Maria Ramos worked in a small clothing factory, but she also needed to care for her young children aged 2 years to 6, and it was a difficult life for the young mother. Her husband Juan had recently lost his temporary job at the local department store and now it was literally a daily struggle to make ends meet. Maria and Juan, her mother and the 3 children made it quite a large family and to even just feed everyone adequately was becoming a problem.
They lived just outside San Miguel one of the important cities in El Salvador. Maria was tired of her hectic, tiring schedule and wished they had a farm, where both she and Juan could work and grow what they could eat and sell the rest. But where was the money? Her meager salary just disappeared with all the expenses of the family, with no frills or luxuries for anyone.
In my visits to El Salvador I did not fail to notice that like most developing countries around the world, there was a stark contrast between the glittering malls and vibrant night life and the shanty towns where the poorer and marginalized sections eked out their existence. It was a micro-loan that turned the tide for Maria and Juan. It was a chance encounter with a friend of Juan that made the young couple aware that they could get money without a guarantor or any collateral.
The loan of $650 seemed a fortune to them and after a discussion, they decided to open a small store in their backyard. Juan was good with his hands and he built the small wooden structure with the shelves and a counter with some of the money. The rest was spent on buying the stock; some food items, soft drinks, household necessities like detergent and basic clothes like underwear, vests and socks. The store grew slowly but surely, with business increasing within a few months. Any spare money went into buying more stock and Juan had to build a separate shed to store more items.
The loan was repaid as per the schedule and both Juan and Maria applied for the second one. By now her mother started managing the store and Maria could spend time with her young children. Her 6-year-old son started going to school and Juan was also busy. With the second loan, the couple plan to buy some land in a place that was a distance from San Miguel, as it would be cheaper there. Farming was something that Juan had always wanted to do and he planned to build a small shack there, so that he could stay over if needed. Juan planned to grow maize and beans and sell the produce to the local cooperative.
They had a sparkle in their eyes and a spring in their steps and all because a small loan had given them hope. These are the real-life experiences that make us at Club Asteria determined to continue our efforts to do out bit to help the needy and deserving around the world. We hope you will join us in this great journey of discovery.