Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Stories from the field: Jaquelina, the Queen of Cashews

Jaquelina Silva is a loan recipient of People Helping People Global. Jaquelina and her family of seven work in the cashew business. Each week they buy sacks of raw cashews to clean, prepare and sell. They are quite happy, because unlike most jobs in Nicaragua their earnings are reliable. A buyer from Costa Rica comes each Sunday to take away however many sacks of prepared cashews they were able to process and bag for that week.

Jaquelina took out a loan from PHPG in October of 2010 to improve her cashew business. One year later not only had she fully repaid her loan, but she had improved her business immensely. With more earned income, she now hires two of her neighbors to help her family with the labor-intensive cashew production. Jaquelina commented, "With more hands to shuck, clean, and toast the cashews, we are able to produce more cleaned cashews at a quicker rate."

On top of adding employees to her family cashew business, Jaquelina has also begun to replace her flimsy scrap metal walls with concrete. "It is a work in progress," she says, "as we continue to make more money from the cashew sales we will continue to improve our home."

PHPG is proud to work with amazing people like Jaquelina. She is both a strong business woman and an amazing role model for the entire community. Not only is she improving the lives of those in her family. She's employing others in her community and helping them improve their lives as well.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stories From The Field: Living by the Land

Future loan recipient, Apolinar, and her two sons
With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it is easy to forget how wonderful simplicity can be. Meet Apolinar Sanchez and her two sons, Cristobal and Mario. For the Sanchez family, their livelihood depends on agriculture. All year round, year after year, the Sanchez clan plants, tends, and harvests crops in their family fields. They produce the staple crops of Nicaragua, such as beans and corn.

Behind them in this photo, you can see a pile of dried corn. Their task of the day is to manually husk and shuck six bags before sun down. This task may seem tedious to some but to the Sanchez family it is a job they take pride in, and they really enjoy doing it together.

Apolinar's family lives in a community called Piedras Coloradas. The center of their community has an elementary school and a church, but not a single market or stores. A stream runs behind the Sanchez home. This is their only source of water -- for drinking, for cooking, and for bathing. A bed with no mattress stands in the corner of their home. I did not ask where all seven of the family members sleep.

As I quickly tried to take all of this in, Apolinar's two grandchildren came running home from school and jumped onto her lap. A smile stretching from ear to ear appeared on her face, and she told me (in Spanish), "This land has been in my family for decades. Although we do not have much, we have our harvest and each other. What else could I ask for?"

Apolinar Sanchez is part of our first expansion group in Piedras Coloradas, Nicaragua (about 2 hours by bus from the nearest city, Matagalpa). Her lending group will begin receiving loans in March 2012. If you would like to help fund loans for this community, please visit our donation page and indicate in the special instructions "Donation to Piedras Coloradas."

Friday, October 21, 2011

19 New Microloans in Las Isletas Community

First of all, I want to thank everyone who contributed to The Loan Challenge campaign this summer. Whether you wrote a check, bought a fair trade product, asked a great question, or let us crash on your spare bed (or incredibly soft carpet), it couldn't have happened without you. With the contributions that we have already received and the couple of big fundraisers that are being hosted on our behalf in the next few weeks, it looks like we're going to reach our goal of raising enough funds for 100 new loans this Fall! Thank you all for making that happen!

That segues nicely into the next exciting piece of news. A couple of days ago, Isabel and I braved the soggy road out to El Diamante on our rented bikes. It was worth the mud bath that we both received, because we got to issue the first round of new loans in the Las Isletas community. Nineteen smiling Granadinos (that's what the wonderful people of Granada call themselves) showed up with their friends and families to receive their microloans.

This group is really a model community for us. Despite nearly everyone working in the same line of business -- fishing -- there is very little "competition" to speak of among the neighbors. In fact, many of them work cooperatively, so that they can maximize their profits.

We've got lots of other great news to share with you, including an update on our Matagalpa expansion project and upcoming loan distributions, but we'll save that for a later post. Make sure you sign up to receive an email each time our blog is updated. All you have to do is enter your email address in the upper-right-hand corner of the blog under "Get Updates by Email!"

Thanks again to all of you who helped us out with The Loan Challenge. All of this great stuff that's happening is all thanks to you.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Loan Challenge

As you may have noticed, things have been pretty quiet on this blog lately. That's because we've been busy working hard on two big projects. The first project is our summer speaking tour, where we're travelling around the U.S. giving talks about poverty, microlending, and how PHPG is using microlending to eradicate poverty in Nicaragua. On this tour, we are asking groups to sponsor loans to help us reach the goal of 100 loans funded by October 17 - World Poverty Day. The other big thing we're working on is an expansion of our microlending programs to a new region of Nicaragua, called Matagalpa. We look forward to sharing our progress with you sometime in Fall.

During our summer speaking tour, we will be blogging exclusively on our summer tour website. You can follow our progress and find out when we'll be coming to your area at:

As always, thank you so much for your support. If you think of a group that might be interested in hearing about our work or sponsoring a loan, please send me an email at

Thanks so much!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Estamos de vuelta en Nicaragua!

Isabel and I are back in Nicaragua! Having arrived here about two weeks ago, this blog is a bit overdue, but after about 24 hours of travel we are once again South of the border. We left Burlington the day after our Valentine's Day event; got on a bus from Burlington to Boston at 2 a.m. and then hopped on a plane from Boston to Miami, which led us to our final flight into Nicaragua. When all was said in done we got in at 2am on the 15th. It feels nice to be in a warm climate again! I hear its snowing in VT?!

Upon arrival we got right down to business, having been gone for almost three months there are quite a few things to follow up with. Isabel's first objective was to go out and meet with the participating communities to let them know when our upcoming check-in meetings would be. On March 1st we had our first formal community meetings in the Island Community and with our two loan groups in Avelardo Enrique, both of which are located near Granada. Everyone was excited to see us again and were full of questions about our travels in the States. We were very pleased to have three recipients repay their loans in entirety this month, which is very encouraging to know that the process we have developed and you are supporting is working!

About a week following our arrival Paul and Janel Gamm came down to visit. We love visitors! Paul is currently a Director on PHPG's Board. We were able to show them around one of our communities, Avelardo Enrique and the activities surrounding those particular loans.

Now that we are settled back in for the next couple of months - meetings are lining up to collect new loan requests, conduct interviews around these new requests and inform several communities when they are going to receive their loans. Because of the success we had in fund-raising over the holidays we will be able to award about 30 new loans next week alone!

That's all the news for now, signing off from Nicaragua.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Love is in the Air

Hello PHPG community, my name is Ariana Wammer and I am so excited to be the newest part of the PHPG team! I hope to use my love (addiction) with all social media as a way to spread the word about PHPG initiatives and how YOU can get involved. As my first blog post I wanted to write to you all about the wonderful event that PHPG founders, Alex Tuck and Isabel Gamm, recently organized.

This year's Valentine’s Day Jazz Brunch was wonderful in many ways. It was held on Sunday, February 13th at the Holiday Inn in South Burlington, Vermont. As I walked in the banquet hall the sounds from Mr. Ed’s Family Band filled my ears and the smells from the buffet table filled my nose, and soon my belly! This was the second annual brunch and PHPG was fortunate enough to have the talented Mr. Ed’s Family Band return and play for the event again. 
During the brunch a silent auction took place where I signed up in hopes of winning many awesome goodies that were donated for this event. I ended up walking away with a gift certificate to a restaurant/Gastro-pub in downtown Burlington, The Farmhouse Tap & Grill. Some other notable prizes were a 50% discount off the entire bill at Leunig’s Bistro, University Mall gift certificate, two tickets to the Grand Prix ballet at The Flynn…to just name a few of my favorites!

As you can see I was also able to take some photos of the event, please check out PHPG facebook page for the full album. And if you haven't done so yet, LIKE the PHPG page to stay up to date on all PHPG's activity! The proceeds from the event went to benefit economic development projects in Nicaragua.