This post is contributed for International Womens Day by Chalice US.
Chalice US is an international Catholic nonprofit that works to educate youth and empower their families through child sponsorship programs in fifteen countries. The following was written by Chalice’s Alejandra Duran, Site Coordinator in La Paz, Bolivia.
Women in Bolivia struggle to claim the recognition they deserve. Most impoverished families live with only a mother to sustain them. As a patriarchal society, women are still the unseen heroes of their families. As mothers, they do everything they can to support their families. They get several jobs and even beg for money just to put food in their children’s mouths.
Women who don’t know how to read or write, or that don’t have any skill still find a way to care for their families. Most of them endure the hardship of abuse and neglect by their partners and where abused in their homes growing up. It’s a horrible reality that most women who are extremely poor live under.
Chalice has helped these women become empowered, to take their destiny into their own hands. Our sponsorship program not only gives financial aid but also creates a family environment with their “family circles”. These circles create a support system for an impoverished mother, so she can have other mothers in her same situations on her side.
Chalice does not want to keep families’ dependent on sponsorship and our goal is to empower women and be able to get them out of poverty. In 2017, in La Paz, Bolivia, our Site Director has created along Chalice a community project called Business for Life. This program allows mother who have small businesses or want to open a business to have access to top quality business education.
We have professors from the best university in Bolivia that teach our entrepreneurs how to run their business and create a business plan with marketing, production, and financial points.
From all of the students we had in our first class, we selected 5 winners who would get 1000 USD to start their business. We also selected a 6th winner who would get 400 to continue her business. These women are now empowered and ready to give their children the life they deserve.
Of these six women we will present two special cases.
We have Lourdes Mamani, who makes polleras, a traditional skirt that has many layers and are very hard to make. She is a single mother who has to take care of her mother and her children. She learned how to make polleras with her mother as her teacher. Her mother’s sight is too weak to keep making them.
Before she entered Business for Life she had a small sewing machine that over heated with the work she had to do. She worked until dawn to make sure she had all her work done. She lives in the rural area where it is hard to find transportation. She works in a small shop she created in her small house. With the 1000 USD that she earned as she had one of the best business plans, she now has a big sewing machine that can take the hard hours of labor she has to make all of the polleras.
This sewing machine makes her life easier, reduces the time it takes her to make a pollera and she can earn more money by making more. She also has a lot of fabric and a beautifully styled mannequin that is dressed like a “cholita” so people that go to her shop can see her work. She is now sought after by many people because they now she is one of the best. Even though she lives far away from the city and she has to walk many miles in dirt roads she continues to thrive. Her hours are still long but now it’s because of all the people that want her polleras.
Finally, we have Lucia Castro. She sells shoes for women online. Before Business for :ife she would have limited stock of shoes and only a few models. The internet access she had was only through her phone. She also had one of the best business plans and with the 1000 USD she received she was able to buy a lot of better quality shoes that are on trend and at accessible prices.
She also received a laptop directly from Chalice where she keeps the registry of all her sales and purchases and where she can have better internet access. She now has an easier time selling her shoes and keeping track of her inventory. She also has made room in her small house that looks like a shoe store where her clients can easily try on shoes.
Chalice has not only allowed these women to help them give their children a better life, but they have given them a chance to have a sense of professional fulfillment. This is extremely important to them because they are not only proving for their families but they are loving themselves in the process.
God has allowed Chalice to help these women become better mothers and better people and it’s a blessing that we get to enter into these people’s lives and not only give them an opportunity to be better but to have our merciful God in their lives. Each of these women know that without the will of God they would not be where they are and they thank their children’s sponsors and all the donors that were a part of this amazing transformation in their lives.
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