams of becoming a doctor and, with the help of Ariel’s cinderblock business, is actively pursuing her dream. Ariel’s early work in cinderblocks is a success, selling into his neighborhood, and coupling his block sales with the actual construction of structures. Ariel is currently saving to build a small roofed structure for his workplace, which will enable him to create cinderblocks during the rainy season and increase his production.
On a recent visit with Ariel, he demonstrates the arduous task of mixing cement with sand by hand before placing it into a mold
Ariel with the finished product
The Female Entrepreneurs of Chureca is a women’s cooperative was founded by 23 young women and mothers living in La Chureca and Manna Project International in June 2012. This project is supported by Walmart Central America and Northeastern University's Social Enterprise Institute. The cooperative is made up of 23 young women who live in La Chureca, the municipal trash dump. Currently, the cooperative is focused on designing, creating and selling creative and high quality pieces of jewelry.
The members of Female Entrepreneurs of Chureca are a lively group of 23 women who live and work in La Chureca. Most of the women are young mothers who also participate in our Child Sponsorship and Nutrition Project. Prior to this project, all of the women were either unemployed or underemployed earning less than $15 USD per week for sorting and classifying trash in Central America’s largest trash dump. The women participating in the cooperative received two months of technical support from the international NGO, TechnoServe; the organization's goal is to provide business solutions to poverty. In addition, the women have received 6 months of training from two local Nicaraguan women trained by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on how to design and produce jewelry. The women also received design devleopment training from Guadalupe (Lupe), who lives in Cedro Galan and has participated in our microfinance loan project to support her jewelry business. We've loved working across communities and connecting Lupe with women in La Chureca and hope to do this more in the future.
The women are specializing in hand crafting unique and affordable jewelry made from a mixture of recycled and locally bought products. Profits from each piece of jewelry go directly back to the cooperative and to the women.
Most of the women in the cooperative have taken on leadership roles for the first time in their lives, and are proud to be working indoors, alongside friends. One of the women recently said with reference to the cooperative and our Child Sponsorship and Nutrition Program, "Everything has changed for the better. We're not going to the dump (Chureca), we are not exposed to pollution, our children aren't getting sick and we have a source of income for our families".
Manna Project is committed to expanding this project to reach more women living in La Chureca and replicate aspects of this project in the other communities we serve, Cedro Galan and Chiquilistagua.