Early this week I had to the opportunity to go out into the field with Kiva staff member Nicolas Lafaye (Portfolio Manager for South America) as he visited Fondo Esperanza in Santiago, Chile.  This day gave me the opportunity to focus on two of my favorite parts of being a Kiva Fellow: talking with clients and taking photos.  With camera in hand we headed out to two communities in the Santiago area, visited clients in their homes and businesses, and attended a Communal Bank meeting.  Here are 3 of my favorite photos from the day, as well as some of what I learned about their businesses from the clients.

Jóse in his store in the Lo Espejo neighborhood of Santiago

Jóse opens his doors earlier than the competition and closes them later; his clients are able to purchase products from 8am until 11pm each day.  He stocks his store with all of the things his clients wants, ranging from fruits and vegetables to canned and boxed foods.   He also sells products like pasta and rice is 250 gram bags (a little more than half a pound) that he makes himself and seals in a machine he purchased with a loan from Fondo Esperanza (FE): clients enjoy these because they can only buy in 1 kilogram bags at his competition.  Jóse pointed to numerous items that were purchases with loans from FE: the main cooler where he stores meats and cheeses, a freezer, and various display cabinets.  He plans to continue to improve the infrastructure of the building and purchased building products with his latest FE/Kiva loan–he has made the purchases and is waiting to coordinate with his son to pick a time to do the construction.  At 78 years old Jóse is not only the oldest member of his Communal Bank, but also the only man in the 21 person group.  He said he is completely fine with this and enjoys both the companionship and training he receives as part of the meetings to continual improve his business.

Raquel stands in front of her fruit and vegetable stand in Lo Espejo

Located only a few blocks from Jóse’s market, Raquel runs a fruit and vegetable stand on a busy street next to a shared taxi stand.  One of the first thing she mentioned is that she originally opened a small store outside of her home, but the location did not work and she decided to close the business and start over in the new location.  Raquel purchases her products in a large market where she can buy in lower bulk prices and then resells everything from her store.  She also does a good business in selling small bags of items like olives, pickled vegetables, and shredded salads that are well priced and convenient for her customers–I bought a bag of shredded cabbage, beets, and carrots that made a great addition to my lunch.  Raquel’s daughter was helping her with the store front and gets the support of other family members to keep the doors open when she has to leave to purchase products or attend a Communal Bank meeting.  She explained that her business is doing well and the profits she are making have a great impact on continuing to improve the life of her family.

Bernarda, Aída, Mónica, Eliana, and Viviana of the Compartiendo Esfuerzo (Sharing Effort) Communal Bank have loans with Kiva

During the afternoon I had the chance to visit the Compartiendo Esfuerzo (Sharing Effort) Communal Bank as they had one of their bi-weekly meetings.  5 of the members of the group, Bernarda, Aída, Mónica, Eliana, and Viviana, have loans funded through Kiva and were excited to share their businesses.  After showing them all print outs of their Kiva borrower profiles, which really helps me explain Kiva and bring the connection of seeing the photos of Kiva lenders under their story, we set out to see each of their businesses, all of which are located in their homes.   All of the women lived within a block of each other and shared the fact they really enjoy the camaraderie of the meetings and helping each other grow their businesses.

We started in Bernarda’s home, where she makes empanadas she sells 4 days a week in markets with her husband.  She showed us new pieces of equipment that she has purchased with a FE loan and explained her plans to expand in the future to allow her to sell empanadas out of her home as well.  Aída took us into her home to show us her “store room” where she keeps a wide variety of cleaning products that she sells in two different markets.  Business has been good and she is currently looking for a third market to expand her business.  Mónica has a small hair salon that she runs off the side of her home; the 15th and 30th are her busiest days of the month when her customers receive their paychecks.  Her dream is to open her own salon someday with her daughter, who is also licensed to cut hair.  Eliana has a store which she runs off the side of her home; she maintains much longer hours than her competition, which helps increase her sales.  She has a wire security gate on the front so she feels safe selling late into the night, and also has the support of her son in running the business.  Finally, we visited Viviana’s home, where she showed us some of the lingerie and men’s underwear products she sells to her customers.  Viviana explained that this business still allows her to care for her family, complete her social work degree, and make some money–her dedicated client base enjoys the high quality product she sells and are eager to buy even on a monthly basis.

John Gwillim is part of KF15, serving with Fondo Esperanza in Santiago, Chile.  He also worked with Fundación Mario Santo Domingo as part of KF14 in Barranquilla, Colombia.

Interested in making a loan to a Chilean entreprenuer today?  View all loans currently fundraising for FE here.  Also please visit the FE Field Partner page, or join the Fondo Esperanza and/or Chile lending teams.


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