Monday, December 14, 2015

Distribution of New Loans in El Pantanal

While during the second week of November the center of Granada was getting ready for "Hípica", a local horse parade, which attracts both tourists and Nicaraguans to come to Granada giving them an excuse to go out and drink some Nicaraguan rum and beer, in El Pantanal, which is sometimes referred to as the forgotten district of Granada, because it does not appear on maps and is never visited by tourists, we were distributing new loans to our existing clients.
Juan Carlos and Esterlina enjoying their breakfast
The day of disbursement we started with breakfast together with a group of " Unión Que Hace La Fuerza", which had repaid its second PHPG´s loan recently and since that morning has been enjoying the benefits of cooperating with PHPG for its third time. The good thing about working for PHPG is that occasionally one is obliged to inspect businesses of our clients for example like this - eating delicious “enchiladas” that one member of this group sells.

Although it was a very hot day for this time of year even for Nicaragua, we enjoyed this opportunity to meet some of our clients and a talk we had about their future plans. One of the most successful groups - "Las Triunfadoras" - which just got its fourth loan from PHPG, told us about their plan of opening a new dining spot sometime next year. Although all Las Triunfadoras´ ladies have their own businesses like shoe store, fashion design and sewing etc. that does not stop their entrepreneur´s spirit to seek new opportunities to improve their financial situation. What a motivation to see that!
Petra and "Union Que Hace La Fuerza"

October in Matagalpa

We finished the month of October and initial training of new PHPG´s coordinator, Petra, by new loan disbursement, enriching our list of clients in Matagalpa by a new group of kind ladies. This way PHPG helped Maria Delmis to expand her “mini pulpería”, mini grocery store, by selling mobile phone’s refills, and to invest more money in rest of businesses that our new clients have. They dedicate themselves among other to the sale of milk products, secondhand clothing or sewing. Because the objective of PHPG is not only to provide loans but also to strengthen the relations between group members so they share their work experience, we are proud that with the help of Maria Jacoba who apart from working as a teacher in a local primary school has 20-years’ experience in selling secondhand clothes, the leader of the group Mandiel could start her proper business with secondhand garments.
Maria Jacoba

Unfortunately October also was the last month for Berly who supervised PHPG´s activities in Matagalpa. Berly has done an outstanding job, not only distributing new loans but also giving various lectures improving financial literacy of our clients, initiating new partnerships with other NGOs in Matagalpa and many more. Therefore we would like to thank her for everything she has done for our clients in Matagalpa and PHPG in general and we wish her all best in future. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Visit from PHPG

Guest Post from Rebecca Schick, Intern at Soluciones Comunitarias, Summer 2011    

I think I can speak for everyone when I say it was nothing short of a pleasure to hear from Berly Cordero today. We, a group of eight student interns working with Soluciones Comunitarias, were all ears and eyes when learning about the interest-free microfinance loans that Berly administers to local entrepreneurs and business owners in Matagalpa, just twenty minutes away from our home base in San Ramon. Soluciones Comunitarias is an organization that strives to empower entrepreneurs and communities through offering consulting services and access to products such as solar lamps, water filters and eye glasses to improve lives in rural Guatemala and Nicaragua. Our group of eight is currently working on a Financial Literacy and Inclusion project in Norther Nicaragua, so we were naturally enthused to talk finances. Berly shared with us an article that disregarded Microfinance as a sustainable method to support individuals affected by poverty. Although there are countless cases that hold up this argument, there are environments where microfinance can prove to be useful. We discussed with Berly the benefits of eliminating interest, which diminishes the risk of drowning in a cycle of debt. We immensely enjoyed and appreciated the words of wisdom about the culture of finance in rural, developing communities. The insights gained from this discussion will travel with us as we carry out our project and begin working directly with community members. Thanks to all and be sure to check out People Helping People Global, this awesome organization that does microfinance right!

Monday, July 20, 2015


St John's University GLOBE Student Fellow, Chinyere Ukaegbu shares her thoughts after visiting PHPG in Matagalpa.

Today's adventure was especially gratifying (and that's an understatement). We met with an amazing non-profit called People Helping People Global. Though they have a couple of locations where they operate here in Nicaragua, we visited their base in Matagalpa. Before getting into the intricacies of the visit, let me begin by offering the cultural scene of Matagalpa. Lined by beautifully painted edifices, Matagalpa stands as this magical, mountainous town who's hilly ups and downs are similar to Montparnasse in Paris. People with joy in their eyes were sprinkled across the streets. Everyone from school girls to men buying food stuffs from pulperias said hola to us as we smiled. But unlike Paris, I felt a strong sense of community in Matagalpa.

We met with two representatives from PHPG: Berly and Martha. From our conversation, we learned a great deal about their organization and even developed some ideas for GLOBE based on what we heard. They explained to us that they give micro loans out with 0% interest because they are all about helping the people (hence their name). I paralleled this with GLOBE because we have very low interest rates and the interest we do collect goes back into helping the communities in which we serve. They also explained to us some of their methods, like checking receipts of borrowers for accountability, that could be used by GLOBE. But the most fascinating tactic they used was their training programs. They provided business training and psychological training (I.e. Counseling). This was especially important because it shows the holistic approach helping a community help themselves. Perhaps GLOBE could provide training and even incentives our borrowers to train other borrowers once they master their successful businesses.

Speaking of businesses, it was also a joy to visit the borrowers from PHPG and see them breaking the cycle of poverty. One borrower, 
Irene, stood out. She makes and sells tortillas (that are delicious might I add) and the loan that PHPG provided allowed her to expand by employing a helper. Now the over 500 tortillas that she makes on a interesting makeshift, firewood stove become a little less of a burden. It was a joy speaking with her and learning how she make the tortillas. I was at awe at how hard she worked. Waking up at 3 in the morning daily to start her work, she was the epitome of hard work and dedication. It made me reflect on my life and how much I have compared to her one room home filled with 5 children. Humbled, I smiled as she stood strong and proud of the tortillas she handed is to eat. 

Until next time,

Chinyere U

This blog was originally posted on GLOBE Student Fellow's site, here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rain Has Arrived!

The rain recently has helped cool off Granada while we are in the hottest months. All PHPG documents remained in good care as the team stopped to rest and duck in out of the rain.

It doesn't look like much but every bit helps!

 Found shelter from the rain inside a client's workshop.

Rains gone for now.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Borrower Profile Series: Damaris

Guest Post from PHPG Volunteer, Paige Cohn.

Damaris started selling shoes after finishing her Agronomy degree.  Even though she had an education, being pregnant kept her from working, as not many people are willing to hire pregnant women.   She first began selling clothes, but sustained significant losses, and decided it was not profitable.  She saw an opportunity when her sister-in-law convinced her to visit Masaya; she considered selling the sandals that she found in the market .  Damaris started with a 2000C$ loan, and invested in the cheapest pair of sandals (pictured below), buying 33 pairs.

A smart business woman, she was  eventually able to form relationships directly with the workshops that make the shoes, cutting out the middle man and increasing her profits.  Damaris, now sells multiple styles of shoe and has a loyal customer base. 

What’s the hardest part of getting started?  According to Damaris, it’s getting started and getting customers.  But as she soon told us, once she established a clientele it became much easier.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Borrower Profile : Iriz

Guest Post from PHPG Volunteer, Paige Cohn.

In order to pay for her transportation to and from her university, Iriz began her own business selling Avon and clothes.  She was well placed to do this, as she could sell to her classmates and grow her business through word-of-mouth at her school.  However, this was not Iriz’ first time being self-employed.  Since the age of 14 she had been helping her Aunt sell clothing. She would sell to her classmates and  split the profits with her Aunt.  After her son was born,  she needed money to support him and to make sure she finished university.  Iriz enrolled in school to study accounting, and since then has used her education to keep her own accounting books for her business.  Iriz just graduated from university this year. She wants a good life for her son, and hopes to find a salaried job in addition to her own business to help provide that for him.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Borrower Profile Series, Gloria

Guest Post from PHPG Volunteer: Paige Cohn

Gloria, is the matriarch of her medley family.  For most of her life she’s been a single mom of 3 of her own children and the 3 more she adopted, left to support them on her own.  In order to feed her family, she ventured into the world of self-employment.  She been a cook, a seamstress, a farmer, but her most important role is being a Mother.  After her own children were grown and married, she found 3 little girls on her doorstep, abandoned by their parents.  Gloria took these three girls in, adopted them as her own, and is currently working to send them to school.     

Gloria has always been a self-starter.  Having to be self-reliant for most of her life, she feels lucky with the success that she has had in her life.  Whatever she makes, she sells. Her compassion and hard work ethic is something she has instilled in her children, as she encourages them to continue to study, hoping she can buy them the materials they need to complete their education.  After we finished with the interview, Gloria sent us home with a bag full of mangoes and bananas out of her backyard.

Gloria hopes that eventually she’ll be able to save for her retirement, so that she can support herself when she can’t work, forever being the autonomous, self-sufficient matriarch she has always been.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Before and After

In a week's time one of our clients created a pair of beautiful ceramic topped tables. When we are making our social visits or simply collecting loans our clients are proud to show off what they have built. The loans provided to these small business owners cover a wide variety of goods and services. This is just but one example of the work our loan recipients do everyday.

Monday, March 30, 2015

New Beginnings

The best students from this sewing workshop in Matagalpa will have the opportunity for a PHPG loan!

The non-profit Rayo de Sol arranged for the workshop for women from the impoverished, Tule neighborhood of Matagalpa. 

The students will launch a business venture with their new skills and capital from PHPG.  It will be an opportunity to build better lives for themselves and for their families.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Workshops at the Finca!

PHPG just fineshed two weeks of workshops at Finca Aurora, a coffee farm in Matagalpa. PHPG partnerned with Project Alianza to bring the workshop to this remote region of Matagalpa. It is part of our continuing commitment to social and economic development.

Women and men working on private farms are often ignored by non-profits and service providers, despite great need.  For most of the participants, this was their first time participating in a workshop.
Creating a web! Getting to know each other.

Learning about decision making in business and in life.

A few late comers to the class. 

Discussing negotiation strategies.

Workshop facilitators Martha and Berly.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

PHPG would like to extend their deepest gratitude to the BFA Fairfax NHS group! Last night they raised $320.00 for PHPG at the fun and amazingly tasty St. Patrick's Day Valentine's Day Pancake Supper!

The menu was delicious! 3 Types of pancakes, GREEN eggs, sausage, fruit, the one and only really amazing VT pure maple syrup, juices, coffee and smiles! :D

This group did a wonderful job. Thanks so much you guys!

$320 dollars is enough to fund two new microloans in Nicaragua. This will allow two new families to begin their journey out of poverty. Your efforts are greatly appreciated!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Island Hopping

Monday was a busy day for us here in Granada! In addition to the collections in Pantanal, he had a meeting with the local community of Las Isletas. There are hundreds of islands big and small that dot the shores of Lake Nicaragua. Many of these islands are traversed by people who reside in and make their living from the lake. The Granada team adventured out on Lake Nicaragua to round up several local community members in order to get to work on interviewing them about their businesses.

Not Just Loans

People Helping People is not just about loans. We're about improving the economic and social development of the communities where we work.

In January we saw a need in one of our communities. The school in Susuma, Matagalpa was in desperate need of books and supplies.  We spoke with the school director, Ana, who shared with us her struggles to build an engaging learning environment for the kids.

This past month PHPG was able to help the school in Susuma. Thanks to a generous donation from Lectorum Publishing, a dedicated volunteer, Alex Ursino, and many of his friends and colleagues the school received 216 Spanish language books.

Before the school did not have any story books or a library for its 86 students. A whole new world of possibilities has opened up to the children at the school!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Journey to Malacatoya

Recently, Juan Carlos and Joe set off to distribute loans to a group of seven women in the community of Punta de Agua, Malacatoya. Most of the women work in the fields all around the area growing everything from rice to maize. One of our clients Esmeralda also runs a small store and sells raffle tickets to earn her living. Here are a few photos to help tell the story.

 Crossing the river near the community of Punta de Agua.

 It's very flat here! Lots of rice crops in the distance.

 Esmeralda's corner store.

 Esmeralda uses her raffle to augment her income.

The group poses for a picture before we head back to Granada.

Monday, February 2, 2015

One Stop Shop

The sun was out in full force today! On Mondays we split into two teams to tackle the day's goals. Today, we switched things up and headed out as one unit. The extra companionship of the other team helped keep us going in the hot sun. We stepped into the shade of one of our loan recipient's shops to snap a picture or two.

Martha running her corner store.

Martha provides the local community with all the essentials.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Sunny Day in Pantanal

The year has just begun and we are already busy making collections and interviewing clients for new loans. These are some photos of the various things we do on our outings in Pantanal, Granada.

    Collecting loans from one of our clients.

Completing an interview (and asking lots of questions!)

Enmanuel, Juan, and newest volunteer Mimi.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Why do we lend?

I recently spoke with Don Daniel, a small business owner, in Matagalpa. He said to me that he had recently gotten approved for a loan with a 38% APR.

 Don Daniel: "It's great deal!"
 Berly: "I think that sounds rather high. Why do you think that's a good deal?"
 Don Daniel: "The other bank would charge me 10%"
 Berly: "Well, 10% is a much better rate. That's a better deal."
 Don Daniel: "They'll charge me 15% per month."
 Berly: "Whoa! Are you sure? 15% PER MONTH? That doesn't sound right."
 Don Daniel: "Yes, that's the standard here in Nicaragua."

Don Daniel's small construction company is pretty successful. His business wouldn't meet the requirements for a PHPG loan because it's too big. His options for credit are limited. The options for PHPG  clients, are even fewer. Many work informally, and as because of this don't have the credit history to apply for a loan. They don't have wealthy friends that can act as guarantors, They don't need to borrow $1,000 they need to borrow $100.  This is why we do the work we do. Access to credit matters. It's an opportunity and a tool that is much harder to have if you're poor.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Moments in 2014!

2014 was a big year for PHPG.  We worked with farmers, artisans, and local entrepreneurs to help them improve their businesses. We distributed our 500th loan. Celebrated our 6th anniversary of working in Nicaragua. We built new partnerships.

Here are some highlights from a successful year.

The PHPG team in Nueva Esperanza, Granada.

Marlene, the President of the Cooperative Tierra Nutrias, shows us the Coop's grain storage and mill.

Fulgencio paid off his 3rd PHPG loan! Here he is with Executive Director, Isabel. 

PHPG Coordinator, Berly ,waiting for the bus with Nazareth, Martha's (PHPG Loan Officer) daughter.

A PHPG loan recipient demonstrating how he etches designs onto pottery.

Visiting with PHPG partner, EOS. Milton took us around his farm to see EOS technology at work.

We celebrated a new partnership! Here's PHPG Coordinator, Joe with Arlen from World Vision Nicaragua.

PHPG loan recipients and craftspeople standing next to their beautiful handmade tables.

Joe, Juan Carlos, and Steve enjoying a moment by the fire.

PHPG Fiesta in May!

December workshop with women micro-entrepreneurs in Matagalpa

The PHPG team walking the streets of Nueva Esperanza, Granada.

We're moving toward another great year!