Blog post, Nicaragua, 3-23-2012
Blog post, Nicaragua, 3-23-2012
Kathy Andersen ‘13
Greetings from Nicaragua! Grace Philipp ’12 and I are in Nicaragua for ten days visiting our international loan partners and investigating new partnerships. It’s a great experience to get to see our partners in person and also to see first-hand the area and the people the loans are affecting.
San Ramón, the center of operations for international partner CPCPV, is our home base. It is a small town half an hour outside of Matagalpa and a little ways up into the mountains. Right now in the dry season it is a dusty place of dormant forest, paver streets, bright houses and pulparias. This town is doing well compared to most but the standard of living is still very poor. Everywhere, though, you’ll see people out talking, kids going to school, friends waving at each other from open doors, a very normal life.
We found that the Centro Promocional Cristiano Por La Paz y La Vida (CPCPV) is a really center of community for the people of San Ramón. We first talked to the General Director of the center, Margarita Sanchez, a spunky lady who told us about the origins of CPCPV. Beginning as the Centro por los Ninos in 1988, a collection of women formed to provide more nutritional food and health counseling to members of the community. Programming expanded from there and now it is a veritable hub and network of community enhancement operations.
Chayito, another community leader and staffer at CPCPV helped us set up our home stay and appointments with loan recipients in the area. Visiting these entrepreneurs with agricultural, sewing, jewelry-making, cooking, and retail ventures made possible by SEG loans reaffirmed for me the importance of what we are trying to accomplish with microfinance. The improvements in livelihood they were able to make for themselves was astounding. All were determined women who grabbed life by the horns and banded together to make these things happen in their lives.
Next, we traveled farther north and farther into the mountains to visit our loan partner Cecosprocaes (Central de Cooperativas de Productores de Cafés Especiales), a cooperative of coffee producers. We met the director, Deylieng Ballarads, who is himself a son of one of the producers in the cooperative. This cooperative, a very democratic decision-making body made up of the producers themselves, can offer much in the way of capacity and facilitation such as access to international markets and certification that give producers a better price for their product and benefit everyone involved. There I tasted coffee from one of the producers in the region of El Cua, a delicious medium roast with very warm tones.
From there we traveled to the other side of Matagalpa and met with Nereyda, a recipient who worked in San Ramon and heard about SEG from a group member interning at the same place. She had noticed a healthy potential for demand from the crowds waiting at the bus stop and used the loan to open a restaurant called Cafétin Ninas Moses. Now her restaurant is filled with people after work and on weekends, and she detailed for us her plans for expansion. I was so happy to get to meet and talk with Nereyda face to face, definitely a woman with great entrepreneurial spirit and business savvy.
Besides our standing loan partners, new opportunities have arisen. When we got to Nicaragua we heard about a prospective loan recipient with whom we met and then whose operations we visited in Laguana. They have already begun work on a tourist location offering many amenities and with a good business plan; I hope we will be able to make another partnership here. Needless to say, it’s been a very informative trip. I’m so glad I get to meet all of these people, hear their stories, and make these personal connections.