Story from the Field: Promoting Success in the Community
Every hand you sent in for the 2016 Youth Uplift Challenge counted towards the Bezos Family Foundation's donation to Save the Children’s youth empowerment programs in Nicaragua and Indonesia. This is a story of Yusbelki and her peers in Nicaragua, and how their Save the Children program has helped them bring much-needed resources to their community.
In San Benito in the municipality of El Tuma-La Dalia, over 100 miles from Nicaragua’s capital of Managua, 17-year-old Yusbelki has started a milling business with two young men from a group of 535 young participants in Cup of Excellence with Young Entrepreneurs, a youth empowerment project funded by the Bezos Family Foundation and promoted by Save the Children.
“We provide a service to the community,” Yusbelki explains. “It’s gone well for us so far because we’ve been able to coordinate and we’re pushing this initiative forward. Before, people had to go to El Tuma to get things ground, which took them an hour by bus, costing 20 córdobas in transport, on top of the payment for the grinding service.”
Yusbelki says that their customers are now saving on transport costs because the new mill is located in their own community, while the women al so have more time as they are traditionally the ones responsible for getting maize and coffee ground.
“It costs two córdobas to have a pound of toasted or cooked maize ground,” she explains. She adds that her group has plans for another revenue stream. “I’ve been asking around and people want ground coffee. It isn’t sold in the community, and people ask me why we don’t sell it. The grinding service does generate a profit, but it isn’t the same as selling your own packed products,” says Yusbelki.
Yusbelki and the other young people involved in the project are being supervised by Save the Children partner, the Organization for Economic and Social Development for Urban and Rural Areas (ODESAR). In San Benito, Yusbelki leads the group, passing on the knowledge and skills she learns through the trainings she attends in La Dalia, through the project.
At the training sessions, Yusbelki not only learns about the different issues related to coffee growing and other businesses, but also how to pedagogically adapt what she wants to get across during a training session. “I make it quite play-based,” she explains. “I give sessions in a friendly and simple way; the same way they did it with me.”
“I’ve earned their trust,” Yusbelki says. “Although it’s hard working in a group, I let them know they should tell me if they have any worries.” She also explains about the follow up provided: “I liked visiting the group with the broiler chicken initiative to see how things are going for them.
"Yusbelki gets us organized and tells us how to raise and butcher broilers,” says Elias, 17, who runs a chicken business with his sister Sorayda, 15, and two other teenagers, sisters Yaritza and Ivania.
“I’ve also got a broiler chicken initiative with other young people,” Ivania says, explaining that sales were good when they were butchering the birds every two weeks. “Now, during “the silent time,” we’re not butchering, but we’re going to buy chickens and start selling again in October.” By “the silent time,” Ivania refers to when there is no work harvesting coffee, the area’s main crop and the driving force behind the local economy: “People buy during the harvesting season because they have money.”
“Yusbelki taught us how to transplant coffee plants and improve the crop, among other issues related to farming, as well as life skills and how to run a business,” says Elias.
Yaritza says that after more than a year in the role of promoter, Yusbelki has become more skilful and more friendly.”
“I’ve got new knowledge and experiences,” says Yusbelki. “I’d never worked on a business initiative before and now I have some experience in that. Now I can start a business on my own or start a savings project to help myself economically.”
The other teenagers also have thoughts about the future. Sorayda, who did not finish high school, plans to return to her studies and Ivania wants to study nursing if she can save enough money. “When we start butchering chickens again, I’m going to start saving,” she says.
Yusbelki also has a plan. “I want to study medicine. I know that the mill initiative is going to help me and that I can achieve it with my savings and my parents’ help. When I finish studying, I’d like to have my own clinic and work in Managua,” she says.
As part of the Cup of Excellence project, Yusbelki also received training on financial education and savings boxes. “These boxes allow us to make our own savings, because the bank is a long way away,” she says.
For the system to work, at least 15 people have to be involved and this group must choose three people to hold keys to the box, and one person to act as secretary, responsible for taking minutes at each meeting. Deposits can be made at each meeting, which build up over several months and eventually translate into an operational savings box, from which businesses can access capital.
Read more on the Youth Uplift Challenge here.