In January 2011, I traveled to Nicaragua with the MBA program at Quinnipiac University. I was hand selected by the Albert Schweitzer Institute to travel with a small business delegation to work with small businesses in Leon as a business consultant and decide whether or not they would be a good microloan candidate. Since all of the businesses we worked with were prime examples of microloan candidates, we all presented our findings to a board back at Quinnipiac and got the small businesses the microloans they needed to change their lives.
I returned to Leon in August with two Quinnipiac business professors. The August trip is designed to plan the upcoming January trip and to evaluate the success of the ongoing program. I had the opportunity to “tag along” and was a part of the follow up interviews with the business owners we provided microloans too. One story in particular hit me hard and made me realize how much of a difference we can all make in this world.
One woman, in her twenties, found herself stuck in an abusive relationship with a five year old son. She sold clothes as a means of income (a very weak income I may add). She would purchase bundles of clothes that had been donated from first world countries. Since she only had the option of buying these bundles, she could not strategically decide what types of clothes she would purchase to resell. Sometimes she was stuck with inventory that would not sell while other times she would get relatively “lucky”. Her life was full of ups and downs, mainly downs, and she wasn’t making enough money to have the confidence to leave her husband who beat her to live on her own with her young son. The microloan that she received through Quinnipiac allowed her increase and diversify her inventory leading to more income and a better life. She had tears in her eyes as she told us her story and how her life has changed for the better. She has also fully repaid the loan.
Both times I was in Leon, I stayed in La Villa with a host family. My family practically adopted me and had me calling them “mama, papa, hermana and hermano” by the second day. Living with them in a house made out of concrete, tin roof, no hot water, little electricity and bare minimun furniture, I started to take a second look at my life back home where I am blessed with a house full of furniture and knick-knacks, heat, AC, hot water, many rooms etc. I began to look deeper into the relationships I have with people as well. Sitting at the dinner table and attempting to have a full fledged conversation with my family (I speak little Spanish and they speak little English) I noticed the love they have for each other and the joy they have in their lives.
So what do I appreciate most in my life? It is not the materialistic things I own, but the nonmaterialistic things. It is the relationships I have with people, my memories, experiences and what I have to offer.
I express this gratitude one small step at a time. It is my drive to live life to the fullest…it is my desire to make a difference in people’s lives…and it is my hope to see this world turn into a better place.