Engaging a Community through Stove Building

by Yolanda Fletes & Edelia Cruz Torres – Micro-Credit Program Officers

Bertilda, a Peace Corps volunteer, and neighbors help build oven

It has been a busy few months for Self-Help’s micro-credit program in Nicaragua. After interviewing many strong candidates in June, Edelia joined Self-Help Nicaragua in July as a second micro-credit program officer to ensure that the program will continue to serve women uninterrupted during Yolanda’s upcoming maternity leave. Together, Yolanda and Edelia visited all four communities involved in Self-Help’s micro-credit program (Quinta Lidia, Santa Isabel, Melchorita, and Las Azucenas) and Yolanda introduced Edelia to each woman in her home so they could get to know and trust Edelia since they’ll be working with her during Yolanda’s leave.

Disbursing & Collecting on Micro-Loans
In July, Yolanda and Edelia issued the second round of micro-loans to 10 members of the Las Azucenas micro-credit group. They also completed the final business training session for the 5 newest members of the micro-credit program. The women are also from Las Azucenas, and requested to join the program after seeing the success of the women in their community who were involved with Self-Help. The new group accessed their first loans in late July after loans from other communities were repaid to the revolving fund.

New and improved oven design

Introducing Technology to Improve Health & Household Finances
The micro-credit program has been hosting several training sessions on new technologies and enterprises as well. In July, Self-Help began promoting a new, improved stove design called “INKAWASI.” The traditional firewood stoves expose families to smoke and other gases that cause Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). In contrast, the INKAWASI stove has a chimney to reduce smoke inhalation, making it safer for the family’s health. It also requires less firewood than the traditional design, which makes it both more environmentally friendly and more economical by saving families money spent on firewood.

Alfredo (SHI staff) demonstrates how to build oven

Alfredo, a member of Self-Help staff, learned how to build the oven during a training session sponsored by the Peace Corps. Together with local Peace Corps Volunteer Michael, Alfredo lead the training sessions to teach women about the benefits to their families, how the up-front cost to construct the stove would save them money in the long term, and how they could use their micro-loans to purchase the construction materials. At the end of the training, five women in attendance requested support to build the new stove in their homes, so Alfredo, Michael, and Self-Help Country Director Jorge immediately began helping the women start the construction.

Bertilda’s new oven complete!

Bertilda from Quinta Lidia was the first woman to use her loan to construct the new stove. Eight other women from Bertilda’s micro-credit group, who were also interested in constructing the stove in their homes, came to Bertilda’s home to watch the construction process. Self-Help’s goal is for young entrepreneurs to become promoters and builders of the newly improved ovens as their own small business ventures.

PS: We’re thrilled to share that Yolanda and Jairo welcomed a healthy baby boy in late August. Both mother & baby are doing well!