AURORA BEB CAAL
Update from February 28, 2018:
Since the beginning of the project, Aurora says her life has changed. She is now saving, has her own money to buy thread and make güipiles with her daughter, and she has diversified the food her family eats.
In addition, she owns chickens, can grow more corn and beans, and can even buy firewood in bulk for cheaper than they could before. During the recent hungry season, Aurora had enough money to buy corn and her family didn’t have to go without.
Today Aurora has 20 chickens, compared to just one hen at the beginning of the program. She also planted beans, but unfortunately, part of the harvest was stolen. She learned that in the future, she should harvest her crops earlier to avoid theft.
Her working capital fluctuated throughout the year. After a high of $199 (Q1,510) after her first quarter in the program, her capital went down to $66 (Q500) when she sold some of her assets. She finished the year with $122 (Q925) in working capital. Aurora’s hens also just had chicks, which will increase the value of her working capital over the coming months.
At the end of the first year in the Rio Jolomche savings group, Aurora received $92 (Q702) from her shares, which she invested in seeds and other equipment for her bean crop. She also bought clothes for her daughter. Just two months after the start of the second cycle, she already has $20 (Q150) in savings. She’s not sure what she’ll do with these savings yet, but she might buy metal sheets for the roof of her home.
When she first started, Aurora was unsure about the program, but now she is smiling and more confident: "I am no longer afraid; I speak with more certainty than before," she says.
She’s excited to continue her savings and businesses even after the end of the program. She hopes her children will have more opportunities than she did at their age. She told us, “I want to have my business so I can send my children to school.” Today she feels she is better able to use and manage resources to both save for the future and cover her family’s expenses.
Update from August 15, 2017:
It’s not always smooth sailing for our participants, which is why continued coaching and training are key to their resilience and success. Aurora’s business plans have seen some setbacks, but her weaving business is going well.
Aurora had planned to use her seed capital to plant cabbage on her father’s land, but now her father will plant corn there instead. She then thought about opening a store, but since they live far from a road, she and her husband decided it wouldn’t get enough business. Then, her husband suddenly decided to migrate for work, so Aurora had to prioritize the daily needs of her children and put her business plans on hold. She is still thinking of growing cabbage next season, after her father harvests his crops.
In the meantime, she found a way to support her family without having to leave her younger children alone at home. She used her $132 (Q1000) seed capital and $35 (Q265) of her own money to buy thread to weave güipiles (traditional Mayan blouses). With the help of two of her daughters, her working capital is $199 (Q1510) just three months later. “Now, I have my own money to buy my threads and weave,” she says.
Aurora tells us she learned about different business ideas from the trainings provided by the program. She also learned about how to run a savings group, including collectively setting rules and imposing fines when members don’t respect them. She is very interested in saving, especially because her money generates interest through the group. She tells us: “It is good to share the efforts among all when we distribute the accrued interest.”
Before the program, Aurora’s family didn’t have any savings; her husband earned only $4 (Q30) a day. They couldn’t afford basic needs for their family of nine, let alone have anything left over to save for the future. Just five months after starting to save, she already had $28 (Q210) and took out a $13 (Q100) loan from the savings group to buy food. At the end of year, she plans to use her savings to buy food and clothing for her children, and to invest in corn.
Aurora remembers being suspicious of the program at the beginning, since the selection of participants coincided with Guatemala’s election season. She worried the program might have some partisan political connection, or her participation might cause conflict with other members of the community. But she soon realized that the program had no political agenda or affiliation, as people from different parties were all part of her savings group. She is proud of her understanding of the program, despite not being able to read or write. She explains: “It’s good that they speak to me in my language, Poqomchi’, so I can express myself and understand what they tell me.”
She likes being in the savings group, as it helps build trust between the women in the program. She points out that this is the first time she and her fellow members are being considered by the community. The women in the savings group get along well, communicate, and strengthen each other’s ideas. They’ve encouraged each other to save the profits generated from their businesses.
“I am changing my attitude, teaching new things to my children, and doing things I didn’t do before. My daughters have learned to knit. I also explained to my husband about the savings group. I look forward to the end of the cycle when I receive more than I saved,” she tells us. Although she still doesn’t earn much from her sales, Aurora can buy enough food to feed her family and feels good about the changes in her life so far. She is proud that her children are seeing their mom working and managing her own money now. She says, “my children have noticed that now I can make several güipiles to sell in the time I used to make just one.”
We look forward to seeing Aurora’s business plans take flight, and we hope you’ll come back in January to read about her successes!
Update from March 22, 2017:
Aurora Beb Caal, 38, lives with her husband and her seven children (2 boys and 5 girls) who are between 5 and 18 years old. Aurora weaves and takes care of the household while her husband is a day laborer when he can find work.
Aurora’s household income is currently not enough to cover their basic needs. They aren’t able to buy medicine or clothes, and they are sometimes forced to borrow money from their neighbors to purchase other necessities. To repay these loans, Aurora weaves güipiles (traditional Mayan blouses) and her husband seeks work until they can collect enough money to repay the loan.
Aurora’s family eats only macuy (greens), beans, rice, and noodles. Sometimes Aurora can afford to buy bread for her children, which is a treat for them. She says she can usually afford food for everyone in the family, but only in very small quantities. The family can only grow enough corn for four months of food for the family, without any left over to sell for a profit. June through August are the most difficult months for Aurora’s family; if they have any cash from day labor or selling güipiles, they can purchase food, but they often endure hunger. Aurora tells us that her family has survived some difficult seasons. When Trickle Up first visited their house, despite it being after the hungry season, we noticed that the children were restless and hungry, but Aurora’s family didn’t have any food in the house.
In addition to the shortage of food, the family’s precarious conditions are reflected in their home. The walls of the house are made of thin metal sheets and they use a nylon cloth to divide the kitchen – with a firepit in the center – from the rest of the house. On the other side is a single room with three beds where all nine of them sleep.
Aurora tells us she looks forward to having more resources to improve her family’s life. She wants to provide her children with better food and housing, and she’s very concerned about their health. She dreams that her children will be able to read and write, something that she never had the opportunity to learn.
We’ll be following Aurora’s journey as she learns new skills, begins to save, and starts her own business. Stay tuned for more about Aurora and her family when we check back in with them in July!