A GOOD REASON TO KEEP FIGHTING
Carolina Chitay lives in the remote community of Sesoch, Guatemala, up a narrow dirt footpath far from the winding pavement that wraps around the mountains she calls home. She is a fighter in the truest sense of the word: always enthusiastic and positive, she has maintained her will to provide for her family and improve their life despite the many challenges she has faced.
Despite her best efforts, Carolina’s circumstances meant she faced a constant struggle to make ends meet. Dropping out of school after fourth grade, she married at 15 and became a mother of five, only to be deserted by her husband. Forced to care for her children on her own, she eked out a living by selling wildflowers, but this wasn’t a reliable income. “It has been difficult to cope alone with my children,” Carolina, now 41, said.
Always positive and enthusiastic, she isn’t discouraged, but says that ensuring her children’s well-being has given her “a good reason to keep fighting.”
Carolina was selected to participate in Trickle Up’s program and received a seed capital grant to expand her flower sales. Along with our partner FundaLachua, Trickle Up provided Carolina with training to craft a business plan and invest her initial funding in expanding her business. Encouraged by her growing success, Carolina said, “I have been able to sell other things like edible herbs, vegetables, and guipiles [traditional Guatemalan blouses], in addition to raising poultry and pigs.” By expanding and diversifying her business, she has been able to make more profits and build her confidence.
Just six months after starting the program, Carolina was earning $77 a month, enough to cover the cost of food, education, household supplies, and medicine, while still allowing her to build her savings. She can provide more varied, nutritious food to her family, including meat on a regular basis, and the family now eats three full meals a day. As part of the program, she joined a savings group with other women in her community where she can safely save and access credit to grow her business.
“Before becoming a member in the savings group, I could sometimes save a little, but it was difficult, because if I needed to buy something, I would have to spend it,” she said. Now investing in her family’s future is possible.
The savings group provides a cushion for all its members. “I can take a loan in the event of an emergency without harming my savings,” Carolina says. “The methodology is tailored to my needs as a responsible mother,” because it helps her cover her children’s immediate needs while still saving for their futures. At the end of the first year, Carolina’s saving group was able to pool $203, including accrued interest from the small loans they gave each other.
The benefits of Trickle Up’s program go beyond improving Carolina’s financial situation.
Today she is empowered both as an individual and as a contributing member of her community. She is proud of her accomplishments and knows that continuing to build her business will help improve her house, family, and personal happiness. During the second year, Carolina was elected president of the savings group. The group has come to rely on her leadership, passion, and resolve, and we look forward to seeing Carolina’s successes continue to grow each year.
Carolina Chitay of Sesoch, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala
Single mother, flower vendor, savings group president