At only 24 years old, Monica is the newly minted manager of the Santa Rosa de Patutan Credit Union in Ecuador. Created by the community’s Road to Hope Association with support from ChildFund, the credit union functions much as a community bank, making loans to support local businesses that will make the community a better place to live.
“All this is thanks to ChildFund, which provides us with the tools and knowledge to establish solid ground for us to build upon,” she says. “Personally, I’ve grown as a professional, and all this gives me a great satisfaction.”
When she speaks of “solid ground,” she is referring to the truly foundational support the organization has provided in her area. When she was a child, her community was among the many in Ecuador where one of the most basic needs of children — safety — was sorely lacking.
As part of its work in Monica’s community, ChildFund applied one of its most valuable strategies for identifying problem areas. Trusting that children have a special eye for their communities’ trouble spots, ChildFund engages them in what is known as risk mapping, an exercise in which the children draw pictures of their communities and then mark places where they feel unhappy or unsafe.
A rabid dog, a liquor store, a treacherous river bank — identifying such risks gives communities a starting point from which to begin improvements, and ChildFund supports the residents by giving them guidance and tools to create the safe and secure environment they all need to thrive.
The improvements in Monica’s community included paved roads, higher employment and entrepreneurship rates — changes beyond what the people there had dreamed for themselves before. Because of this progress, youth like Monica have greater opportunity to succeed.
“ChildFund programs develop every aspect of a community,” she says. “They pave the way so we can start building upon it.”
Having grown up in a family who participated in ChildFund’s programs, Monica went to the university and studied finance. Now she oversees an office staff of six as well as 700 credit union members, negotiates partnerships with financial institutions at a national level and handles a financial portfolio of an estimated $165,000. Her responsibilities also include managing the community association’s drugstore and Internet cafe.
“It’s not easy to visit a financial institution, being as young as I am, to ask for a loan,” she says. “But when they see how I manage the community credit union, the confidence our customers have in us and the growth we’ve demonstrated during the past few years, it’s a win-win situation.”