No more micro-loans for Gema and Cristina

A group of people stand holding their piñatas.

Gema holds her orange piñata

Just a Little Sparkle for a Brighter Future

Sisters Gema, 24, and Cristina, 27, are two of the twenty-five women who live in Ochomogo, Rivas, Nicaragua and are currently participating in Self-Help’s micro-credit program. They began their journey with Self-Help two years ago when they completed all the training sessions to join our micro-credit program. Each woman then qualified to receive a loan of $50 (USD). The sisters pooled their resources and purchased 35 pieces of jewelry and now operate quite a profitable jewelry business!  

Either Gema or Cristina travel to Managua to buy the jewelry, which they then sell in their local community. They buy and sell women’s and men’s necklaces, bracelets, wristwatches, rings, and hair accessories that come in different colors, sizes and designs. All of the products are made using steel or plastic materials. They prefer to buy in bulk because they get lower prices per piece that way, and only one of the sisters travels at a time to keep the transportation expenses low.

The cost per piece varied from $1 to $4 each based on the size, style and material.  After factoring in all of the costs, they set the sale price based on the quality of the product and customer demand, usually $7.30 – $8.30 per piece.  Even after factoring in all expenses associated with their business and repaying their initial loans, the two women earned a net profit of $116 USD from the initial loan. This margin of profit motivated them to continue the business, and they applied for two more loans from Self-Help.  By the time they applied for their third loan of $100 each, they were well known in their community and many people were requesting and purchasing their products. They hope to one day sell enough of their jewelry that everyone in their community would be wearing their products.

Cristina is no stranger to hard work and always finds creative ways to make ends meet. Until she can earn a living selling jewelry full time, Cristina is working other jobs to cover additional family expenses. Her work as customer service representative has provided her with the opportunity to sell her jewelry to her coworkers.  Sometimes she offers the jewelry to them on credit, allowing them to pay her back later once they receive their paychecks.  She also sells Nicaraguan fast food on the weekends.

picture of a Nicaraguan woman named Cristina

Cristina, 27.

The community of Rivas is about 366 kms (roughly 227 miles) from our main office in San Carlos, Rio San Juan. In order to meet with the micro-credit groups there, I take two buses, two taxis, and walk the rest of the way to reach the homes of the participants. The home visits are necessary in order to supervise various projects and provide new training and skill development. It’s quite the trek for me, but it’s worth it when I see how hard they are working and that they are putting the skills that I have taught them into action.  These women need our help, and it’s gratifying to see the changes in their lives each time I visit.

While Cristina is busy at work, Gema is studying Psychology at the University of Rivas. She’s in her last year and hopes to use the profits from her jewelry business to pay her education fees. She dreams of becoming a business professional who will expand her business beyond her community in order to improve her quality of life. Cristina also dreams of expanding her business in the future, and knows that she will have to work hard to improve her business in order to achieve her goals.

picture of a Nicaraguan woman named Gema

Gema, 24.

Though their business is good, the sisters continue to live in their mother’s house along with their grandparents and two nephews (7 and 9 years old) and use their income to help support the rest of their family financially.  Their older sister traveled to Costa Rica in search of work, but is not able to send enough money to cover her children’s expenses. Instead, Gema and Cristina cover those costs and care for their nephews so that they too can receive an education and have more opportunities.

They told me, “We are very grateful to Self-Help International and the micro-credit program for giving us the chance to participate in the program, and for supporting us with low interest-rate loans. We want to thank you for the training sessions on business management and much more.”

They said that with the help of God and the Self-Help Micro-Credit Program, they are able to handle their business and maintain self-sufficiency.  As of today, they no longer need loans from Self-Help to support their businesses. They are now self-financing.

They hope that other women have the same opportunity that they had to become members of the program. “We want to thank the Self-Help staff and donors for supporting us and for helping the women of Nicaragua to become fighters and entrepreneurs.”