Apoyo a Gente Emprendedora A.C.
 
Grass Roots Community Programs run by Mexicans with Mexicans for Mexicans.
Published in "Atencion" San Miguel de Allende.
24th July 09.


The Organisation is called “Apoyo a Gente  Emprendedora” (Support for Enterprising people).  The organisation is small and  it has a staff that works with the community to bring about change that’s appropriate to the people living in and around San Miguel de Allende.

The organisation exists to assist community groups and individuals develop and successfully run small businesses. The organisation has been running since 2004, it is currently working with 10 rural communities and 10 low income neighbourhoods. Since “Apoyo” started it has successfully given loans and received payment for around 200 individual projects.

Many individuals living in communities around SMA lack access to banking institutions. The Organisation led by Ezequiel Mojica and Guadalupe Cerritos offers no interest loans, which enables communities the opportunity to develop ideas and use their skills to sustain themselves financially and this inturn enables them to make changes in their lives dependant on their efforts.

Ezequiel and Guadalupe visit communities on a regular basis, to give support with the businesses and so community members can pay back their loans. These are communities that many a visitor to SMA is not aware exists. Eg Clavellinas, Los Ricos de Abajo, San Jose de Garcia, Palo Blanco etc.

Ezequiel and Guadalupe have worked hard to build a repour with these communities  to the point where at the last community meeting on Monday 16th of June,  40 women  were in attendance and Ezequiel was swamped with questions and ideas .

Due to the existing repour with” Apoyo”, community members are also open to receiving additional information and services.

The organisation works complimentary at every opportunity by partnering with other not for profit organisations such as "CASA" and "Feed the Hungry" etc, which provide access to other services that are much needed such as health checks and access to nutritious meals for children attending school etc.

Today we are going out to a community where there are a group of women who’ve taken a loan to  buy a stove and other equipment so they can sell gorditas, aguas frescas and other food in Atotonilco. We meet with the women and discuss how their business is going and each of the lenders pays back to “Apoyo”  the agreed amount per month. The organisation owns a small vehicle and on the way we stop at CASA to collect a health worker who promotes their  programs  and offers opportunities for specialists to come and visit the women in their communities. Today he is promoting awareness of issues associated with breast cancer and the importance of breast screening as a preventative health model. The women are open to watching a video and afterwards ask questions and think it’s a good idea to have a health worker visit the community and have some screening done. They also tell stories and give voluntary feedback on services they’ve received previously at CASA. This is a good opportunity for CASA to gather information and learn from the communities so that they continue to provide appropriate services. After the presentation and talk the women express to us their intent with the money they’ve been saving from their small buisness  in Atotonilco.

The main street of the small village is more representative of a crevice or a dried out barren and warn creek bed than a road. The community uses this as a major thoroughfare and most of the houses front onto it. The women intend to fix the road with their money. They haven’t had any assistance from the government and it’s been this way for many years. The women have taken matters into their own hands and decided they need either an engineer or an architect to come and look at the area and give them advice on what are the best materials to use and which is the best way to go about it. We leave the women with the intent to visit them again in another 15 days, to discuss further their plans and see how “Apoyo” might be able to support the group.

Other exciting projects that are currently being piloted include a sustainable community garden project, using less water and producing more food and in turn greater health in  communities.

“Apoyo” supports viable, sustainable and ethical small business projects.  “Apoyo” has been successful in sourcing a potential architect and engineer to volunteer their time with the particular community mentioned above. If  you’d like to find out more about the varying projects  of “Apoyo” or you’d simply like to support “Apoyos”  projects monetarily, contact Ezequiel  Mojica on 044 415 1126146 ,
apoyoemprendedores@yahoo.com.mx or come and meet with the staff of “Apoyo” for more information on how you can contribute.

Melissa Burgess/Specialist in Community Development Management 
Working with Indigenous and Culturally Diverse Communities.                   





WE LIVE HERE…WE GIVE HERE


Micro lending That Really Works
Imagine you are selling gorditas y enchiladas in a small food stand and you must carry all of your merchandise from your community to Atotonilco on the back of an old donkey, accompanied by your eleven children – and you are 71 years age! That’s what Piedad Jacinto was facing every day three years ago until she met Ezequiel Mojica and learned about the micro-lending and teaching program available through Apoyo a Gente Emprendedora.


Now, three years and three small loans later, Piedad has been able to buy two wheelbarrows and a gas grill and tank to increase her business. And this year, with her savings, she has purchased a second hand  truck – no more walking – and no more poverty for her family. For the first time in the history of her village, three young women are studying in a local Public University and one of them is Piedad’s granddaughter. Piedad, now 74, works every day to help her pay her school fees.  Just a little help and just a small loan was all Piedad needed.

The initial loan from Apoyo  for  2000 pesos was paid back, as have the two subsequent loans made to Piedad.  And this story has repeated itself time after time – in fact over 200 times since the pilot program began in late 2004. Loans from 1,200 pesos to 4,500 pesos have been made to start-up and expanding businesses throughout San Miguel and the surrounding area. In 2009, over 90% of the micro-loans were repaid, which allowed for more small loans to be available to emerging entrepreneurs.

Micro lending was an idea born one day in 1976 in Bangladesh when Muhammad Yunus loaned $27 from his own pocket to forty-two people living in a small village. These microentreprenuers only needed enough credit to purchase raw materials for their trade and subsequently pulled themselves and their families out of the cycle of poverty and desperation. With the establishment of Graneen in 1983, a bank devoted to providing miniscule loans to the neediest in Bangladesh, the concept of micro lending was launched. Today over 350 private and government institutions world-wide provide billions of dollars of small loans to millions of people in over 150 countries. Yunus’ vision of helping the poorest of the poor help themselves earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

Although micro lending has been credited with helping millions out of poverty and dependency, there is always a dark side that sometimes emerges. Unfortunately, some micro lenders have found an opportunity to take advantage of the poor by charging exorbitant interest rates on their small loans – crippling finance charges that make timely repayment difficult and are actually counter-productive to the goal of loan assistance. In Mexico, the established micro lending organizations average a 70% interest rate, with one large lender charging an annual interest rate of 125% on its micro loans! When Eziquiel Mojica was establishing his lending program and asked why he wasn’t charging interest, he responded: “Look, these are the poorest of the poor. They simply cannot afford to do it right now; maybe when they become more successful”.  From the start, Apoyo made interest-free loans and continues to do so today.

The story of success of Apoyo is really the story of a young, tireless entrepreneur with a vision for the underprivileged in San Miguel. Born in Santas Marias, a small rural village not far from San Miguel, Ezequiel spent a few years working in the U.S. Upon returning to San Miguel, he joined Casa and worked for 8 years in outlying communities, during which time his vision for what he wanted to do with his life became clearer. In 2002, Ezequiel met two local residents and experienced businessmen, who encouraged him to consider a micro-finance program to help San Miguel’s poor. With personal funds from these supporters, the first loan was to Ezequiel’s mother, who bought a larger tortilla machine for her small business with the $200 grant. Her business grew and became profitable and that success led to a pilot program to confirm that small loans provided to hard-working and dedicated people could provide not only economic security, but also the feeling of pride and independence that comes with being able to provide for you self and your family.

In 2005, Ezequiel was ready to take the next step. He appeared before the Board of the San Miguel Community Foundation with a grant request for $5000 to support his micro-lending program. He offered his business plan, his financial results of the past years and shared his vision for what he saw as his small contribution to the poor in the rural communities of San Miguel. He said that he had secured matching funds from local contributors and that with the money from the grant from SMCF, he would be able to reach out to more people to help create a middle class that had never existed before in their small communities.

The members of SMCF were impressed – not only with the presentation and grant request, but with the passion and vision that Ezequiel projected.  As Donna Foudray, current president and Board member of SMCF remembers of that day: “When Eziquiel left, we were all smiling! His grant request was unanimously approved. We were confident that the small grant we offered would be the start of a terrific program that Ezequiel would manage that would eventually make a difference in the lives of those who need help and support the most”.

Since 2005, SMCF has awarded annual grants to Apoyo a Gente Emprendedora and the list of private contributors continues to grow.  This year, the $10,000 grant request was approved by SMCF and Ezequiel has committed to raising matching funds – he has already received $4000 in pledges and is working hard to secure the rest.  His lending program and his business training assistance has grown each year. Ezequiel realizes that for success to come to the poorest of the poor, money alone is not the answer. Training, mentoring, continual encouragement, follow up and coordinating assistance from other local organizations, such as Feed The Hungry, Casa, St. Paul’s Church, The Community Church of San Miguel and others is needed for a complete program to be effective.  To learn more about this amazing young man and the success of his program, visit their web site at:
www.apoyoemprendedores.weebly.com

San Miguel Community Foundation is a 501 (C) 3 non-profit foundation providing micro grants semi-annually to San Miguel’s most needy local charities and not- for -profit organizations. For more information or to make a contribution to our grant programs, please call 415-152-7447 or go to: www.sanmiguelcommunityfoundation.org