A few years ago, a 39 year old woman left the hospital in her hometown with great anguish in her heart. She lost her left leg in a car accident and her hands were severely damaged. She also had to sell all she had, to pay for the medical expenses. Her husband and three children had left for the capital of the country some weeks before, looking for jobs. All she wanted at that moment was to meet her family, so she took a bus to the city. But when she arrived she found out her husband had already moved in with another woman. Lucía was desperate, alone, poor and handicapped, when she learned from a friend that she could take small loans from a microcredit program working in their neighbourhood.
She took the first loan to start a small grocery shop in her own house, which was something she could do even with her disability. Her two younger boys could go back to school. Now she has taken a second loan and her grocery shop has expanded considerably enabling her to build another two rooms, one for the shop and another for rent.
Lucía is 43 years old now and can face her future with some hope again.
Currently, like Lucia, 624 others, 85% of whom are women, benefit from the loans of CESOL, ACJ (YMCA) microcredit program in Quito, capital of Ecuador, located in the North-Western Pacific Coast of South America. More than 50% of the 12 million people live under poverty line and 38% are considered bottom poor.
"Looking for a methodology to gain efficiency in our work, in 1998, I contacted Shan Ali, a volunteer of Grameen Foundation Australia, through Grameen Bank web pages. He strongly encouraged me to replicate the Grameen model. He helped me, through BSHF of England, to visit Grameen Bank in 1999 and to attend the 34th Grameen International Dialogue.
Back in Ecuador, we applied what I had learned about Grameen methodology to CESOL. It had remarkable results: we gained much more efficiency in delivering loans, granting a total of 325 loans from April to December 2000; our borrowers were organized into 65 groups and 8 centers; they elected their group and centre leaders (90% women); they created their Group Fund and started to participate in the process of building a sustainable, alternative microcredit institution.
In December 2000, we began a serious replication project with a loan fund from Grameen Trust. We began our work in Las Cuadras, located South-East of Quito, because of its high incidence of poverty. After targeting the poor, in April we formed our first centre with 7 groups of five people each.
By the end of May, we had an opportunity to attend a training program for branch managers at Grameen Bank Training Institute, where we realised some of the initial mistakes we had made. In the first place, we were going too fast. We learned that a bank worker has capacity to form only two groups each month. As a consequence, since September, we started having discipline problems. The ACJ(YMCA) Quito, also faced administrative problems that severely affected the accounting process.
Nevertheless, we now have around 200 new borrowers, who have invested their loans to start or expand income generating activities: Agriculture (0.8%), small animal raising (41.8%), handicraft (11.3%), trading (38.9%), services (7.2%). We are now working very hard, but more confident about our success in the future."
You can have more information regarding ACJ Quito and the Grameen-based approach to microcredit that has been adapted in Ecuador, if you write to :
Presidenta Del Directorio
Lucas Bejejarano 160 Y Primero de Mayo
Quito, Ecuador, South America
Telefax : 593-2-2640449,