In the province of Los Ríos, on the Ecuadorian coast, sits the town of Quevedo, the largest and most inhabited in the province. Known for its warm climate and its large agricultural production, it has always been an important settlement for migrants, both local and foreign.
On the outskirts of the city, on a cobbled road is a small grocery store. Mariela, 42, welcomes VisionFund staff happily and tells us her story. Mariela is a working woman and mother of six children, of which three still live with her. Mariela has worked from a young age in agriculture, sometimes in rice, corn or cocoa fields, and even at a time in plantations of large banana exporting company. When she had her first child, she began to wash clothes and cook for other people, so she could support her children from the home. However, all this work was unstable, and there were periods when she did not have enough income to feed her children.
Three years ago, after a friend invited her to join a credit group with VisionFund Ecuador, she took a small loan and opened a store in her house, attending her customers through her bedroom window. At the beginning Mariela only sold cellphone credit refills, frozen drinks and juices. She decided a store was the best option for a business because there were no other stores in her neighborhood.
Gradually, as she participated in new loan cycles, she was able to expand the store, buy more products including gas cylinders, library materials, and other community needs. In addition, she installed showcases and shelves to accommodate more products. With the income the store makes, Mariela’s financial position is secure. "Now my children are well cared for and their needs are met," says Mariela. "We are no longer in need and I have been able to continue investing and serving my store while they study."
Mariela hopes to continue growing her store, to sell more and earn more money, even hiring people to help her. She hopes in this way to be able to financially support her last three children, so that they can go to the University and not have to accept temporary and poorly paid jobs. "I hope my children and grandchildren can fulfill their dreams," she smiles.