March 8th is International Women’s Day; Alejandra Duran, Chalice Site Coordinator for the Guadalupe Sponsor Site in La Paz, Bolivia shares the following success stories of some very hard-working women.
Women in Bolivia struggle to claim the recognition they deserve. Most impoverished families live with only a mother to sustain them. As a patriarchal society, women are still the unseen heroes of their families. As mothers, they do everything they can to support their families. They get several jobs and even beg for money just to put food in their children’s mouths.
Women who don’t know how to read or write, or who don’t have any job skills still find a way to care for their families. Most of them endure the hardship of abuse and neglect by their partners and were abused in their homes growing up. It’s a horrible reality that most women who are extremely poor live under.
Chalice has helped these women become empowered, to take their destiny into their own hands. Our Catholic child sponsorship programs not only provide financial aid but also create a family environment with “family circles”. These circles create a support system for an impoverished mother, so she can have other mothers in the same situation on her side.
Chalice does not want to keep families dependent on sponsorship and our goal is to empower women and help them rise out of poverty. In 2017, at the Chalice Guadalupe Sponsor Site in La Paz, Bolivia, we created a community project called Business for Life. This program allows mothers who have small businesses or want to open a business to have access to top quality business education.
We have professors from the best university in Bolivia teaching our entrepreneur mothers how to run their business and create a business plan with marketing, production, and financial points.
From all the students we had in our first class, five women were selected to receive the equivalent of 1000 USD to start their business. We also selected a sixth recipient who was awarded $400 to continue her business. These women are now empowered and ready to give their children the life they deserve.
Of these six women we will present two special cases.
We have Lourdes, who makes polleras, a traditional skirt that has many layers and are very difficult to make. She is a single mother who cares for her mother as well as her children. She learned how to make polleras with her mother as her teacher. Her mother’s sight is too weak to keep making them.
Before Lourdes entered Business for Life she had a small sewing machine that overheated with the work she had to do. She worked until dawn to complete all her work. Her shop is in her small house and in the rural area where she lives it is hard to find transportation. With the 1000 USD that she was awarded as she had one of the best business plans, she now has a heavy duty sewing machine that can take the hard hours of labor required to make all the polleras.
This sewing machine makes her life easier, reduces the time it takes her to make a pollera and she can earn more money by making more. She also has a lot of fabric and a beautifully styled mannequin that is dressed like a “cholita” so people who go to her shop can see her work. She is now sought after by many people because they know she is one of the best. Even though she lives far away from the city and she has to walk many miles on dirt roads she continues to thrive. Her hours are still long but now it’s because of all the people who want her polleras.
Additionally, we have Lucia. She sells shoes for women online. Before Business for Life she had a limited stock of shoes and only a few models. The internet access she had was only through her phone. She too had one of the best business plans, and with the 1000 USD she received, she was able to buy a lot of better quality shoes that are on trend and at accessible prices.
She also received a laptop directly from Chalice where she keeps the registry of all her sales and purchases and where she can have better internet access. She now has an easier time selling her shoes and keeping track of her inventory. She also has made room in her small house that looks like a shoe store where her clients can easily try on shoes.
Chalice has not only assisted these women with the opportunity to give their children a better life, but they have given them a chance to have a sense of professional fulfillment. This is extremely important to them because they are not only providing for their families, but they are loving themselves in the process.
God has allowed Chalice to help these women become better mothers and better people through our Catholic based child sponsor services. It’s a blessing that we get to enter into these people’s lives and not only give them an opportunity to succeed, but to have our merciful God in their lives. Each of these women know that without the will of God they would not be where they are, and they thank their children’s sponsors and all the donors that were a part of this amazing transformation in their lives.
— Alejandra Duran, Chalice Site Coordinator for the Guadalupe Sponsor Site in La Paz, Bolivia