By Nicholas Ackerman, Strategic Planning and New Product Development, WVUS
Microfinance offers many opportunities for those who are poor to use their skills and business knowledge to better their own lives and the lives of others.
Sometimes that means helping someone to purchase chickens to sell to generate income for a family. And sometimes that means providing a service that benefits the broader community, which is exactly what Maria del Carmen of Mexico has done. Maria is impacting the lives of women in her community through counseling support services offered to women who have been mistreated and abused.
The city of Ecatepec, where she lives, has the second highest rate of violence against women in the entire country.
Many of Mrs. Carmen’s clients come to her business thinking that they have done something wrong, and that they deserve the abuse they receive from their husbands or boyfriends. These women simply need a safe person to listen to them and guide them forward.
The majority of the women cannot afford to pay the fees that Mrs. Carmen charges, but these are the people that she wants to help the most - those who have barely enough money to feed their families and no where else to turn for help. Ingeniously, she uses the money she makes from wealthier patients to support their treatment.
With the help of a loan provided by Fundación Realidad, the VisionFund affiliated microfinance institution in Mexico, Mrs. Carmen was able to expand her counseling business.
She used her loan to transform her home into a place where her clients would feel more comfortable, as well as purchase needed counseling materials. Presently her living room serves as her office, but she would like to buy more chairs to set up a waiting area outside of her apartment.
Mrs. Carmen loves her work more than anything else because it gives her a chance to give back to her community and help many people who have no other resource. Part of why she has the strength to work with these women is because people have believed in her efforts to positively impact the lives of women in need.