When I was in college, I learned to juggle life. Aside from being a full-time student, I interned, worked part-time, participated in school clubs and still managed to find time for friends and family. Years later, as a young professional, I juggled a full-time job, several volunteer positions and managing a small business with a friend. Eventually, the balancing act became harder to maintain and my motto soon became “cut back.”
It wasn’t until I met FINCA’s clients in Central America that I truly learned what juggling life meant.
On one of my first trips to the field for FINCA, I traveled to El Salvador* to meet some of our clients. In a small house, up a narrow, winding street in Santa Ana, I met Maria Leona Ortiz, a 52-year-old woman who supports her disabled husband and 9-year-old granddaughter with her business income. Many years ago, she told me, she decided to sell tamales on the weekend while working full-time as a domestic worker through the week. Eventually more and more customers flocked to her home to try her tamales. Today, Maria wakes up every day at 5 am to work with corn to make 400 tortillas and 400 tamales to sell.
Cooking and selling tamales is not Maria’s only business. She had always dreamed of opening a convenience store and was saving money to make that dream a reality. Maria’s husband suffered a stroke that left him disabled and unable to work, forcing the couple to survive on just her earnings and his insurance money. Despite these hardships, Maria eventually opened her dream convenience store at home.
Thanks to FINCA loans, she was able to stock her store with plenty of inventory. “I can count on FINCA,” she told me. Now, with the added income from the store, Maria doesn’t have to depend on just the insurance money and sales of her tamales to support her husband and granddaughter.
Here was a woman who could balance making 400 tamales and tortillas daily, managing a store, and caring for her disabled husband and young granddaughter (and three dogs). And yet, her calm demeanor and shy smile seemed to hide any stress she felt inside.
Hard-working clients like Maria are a reminder to us all that “juggling life” isn’t just about making ends meet— it’s about chasing our dreams and striving hard to improve our lives, no matter what it takes.
*FINCA worked in El Salvador from 1990 to 2016. In June 2016, FINCA transferred its operations to Optima Financial Services in El Salvador.