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This week’s photo and story comes from Tjarda Muller, Oxfam communications officer in Central America.
Small-business owner Olga Alicia Pérez, pictured, lives in San Miguel Chicaj’, municipality of the department of Baja Verapaz in central Guatemala. “I make ice, jelly and fruit cocktails,” Pérez says. “Thank God, the business is doing well. My son studies and I am able to give him some money for a midday snack, or for the assignments he gets.”
Pérez is a member of an Oxfam Saving for Change group in her community, which helps her to keep her small business afloat. In Saving for Change, groups of 15 to 20 women combine their savings in a group fund. Members can borrow money from the fund to start or revive a small business, buy seeds and fertilizer for their land, or respond to an emergency. In Baja Verapaz, where 70 percent of the population lives in poverty, recurrent droughts as well as heavy rainfalls can devastate crops. Saving for Change provides an opportunity for women to lift themselves and their families out of these crisis situations.
“We fight; we struggle to save some money. This is a beautiful project. Many people in San Miguel Chicaj’ are involved now,” says Pérez.
The benefits of savings groups like these are now reaching far beyond Central America. Last week a group of international organizations, including Oxfam America, announced “50 by 2020,” an initiative to expand savings group membership globally from 6 million to 50 million by 2020.