July 21, 2015
Vanessa is 25 years old. She has two children, ages 5 and 8. They live in a struggling village in Honduras called Monte de los Olivos. Just a few years ago, the community was living in shacks made of old aluminum siding and tarps on the river banks of El Progreso, the more populated city just 10 miles away. The local government considered them an eyesore and wanted them removed. They were soon relocated to a small palm plantation where they now live. Here, they were left with no access to clean water, housing or means to make a living.Over the next four years, various nonprofits came to their aid, building new homes, a school, and installing a water well. Despite this progress, one key element was missing: a long-term, sustainable way to provide for themselves and their families.
Soles4Souls first met Vanessa after we distributed shoes to her children in Monte de los Olivos. Like most in this struggling community, Vanessa has a tough time making ends meet. When she lived in El Progreso, she worked in a clothing store downtown. Since the community was moved, she doesn’t have a stable job. Occasionally, she’s able to sell a few bracelets or help out in the clinic, but that’s only two days per week or so.
There aren’t many opportunities for Vanessa. She can’t try to find work in neighboring towns because the cost of travel and childcare for her two girls is more than she’d make. It would actually cost her to go to work.
During our last visit, we asked Vanessa about her hopes for the future. She began crying and said, “I never thought I’d see myself like this.” You could see the shame on her face. You could tell she was embarrassed that she isn’t in a better place at this stage in her life. In spite of the regret and sadness, she continued, “I always think that I can be successful and can go very far. I see myself as a hard worker, I don’t see myself as a failure because I’m always looking towards that better future.”
That hope for a “better future” is exactly what motivates Soles4Souls to provide an opportunity for Vanessa. She’s a hard worker. She’s resourceful. She just needs a chance.Starting and sustaining a business is that chance. Our micro-enterprise model is that chance. The Soles4Souls micro-enterprise program offers the opportunity for those in need to start small businesses (a micro-enterprise) selling shoes and clothing. Thanks to generous donations of gently used shoes, Soles4Souls can provide a high quality, low cost product that Vanessa can use as a tool to generate a sustainable income to provide for herself and her family.
With the help and encouragement from our partner on the ground, Raul Carrasco, Vanessa has taken the initiative to start a co-op in the village of which she proudly tells us she is the president! Vanessa and her team are selling used shoes to provide for themselves and their families, but also to fund the co-op. This strategy will not only ensure that they can afford to buy the next allotment of shoes to sustain and grow their business, but to also share its success with others.
“If we are going to do this, we want to do it together,” says Vanessa. “It doesn’t help if I’m the only one in the village who is being prosperous. But it does help if all of us are being prosperous. We want to set an example, and grow together, so that we’re ALL successful!”
When you donate used shoes, you are supporting many around the world just like Vanessa and the women in her co-op. Give shoes. Give love!