As a volunteer, I am often telling people about our loan program – how the women become involved, the kinds of businesses they operate, and the ways in which the organization is growing. After describing the micro loan process, I am sometimes asked, “How do you know the women really need the loans?”
The process for receiving loan is relatively simple, but it is not fast. The women must form groups of three, fill out an application, attend Tuesday meetings, and participate in two En Vía tours before receiving a loan. That is a significant time commitment for these busy women, many of whom operate several businesses and also take care of their families. The loan amounts are between $1,300 and 3,000 MXN.
Last Tuesday, in Diaz Ordaz, we stopped by Raquel’s house, where she kindly let’s us house our weekly meetings. Raquel has a large clay oven, which is heated up in the morning, and acts as an efficient convection oven in the lower part of her house. She makes breads, conchas, and also bakes cakes. The ingredients are basic: flour, eggs, sugar, and sesame seeds. In the time we were there, Raquel and her family barely skipped a beat as she discussed the progress of her bakery and her second loan.
In Teotitlán del Valle, where preparations were in full swing for the most important holiday of the year, women committed to the loan process came to their meetings and waited for a little over an hour to receive their new loans. The women described how the loans have helped them expand their rug-weaving businesses, discussed what they had been learning in the business classes, and conversed happily amongst each other.
While En Vía’s tours are essential to being able to give interest-free loans, the time investment on the part of the women and invitations into their homes is also essential to En Vía’s success. The women demonstrate their commitment not just by repaying their loan each week, but also by giving their time and their patience. Our borrowers, in exchange for building credit and access interest loans, invest their time in telling their neighbors, sisters, and mothers about En Via. The time and patience the women demonstrate, tells us that the women have the best intentions and hopes for their loans, and that they believe microfinance is helping them, their families, and their communities.