Francisca Ortiz, a 22 year old frail and worried mother, lives in Guatemala
with her four children on less than $2 a day. Since she has insufficient economic opportunity, Francisca cannot provide food, clothing, healthcare, or education for her children. I wanted to implement an effective project to help mothers like Francisca and their children, in Guatemala. At my school, we previously fundraised for charities only through bake sales and food sales. I needed to and wanted to do much more.
Last year I introduced to my school an online viral fundraising strategy focused on microloans. Microloans are given to poor women to start businesses, such as coffee farming. Last year I introduced to my school an online viral fundraising strategy focused on microloans. Over the past year, I have seen the power of microloans. Microloans are very small loans (such as $50 to $100), not just temporary support “band-aids,” given to poor women to start businesses, such as coffee farming. Microloans can transform Francisca Ortiz’s life out of poverty.
After talking with our community service director and gaining the support of our Head of School, I formed a partnership between a leading international nonprofit organization, Project Concern International, and my school. Thus, the Amigos Para Siempre (Friends for Life) microloan project was born.
After I spent numerous hours developing Project Concern’s online fundraising strategy and website, as well as content for its pages, we finally launched the microloan fundraising site. Then I began demonstrating the effectiveness of online viral fundraising. I taught students how to personally develop their own fundraising websites and send out emails linking back to their sites. Yet, I also organize traditional offline fundraisers for my microloan project, such as bake sales and a middle school-led ice cream sale. In just two months, I have made great progress toward reaching my fundraising goal of $30,000. I had raised $4000.
The current success of my project, rather than in numbers, can be demonstrated through a story of one of its beneficiaries. Maria Perez is a success story of the Amigos Para Siempre project I have developed. This woman coffee grower received a microloan from Project Concern. With this loan she bought fertilizer for her coffee crops and received agricultural training from Project Concern’s staff. She received a successful harvest and sold her crops for a fair price. After paying back her loan, she had money left over and bought a sewing machine. Now she makes dresses for her local community and receives an even greater amount of money to sufficiently support her children through education, healthcare, and food.
In addition, another major component of the Amigos Para Siempre project is education. Sonia Nazario, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and Los Angeles Times Reporter, spoke at our school about the consequences of poverty for poor women in Latin America and gave my microfinance project her support. I introduced my project and explained the devastating poverty in Guatemala to the whole upperschool, as well as many parents.
Also, I taught 5th and 6th graders about poverty, Guatemala, Project Concern International, and the effectiveness of microfinance loans. In order to demonstrate what exactly a microfinance loan is, I gave Monopoly money to students to represent these small loans. The children were told that with this money they could start a business in a third-world country; then, they passed the money to other students, giving them a similar opportunity. Students eagerly proposed different ways to raise money for the project, such as doing chores at home, as well as donating their weekly allowance money. After hearing my presentations, two 11 year old girls proudly dropped off a jar with $14.35 for microloans; a few weeks later, the girls dropped off $55 for microloans.
My project continues. I am planning on expanding the educational campaign to speak to 9th grade students, as well as local organizations. Moreover, I am working with underclassmen to ensure that this project flourishes, well after I graduate. In a few months, I will travel to Guatemala and personally meet the microloan beneficiaries, mothers such as Francisca.