Nora’s Pigs

Nora’s Pigs
By Edelia Aracelly Cruz Torrez – Nicaragua Women’s Empowerment Program Officer

Nora is 33 years old and lives in the community of San José, Nicaragua, about 15 miles from the Self-Help International headquarters in San Carlos. She and her husband have three children, two boys and a girl. Her greatest desire is for her children to be able to study, so that they can graduate and get ahead. Studies were difficult for her and her husband, living on remote farms far from the nearest school.

Nora told us to attend daily classes at the nearest school she had to walk a long distance in an extremely lonely area. On many occasions her mother could not accompany her. During the rainy season the rivers rose, and since there were no bridges she could not cross them. She delayed her studies and helped her mother with all the house and field duties, and with selling the products they harvested on their farm.

When she was 16 years old she decided to work on her own, but since she was still studying in her first year of high school, the only work she found was taking care of the housework of a woman who lived in the community of Las Azucenas, the largest community close to the farm where she lived with her parents. The woman allowed Nora to work part-time so that she would have the opportunity to study. As time went by she decided it was better to just work and leave her studies, a decision that she now regrets. A few years later she married a young man in similar circumstances as she. They emigrated to the neighboring country of Costa Rica to find work.

Years later, after experiencing many difficulties and hard work in Costa Rica, Nora and her husband decided to return to Nicaragua and work in the fields, the thing they knew best. Already with a child and with a little money they had saved from their jobs in Costa Rica, the couple bought some pigs while living at Nora’s parents’ house. The couple’s goal at that time was to continue working and save to build their own house. But by then it was becoming more difficult for Nora to help her husband in the way she wanted. Soon came their second child and third child, so what Nora could do was just take care of the needs of her children and husband. As time went by, the eldest son was ready to start studying, so Nora and her husband decided to build their little house, even if it was made of wood with a thatched roof. They lived in that house for many years, as for them the most important thing was their son´s education.

As time went by, Nora’s husband continued working for other people, planting and managing land and animals, while Nora kept raising pigs and chickens to support the needs of the family. But Nora also liked to participate in her eldest son’s activities at the school, so the teachers and the rest of parents saw that Nora was very responsible and they chose her to be the treasurer of the school.

In one of her son´s school meetings Nora learned from her sister about an organization called Self-Help International, which helps women like her who want to improve their lives. Nora immediately became interested in knowing more about the organization. Her sister did not have the answers, so she went to a niece who was already a beneficiary of the program, and she explained to her all of the benefits that women receive by being part of that program.

Nora continued, saying: “I really believed my niece, because she was a very shy person, even with our own family members, and now she impressed me with the changes she had made. Even the rest of the members of our community noticed it. So, I decided to try to be part of the program. I asked my niece to let me know when the next meeting was going to be held, so I could attend. It was in 2019 that I attended the first meeting with the former program officer, Yolanda Fletes, and I asked to be part of the program immediately.

The first topic was self-esteem, which encouraged me a lot. I understood that I needed to make changes in my personal life to be able to help my family. What excited me most was hearing that women were helped not only with training, workshops and financing, but also in agriculture, since that was the thing my husband and I knew best. I thought that it was going to work fine for us. This is how, after other trainings, I received the donation of the first 4 pounds of INTA – Nutrader corn (high-quality protein corn). My husband and I received training together on how to make better use of the land using the double-row planting technique. We did not have our own land, but we rented a piece of land to work, and the yield we obtained was excellent, so for the next planting season we decided to rent a larger piece of land to plant.”

Nora continued, saying: “I applied to Self-Help International for financing to start a small business, and since I already had experience in raising pigs, I decided to continue with that work, buying more pigs, fattening them and then selling them. At first I hesitated to ask for the loan since I had never managed money, much less paid a debt, but with the support of the Women’s Empowerment Program officer and my niece, who helped me to believe in myself, I managed to overcome that fear and with the money they gave me I bought four small pigs, three male and one female. After six months of taking care of them I sold the three male pigs, and with that money I paid back the loan to Self-Help International. I kept the sow because she was already pregnant, and she gave birth to nine little pigs.”

“From there I decided to stop working in the fields with my husband and take good care of the baby pigs and then sell them. That’s how things went over the years. I continued this business of buying small pigs, fattening them and selling them, and making the sows reproduce to sell the offspring. I continued receiving support from Self-Help International with training, coaching and financing. For my second loan I bought a calf instead of pigs, because as I mentioned before, my husband and I wanted to repair and improve our small house, and to achieve that I had to take a bigger step. I sold my oldest sow to increase the funds we had, because with the sale of the calf and the rest of the pigs we could finally improve our house. Thanks to God we achieved our goal. Now our house is made of wood, with a metal roof. I feel happy because I have seen a radical change in my life and my family, and in record time we achieved our goals, compared to all of the years we had to live in the neighboring country of Costa Rica.”

“Now, I have learned and developed many new skills, but the main thing I focus on is taking care of myself, my husband and children. I have also learned how to save and invest money, and how to reach the goals we set out to achieve as a family. I know we have a long way to go still, but we are working step by step and I know we are on the right track.”

“I thank Self-Help International and the Women’s Empowerment Program for the support I have received from training, donations and loans, because in this way I have been able to help my family without having to emigrate to another country. For that reason I ask that the Women’s Empowerment Program be extended by making other women aware that they can get ahead if they want to make a personal change, and to have a story to tell other women.”

Nora concluded by saying “I feel very happy, and every time I find women who need help, I refer them to the current officer of the Women’s Empowerment Program, so that she can guide them on what they should do to be part of this very important program for us. Thank you very much Self-Help International.”