Sunday, November 7, 2010

Where Our Donations Go

One of the recipients of an En Via loan

By purchasing a product from our Mamacita range you are contributing to the fight against poverty in Mexico. For every item you purchase we donate 10% of our profits to En Via, an organisation that provides interest-free micro loans to help women start or expand their small businesses. They are also working on a broad range of other programs – from education to financial literacy to environmental support.

En Vía was born out of a need to solve two basic problems people living in poverty face in Oaxaca: the interest rates on credit and the challenge of getting tourist money to the people who need it most.

En Via runs tours from the city of Oaxaca out to Teotitán del Valle, a small town close to the city where they are currently running their programs. 100% of all donations and tour fees are given to their borrowers as an interest-free loan. Once the loan is paid back, it will is used to support the rest of their work in the community.

The main church in Teotitlán.

I recently had the pleasure to go on one of their tours and I would highly recommend it to anyone heading to Mexico. The pictures are from the tour and hopefully gives you a glimpse into the area they work. Below is a story sent to me about one of their new borrowers from this summer - a woman named Minerva Sanchez Sosa who just received her second loan. I hope this gives you an insight into the good work they are doing.

One of the women in the village working on a traditional weaving machine.

Minerva's Project
Minerva is a single mother, raising her 3-year old daughter. She is from Teotitlán, but lived for a few years in Sonora – the place they call the Cradle of Flour Tortillas. In Oaxaca, all of the hand-made tortillas are corn tortillas. While she was there, she fell in love with the flour tortillas, and asked a tortilla-maker to teach her so that she could make them for her family when she got back home. The tortillera agreed to teach her, but only on the condition that she open a business in Oaxaca to sell them so that she could support herself and her daughter.

Minerva agreed, and came back to Oaxaca with the idea of starting this business. She started with just one kilo of flour, making a batch of tortillas and giving free samples to her family and neighbors, then taking their orders for more.

Her First Loan
Minerva found out about En Via's loan program through a friend, and applied for her first loan this summer. She formed a borrower group with her mother, Miroslava, and friend, Maria. Miroslava uses her loans to buy wool for the beautiful rugs she weaves, and Maria uses hers to buy more of the pottery she sells to supplement the small income she makes as a curandera - a healer - in the town.  

With her first loan, Minerva was able to really launch her tortilla business, using the 1300 pesos to buy flour and other raw materials. Now she makes 2 kilos every day (about 80 tortillas), and sells them to family and neighbors from her home, in the Teotitlán market every morning, and to a handful of small restaurants.

Her Vision
Minerva has a great opportunity right now – she is able to sell all of the tortillas she can make, and knows that there is an even bigger market to which she could be selling far more. Many Oaxacans who have been to Northern Mexico or to the US loved the flour tortillas there and are very happy to be able to buy them in Teotitlán and those who hadn't tried flour tortillas before love them once they try Minerva's.

What she needs to take advantage of this is just the cash to invest in her business, to buy the raw materials to make as many tortillas as she can sell. Minerva has a vision that in the future, she will start a small cooperative to make more tortillas, specifically to help other single mothers and poor women in Teotitlán. She knows that by sharing the work, and selling to everyone who wants to buy them, she can help not only her own family, but many other families in the community.

Her Second Loan
With her second loan, which she received three days ago, Minerva is taking another step towards this vision. She will use this loan to buy more raw materials, a parilla (a small stove) and a bigger comal (the clay dish used to cook tortillas). With these, she will be able to make up to 8 kilos of tortillas each day – including the bigger tortillas that she will sell to a burrito maker. 

Hopefully this gives you more information about the projects we are supporting from the sales of the Mamacita range. If you would like any further information about En Via you can visit their website or their recently created facebook page.

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