Did you know that education is an integral part of our loan program?
Our education program first began in 2000 with credit officers providing advice, when asked, to selected women on how to start a small business. This eventually led to the creation of an official education program in 2004. At this time credit officers began presenting to entire assembly groups on topics related not only to business but also health and human rights using brightly-colored poster sets, which allowed clients who weren’t able to read the ability to understand the content of the presentations. In 2007, the community educator program was launched where one client from each assembly group attended workshops presented by Adelante staff to train them in giving the educational presentations to their respective assemblies. The community educator program was discontinued, however, due to a lack of measureable results.
In 2010, we’ve revamped our education program to focus exclusively on how our borrowers can increase their business related income.
The Program Today:
Over the years we’ve learned that training and education are crucial to our client’s financial literacy and overall success. In fact, the Adelante education program strengthens the educational and financial literacy base of a client’s entire community. The average education level of our clients is second grade. Many of our clients have learned the skills necessary to run their businesses (they are “street-smart” and creative) but lack the knowledge to expand their businesses beyond the daily routine tasks. Much of the time the material presented is forgotten. Using the idea that adults learn best by doing, we decided to make the presentations more interactive.
We’ve kept the poster sets as tools to guide the presentations, but credit officers now encourage clients to participate in role-playing, brainstorming activities and to contribute ideas to the collective group. Rather than sitting and listening to credit officers lecture on a given topic, our clients are encouraged to play an active role in the presentations which are typically 30 minutes long. Every 14 days credit officers will present to assembly groups on topics such as “The Art of Salesmanship”, “Working Hard” and “Making a Plan”. Each presentation ends with a homework assignment which our clients are expected to complete and share at the next assembly meeting.
The benefits of education are numerous and include:
- Increased family income,
- The ability to provide more nutritious food for themselves and their families,
- The ability to obtain necessary medical care for themselves and their families,
- Investing in home improvement projects such as replacing a dirt floor with cement,
- Investing in the purchase of books and uniforms which are necessary for their children to attend school, and
- Improved self-esteem and confidence.
A secondary benefit, and maybe the most important, is that the next generation will grow up in a household where his/her mother has become a successful business woman.
The feedback from our clients and staff has been extremely positive. For example:
Angela Gonzalez states, “I don’t know how to read or write, but I understand the presentations with the drawings. I like that they allow me to share my life experiences. I enjoy each meeting and I always learn something new; now with these new topics I am improving my business and trying to find new clients. I believe that education is important and I try to instill that belief in my children. My first four children only completed primary school, but my last two are now in high school.”
Helping enterprising rural women to start and grow a modest business such as a small store in their home as a source of supplemental income is a critical step in overcoming poverty. As Gloria Hernandez states, “the business training and loans from Adelante have allowed me to move forward. Now my business is better than ever, thanks to Adelante it is better organized and more profitable.”