So, after what was probably the dark side of Peace Corps in those last two posts, I decided that I should bring us back to the lighter side of Peace Corps: actually successful work. Of course, success depends on your own definitions, but right now success in my book means having work to do!
As I wrote about a month ago, my Alcaldeza (female mayor, or in this case, vice mayor) came to me because she wanted to start a micro-empresas class for women. I suggested to her that we work in conjunction with the Women's Office for our municipality. We set up a meeting for the following monday, and promptly sat down, went through names of needy women, thought about how large a class I could do, and right then and there wrote a proposal to take to the Mayor. The following day it was typed, the Alcaldeza and I signed it, and it went to his desk. It was approved before the end of the week. Sometimes it is awesome to work with the vice-mayor.
However, that was the end of the awesome efficiency we had going and we promptly waited a month for funds to be released. We had timed the class to end right before reconnect, but in reality, we started the week before reconnect, and I did three of the scheduled six classes on a thursday, friday, and the following monday. The very first day there were 25 women who attended--some of whom walked an hour to come. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as my class got smaller), there are about 14 who stayed on, and I had a regular attendance of about 12, not including the Alcaldeza, women's office director, and librarian (classes were at the library).
The class concluded last week with the women being in three groups, and preparing business plans for three businesses (a cafe, a restaurant, and artisan jewelry). However, in my attempt to bring some start-up funds from the government, the women realized they needed a group of at least 10 to get the seed capital and promptly decided to give up their plans in favor of one big panadería (bakery). I think this is extremely unfortunate, because they could have formed a group of ten or more, obtained their small business loans, and still started three businesses. One large panadería is a terrible idea here, because there is no way a business of a size large enough to support 10 families can be successful or sustainable here. I mean, I haven't even SEEN a business with more than 5 employees who aren't related to one another. So, I'm still trying to talk them out of it. I was happy, however, when one of the best students was like "Even if we don't decide to be a part of this group and get the loans, now we have the capacidad to start our own businesses", and one of the students even called me yesterday to see if I could continue advising them.
So, it's not all a wash. After seeing Carrie's presentation at Reconnect on her class "Mi Vida Empresarial", I'd really like to adopt that format, though I have doubts about how to obtain the funding for that. Jeff might be starting (read: the doctor wants him to start) a pregnant teens support group, and this might be the next step for them toward income generation as well.
P.S. I'm sorry that our blog lacks photos. This is because until recently we only had iPhones to take photos with, and those are likely to get stolen if we take them in public. We have a digital camera now, but are waiting on a connection cable and battery charger for it.