Is it possible to save in Colombia? For communities depending on a meager harvest that satisfies only basic needs? Or for those who live on a day-to-day basis? It should be impossible! However, the Green Light program is committed to achieving it.

Our savings and entrepreneurship project is based on the experiential methodology patented by the Investing Hope Foundation, whose purpose is to train leaders in financial education by promoting the culture of savings, and guiding children and youth to make clear goals towards their life project.

Saving in the midst of the socioeconomic situation generated by the Sars2 COVID 19 pandemic was quite a challenge. The goal for 2021 was to consolidate the savings groups. There were 27 groups of adults who saved $114,000,000 pesos or $36,000 CAD and 22 groups of children, who saved $19,000,000 pesos or $6,000 CAD. Please note that 97% of the groups live in rural areas and indigenous communities. Three inspiring stories will be shared.

Below is an inspiring story from Santander. The family of Erik and Zarit live relatively close to each other. They were motivated by their mothers and grandmother who began saving in 2019 and formed a saving habit. Today the whole family saves.

Cousins, Erik 14 (extreme right) and Zarit 13 (extreme left), joined a savings group for the first time and they were the winners for most saved. Thanks to their participation in the Hope for Tomorrow group, they met their goal and bought a computer that allows them to meet their academic requirements. With weekly sales of candy skewers, peanuts, jellies, empanadas, and other sales, they saved $980,000 pesos or $309 CAD. Erik and Zarit are the secretary and president of the committee that directs the group and as such, they encouraged their peers to pursue their dreams saving $3,351,000 pesos or $1,060 CAD in total.

Another inspiring story comes from Guajira. Martha is an indigenous girl who aims to build a future with her sisters and sees, in the savings project, an opportunity to achieve it. She must, however, overcome many challenges including walking long distances to offer their products, and to refrain from dipping into earnings to satisfy a basic need.

Martha and her sisters managed to save $282,000 pesos or $89.00 CAD through weekly activities such as selling bread, sweets, small market combos, and other items. These savings were invested in two goats. Their success motivates them to reach their dream of saving enough to go to university. For 11-year-old Martha and her sisters, 14 and 9 years old, it was their first time in a savings group, and although the amount seems small, it was quite a challenge when considering the economic conditions of the family and the limited opportunities offered in that area.

Martha has 9 siblings. She is number 5 and lives with her parents and her 7 siblings. She and her two sisters agreed to save in the Achieve More savings group in their community called New Hope. She served as secretary of the savings committee.

Martha is characterized as a very committed and responsible girl, not only with her education but also with the project.

Another aspect of the program in Santander and Guajira, is small loans for those who are entrepreneurs and want to improve their business. Receiving loans from the savings groups frees them from the so-called informal “drop by drop” loans with interest of up to 10% monthly, in which they become trapped without the possibility of getting out of said debts.

Erlider (below), from Guajira, participated in the savings project for adults and was one of the loan beneficiaries to improve his business.

Erlider works for the Rotary Foundation Hands in Solidarity charity and is also part of the Initiating the Future group. He has a small business of buying and selling cheese in the municipality of Albania. He received a small loan of 500,000 pesos or $158.00 CAD with extremely low interest from the group’s savings account, with which he was able to expand his business. He is happy and grateful to the program.

Erlider responsibly reimbursed the loan with interest in the stipulated length of time. He saved $450,000 pesos or $142.00 CAD, which he invested in his business. He is grateful because the project freed him from taking high-interest loans.

THANK YOU to those who collaborate directly or indirectly so we can reach more families and encourage the habit of saving in vulnerable communities. Our goal is to continue learning and transforming lives.

Rocío Núñez Espinel, National Coordinador