Two of our borrowers attending one of our business classes.
When En Vía first started out, we had a powerful idea and not much else. Carlos, En Vía’s founder and director, would take a few interested visitors out in his own car to meet with women entrepreneurs in order to share with them the micro-credit/responsible tourism model that we were trying to set up. Those first “tour fees” became loans that our very first groups of borrowers used to develop their own small businesses. Once the loans were paid back, they were given out again to more women, and so the program began to take shape and momentum.
Our first tour participants started talking about the idea amongst themselves and their wider communities. It was exciting for everyone involved to have the opportunity to exchange opinions and discuss the potential that microfinance and tourism could have for development. And so, with the will and ambition of the women, and the passion of our supporters, many more people began to join our efforts.
Within no time, we found that we could no longer fit in Carlos’s car! We certainly didn’t have the means to buy a van for tours. From the start we were committed to directing 100% of the money we received first into interest-free loans. Therefore, we decided to rent a van from a company for tour days. With the rented van we had room to invite and share our model with more visitors, which in turn meant that we could convert more tour fees into loans for more women borrowers.
A tour group and a borrower walking and talking in Abasolo.
We are astonished and delighted to look back at how far we have come from those first tours and those first groups of brave women borrowers. We have had over 2,000 tourists join us on tours since we took up the idea in 2008! With this incredible support, we have given out over 1,500 loans to over 250 women in five different communities. The conversation is obviously getting bigger and bigger. Now, we need to make a step to be able to include more people and reach more women!
Cultural exchange: a tour participant learns how to weave on a loom!
Our goal is to buy our very own van. The current cost of the van rental is approximately US$10,000 every year. This cost is money that we can’t give out as loans. With the amount we pay yearly on renting the van we could give out 100 first-time loans to women borrowers who are currently waiting for the chance to participate. This is money that women could be using right now to invest in businesses that support their families and communities Therefore we have launched our Indiegogo campaign to buy a van!
En Vía’s goals are still the same as they were when we started out with nothing more than a big idea: to combine microfinance, responsible tourism and educational programs to bring about community development in Oaxaca. We have got so far with our model, but there is still so much we can achieve. We are ready to move FORWARD!
We call out to you, our friends and followers, who have already so generously supported our growth. Can you help us reach more women through micro-loans? We need your help to transport the idea of microcredit and responsible tourism; involve your network of friends, family, neighbours in our campaign! With a van of our own you can put us on the right path! With a van of our own we can put the money we are using for van rentals back in the pot for interest-free micro-loans!
To find out more about how you can get involved in our fundraising campaign, “A Van to Empower Women,” please click here.
By Kim Groves