We’re approaching that special time of year when we give more of our time, energy and resources to the people and causes that mean most to us. Some take time to spend with friends and family to celebrate the holidays in different ways. At our holiday staff party, we all donated gifts to a homeless shelter for youth in our neighborhood. Our in-country staff in Central America and Mexico take a much-deserved rest from their busy schedules traveling between their home, office and Agros communities, often being away from their family for a week at a time.
Those living in Agros villages celebrate in many different ways as well—and many give gifts to one another in response to the blessings they’ve received over the year. We’ve had many villagers take from the surpluses they have and offer it to even poorer, neighboring families.
Personally, I’m most impacted by the generosity of the Agros families not just during this holiday season, but throughout their daily lives, even as they are fighting their way out of the cycle of poverty one day at a time.
For example, this calendar year, a long-standing activity in Guatemala villages, Women’s Community Banking, received funding to expand to four additional countries. These lending groups are sustainable in the long-term and are designed to increase access to small loans in the community and neighboring areas.
Very few rural women have access to even the smallest loans from banks or MFIs due to their lack of collateral. Through Women’s Community Banking, however, women serve as collateral for each other—if one woman defaults on her loan, it’s up to the others to cover her payment. Each woman contributes to a joint savings account which is eventually grown to provide loans to individuals outside of the Community Bank. In this way, the Community Banks are gifts that keep giving—each woman’s financial success and responsibility makes a positive impact on her family and the entire region that the bank grows to serve.
Since January, women’s Community Banks increased from 23 banks of 400 women in Guatemala to 31 banks in Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador, involving over 500 women. More than $135,000 has been distributed in loans in the last 12-month period.
Another example of gifts that keep giving are animal projects.
Animals represent a long-term investment for the rural family. 88% of Agros families own animals to sustain their livelihood. Animals provide food, income diversity and security and labor-saving work in the families’ fields. Many Agros communities receive rabbits, cows, sheep or goats, along with training in animal husbandry techniques with the expectation that the first offspring will be passed on to another neighboring family.
By passing on the blessing of animals, more families have been able to access this gift of health and economic security that animals provide.
There are so many ways that Agros’ work in Central America and Mexico multiplies and continues to give after a first initial investment. Beyond Women’s Community Banking and passing on the blessing of animals, the families we serve teach us what gift giving really looks like and how powerful it can be.
You, too, can give the gift that keeps giving! And with every dollar matched now through December 31st, your impact is doubled!