I find nothing more inspiring than a story of women getting together and making something good happen to benefit their families and their own empowerment. This is one such story. Latin America is a region where 100 million people survive on less than $2 a day and microfinance has barely touched the surface of this vast mass of needy people. It is therefore even more encouraging to hear of success stories of families here and this takes place in Puerto Diaz in Nicaragua.
There is this little group of 4 women who are friends and helpmates, who are there for each other in their daily battle for survival. Karina, Tasha, Gabriela and Stephie are good homemakers who make every centavo count and manage to keep their families fed and clothed within their limited means. All the women are adept at baking, making a small cake or loaf as and when their finances permit. Whenever they met and giggled together in total amity, they would discuss their desire to open a bakery of their own, which seemed like a distant dream never to come true.
I have visited Nicaragua many times in my efforts to make some small difference to the deprived communities there. There was so much to do and so many people to help that I would sometimes feel that we were not doing enough. When I heard the story of Karina and her friends, it changed my mood to a more positive one. Through Gabriela’s brother, they came to know of a microfinance company that was giving small loans without collateral. With a small loan of $600 they managed to buy all that they needed for the baking, an oven and a mixer and they were all set to go. Stephie had a larger house and the front room was converted from being a living room to their dream bakery.
They were all single mothers and used to working hard and looking after their children. The bakery was an added, but much-loved chore. All 4 took turns at baking and managing the outlet and handling their housework and children. Soon, with the earnings from their bakery and after paying off their loan, they rented a larger house where they decided to live together. This was a better arrangement, as now the bakery was part of their home and caring for a single household and children became that much easier.
They are waiting now to take a second loan, with which they plan to add to the infrastructure and also take classes in cake decoration to take their skills to another level. The bakery has become popular in the neighborhood for its fresh products and the determination of its owners. The women themselves have found a new confidence and pride in the success of their enterprise and have emerged from the trauma and misery of their lives as single mothers in a male-dominated social structure. As a group, they have triumphed and earned the respect and grudging admiration of those who had scorned them earlier.
These are the heart-warming stories that give us hope and encouragement as microfinance is a proven solution that has a profound effect on those who benefit from it and leads to social revival and emancipation. We at Club Asteria are continuing our efforts to help such women and others in many countries around the world. We ask you to join hands with us in this endeavor to bring a better life to those who need it.Tags: entrepreneur skills, future generations, additional income, business loans, education business opportunities
I’ve written in these pages in the past about how the retail industry in poor and developing nations is very informal, with stores often being run out of peoples’ homes, and put together on a very low budget. Now I’d like to tell you about how the restaurant business works in rural Thailand.
There are different types of restaurants throughout Thailand, ranging from five-star tourist destinations with the finest international cuisine, to very informal “footpath restaurants” that are set up along the sidewalk, and everything in between. In most of Thailand, you’ll see these footpath restaurants everywhere. What does it take to become a restaurateur in Thailand? You could of course, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a high-end destination, bring in one of the finest French chefs from Paris, and cater to rich tourists. But of course, if you’re like most people there, you don’t have that kind of money. In fact, you probably don’t have any money at all. But launching your own footpath restaurant isn’t a capital-intensive venture. You buy some cheap plastic tables and chairs, a wok and a propane tank, throw it in the back of your old pickup truck, and find a spot on the sidewalk. Make a few signs. Unload your paraphernalia and start cooking. Voila, you’re a restaurateur! If only it were so easy in the U.S. and Canada!
Tourists are often afraid to eat at these places, because the food tends to be very local and unfamiliar, and English is less likely to be spoken. Many are skittish about eating food that is being cooked out in the open. But it’s a great experience, and I recommend it highly if you ever have the chance to travel to Southeast Asia. You’ll get the real experience—real Thai food that the locals eat—and get to interact with some of the most friendly and interesting people in the world. The first time I ate at one of these places, I was with my Thai friend who ordered for us. I had no idea what was in store, but the food was wonderful, savory and fresh, and lunch for both of us cost 150 baht—about four U.S. dollars. I have to admit, I ate some things I probably wouldn’t have ordinarily ordered, but the fried fish maw was a lot tastier than I ever would have imagined. We ordered an exceptionally spicy Tom Yum Goong soup, and cooled off with a wonderful dessert of mango and sticky rice.
Everywhere in the country, from Hat Yai to Chiang Mai, these food stalls provide good food at cheap prices to locals and tourists alike. But the biggest miracle is the opportunities these small food stalls present to people with few options at hand. Twenty-six year old Noi learned how to make pad thai noodles from her grandma. Grandma had a reputation for making the best noodles in the neighborhood when Noi was a little girl, and Noi always paid special attention when Grandma was cooking in her traditional outdoor cooking area.
A year ago Noi, having lost her job at a small retail store, decided she’d like to open up her own footpath noodle stall near her modest apartment in Nonthaburi, a bustling suburb of Bangkok. With the help of a microloan, she was able to get the equipment she needed, an initial supply of ingredients, and some signage. She already had the most important part—the lessons and inspiration her grandmother had given her years ago as a little girl.
Today, Noi makes twice as much as she ever did as a retail clerk (minimum wage in Thailand is about fifty cents an hour), and she’s fast gaining a reputation as the “Noodle Lady of Nonthaburi”.
We’re always so pleased when we here at Club Asteria hear about people like Noi, whose lives have been transformed for the better, with just a little help from some unknown friends. Join our group today and help us in our effort to promote microlending around the world.Tags: care food, developing nations, tourist destinations, plastic tables
Hi, I’m Andrea Lucas, Managing Director of Club-Asteria. Club-Asteria is an online global membership organization that provides education, business opportunities, e-commerce and innovative programs to empower our members. Please visit our site at www.club-asteria.com to learn about our programs and services and our goals for the future and read about our philanthropic activities in the News.
I have now started the series of blogs so I can share my views and experiences with all of my family and friends and the extended community of people that are interested in global affairs.
Everything in my life that I have lived through – both good and bad, has brought me to this moment in time. I now have the ability to contribute to some of society’s most critical and pressing issues – the plight of hundreds of millions of people that still live in poverty despite the advances in our social network and technology. Human beings just like you and I who don’t enjoy the simple advantages of clean drinking water, reliable electricity, adequate shelter, the simplest of health care, food and education.
As I have traveled the world in my position in the financial community I have experienced first- hand this injustice and tragedy of humanity. My life today is dedicated to not only sharing the plight of these undeserved people of the world but more importantly to serve as a catalyst of change to truly benefit their individual lives. I hope that you will enjoy reading about my many experiences and the people I meet and can lend support to.
My blogs will touch on a variety of subjects, from e-commerce to financial support to philanthropic assistance to most importantly, education that can benefit each of the individuals and families that we are seeking to help.Tags: moment in time, clean drinking water, life today, managing director, global affairs