Oh my goodness – what an amazing day! Mellinda and I were able to extend our trip by a couple days to spend time with FINCA Nicaragua, the Leon Chapter (the Foundation for International Community Assistance). This is definitely something I will continue to do on future trips, and will make a conscious effort to ensure that all of PurpleDirt's designers and team members are able to experience.
We arrived at the FINCA loans office in the heart of Leon around noon and were greeted with opens arms by Xiomara Patricia Montenegro Pacheco, the branch manager. Xiomara has 10 years of experience in the business and has been working at FINCA for two and-a-half years. Mellinda and I wanted to see, first hand, the impact that YOUR purchases are making in the Nicaraguan community, so off we went on a thrilling motorcycle ride down a windy dirt road lined with broken brick homes and barbed wired fences. Men were working in fields with cows, pigs and chickens while women, children and the elderly sat, slowly rocking their chairs in the front yards. We arrived at the Santa Marie Church, located about 20 minutes outside of the downtown core, to meet with one of FINCA’s newest groups.
Wedged between a humble home, two clotheslines, a barbed wired fence and a broken down brick wall, eight women and one man sat on plastics chairs out in the open air. Each had a slightly different story but all with one common goal – each and every one of them are trying to expand their business to feed and support their families. Their trades ranged from designing and selling clothing, to making and vending some of the most amazing candy I’ve ever tasted, to slaughtering pigs, to owning a convenience store, to farming cows. The Santa Marie Church in their community ties all of these different individuals together as a group.
What makes FINCA interesting is its community based accountability model. Entrepreneurs, similar to the nine people we met at the Santa Marie Church, form communities or groups to source loans; the larger your group the lower your interest rate. The belief is that your community or group will keep you inspired, will motivate you through countless small business cycles, and will ultimately increase your overall rate of success. If one member of the community fails, the others are there to support you and help close the gap.
The group we met will receive a loan of $350 USD - between nine people, that works out to under $40 USD per person. FORTY DOLLARS?! Think about how quickly we spend $40 USD - that buys you four coffees from Starbucks OR half of a pair of shoes (maybe even a quarter of a shoe, depending on your level of investment) OR a dinner out (not including alcohol, cab or any additional add-ons) OR a nice bottle of wine!
Now think about how much that $40 USD means to a FINCA client in Nicaragua, and how far each and every one of your PurpleDirt purchases goes.
The giving keeps going; generally, FINCA loans are paid back within four to six months, allowing an initial investment of $40 to help an additional one to two people over the course of a year. Now consider that, on average, each FINCA client supports a family of five - you are now impacting the lives of over 12 people in one year, 36 people in two years and 60 people by year five - wow!
It was a humbling experience and I am proud to say, from my heart, my mind and my soul, that I truly believe that PurpleDirt is a community first jewelry house!