August 9, 2023
We are now well into our journey of Walking People Out of Poverty, nine days and 200.86 KM to be exact. The first week of our journey has not been without its challenges for John, Peter, and me. The steep ascents, blistering heat, heavy load, and rugged trails have tested our physical endurance and mental fortitude.
As I push forward with sore knees and blisters on my feet, each step resonates with a purpose that far outweighs the temporary discomfort. I think about the clients I have met in Nicaragua who are overcoming their own barriers and embracing entrepreneurship to shape a future for themselves, their families, and their communities. Their stories of strength and resilience keep me going, even on the most challenging stretches of the trail.
Nicaragua, like many countries, has dealt with gender norms that have long relegated women to vulnerable employment within their communities. This year, Opportunity International Canada celebrates its 25th anniversary. Over this time, we’ve played a pivotal role in dismantling these barriers by empowering women through microfinance.
Our work in Nicaragua is not only about microloans but rather about igniting a spirit of entrepreneurship in women. By equipping women with the skills, knowledge, and resources to start and grow businesses, they are effectively breaking the cycle of poverty and overcoming these inequalities.
I met Racquel on my first trip to Nicaragua and was inspired by her determination and resilience in the face of challenges.
As a teenager, she sold freshly baked bread to earn an income. She pedaled through her neighborhood, delivering bread on her bike. As her customer base grew, she recognized that her bicycle-based operation could no longer keep up with the increasing demand. So, she set her sights on a larger goal: owning a storefront that could accommodate her growing customer base and provide a more stable platform for her business.
Despite her determination, Racquel encountered obstacles along the way. She repeatedly sought loans to realize her dream of owning a storefront but was met with disappointment as her efforts fell short.
In 2017, Racquel saw a turning point in her journey. She learned about ASODENIC and joined a microloan group called “Life of Faith.” With her first loan, she strategically invested in her business, opting to rent a stall on a bustling street and purchase high-quality produce in bulk. This decision not only improved her profit margins but also showcased her keen business acumen.
Now on her sixth loan, Raquel has graduated to a new ASODENIC group called “Growing in Confidence”. With six years of business training, Raquel has become a thriving, confident businesswoman who has gained respect within her community.
No matter how difficult the steep ascents have been in the last nine days, a surge of exhilaration courses through me as I near the summit. The view from the top is awe-inspiring and a testament to the rewards of perseverance. It’s a moment of clarity that echoes the victories of women, like Racquel, who’ve successfully navigated rugged terrain to build better lives for themselves and their families.
The path may be challenging but it’s worth every step.
This post is part of a CEO Blog series on Dan’s reflections as he embarks on a 700+ KM hike, Walking People Out of Poverty. Through the hike, he aims to raise support and awareness of our work of poverty alleviation in Nicaragua.
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