Last week we left behind the bumpy streets of Asunción to take a surprisingly well-paved road that crosses the countryside and is itself most often the only trace of human existence for miles. Cows dotted the horizon as grass spread out for miles in every direction. Our destination? Alto Paraná.
The landscape gradually changed as we approached the Brazilian border. A flourishing economy appeared before us, as could be seen by shiny billboards and new, large-scale farmhouses and agricultural shops. However, Luz and Daniel, the loan officers from El Comercio who were our guides for the trip, explained to us an entirely different reality. Just a few miles outside of Santa Rita, the economic center of the area where 80% of the population is represented by wealthy, Brazilian farmers, there lay some old, Paraguayan settlements, still yet to be touched by the region’s seeming development.
We stopped in the village of Tavapy to meet some of El Comercio’s longest-served clients. My first impression of Delia was that she was a humble person who was not afraid to show her true emotions. She was moved to tears upon receiving an international visit from myself and Juan, the other Accion Ambassador for El Comercio. But only a few minutes passed before she was smiling again and began to prouldy show us her animals and tell us about her dreams. This is her story.
Delia Medina is a farmer raising her three kids on her own. In 2006 she asked El Comercio for a loan to buy her first cow. Twice a day for the past six years she has been milking her cows by hand and selling the milk to a local association. Her work has allowed her to buy more cows (now six in total) and most importantly, to be able to send her children to school. Now that her older son is graduating from nursery school, Delia has two dreams: to build “una casita”, a little brick house for her family, and to buy a mechanic milking machine, “because doing this by hands is tiring!”
Delia’s simple, yet powerful story impressed me in that it shows just how large and tangible an impact a tiny loan can have on the life of an entire family. Moreover, it was moving to see how Delia truly admired El Comercio and her loan officer — how many of us can say the same about our own banks? In the picture above with Luz and Delia, it is clear that Delia doesn’t see Luz as just a credit and sales officer, but as a trusted friend on whom she can rely.
As we were leaving, a bright yellow motorcycle trailer pulled up in front of Delia’s house. It was the milk recovery service of the San Marcos Association that traveled from house to house to collect the farmers’ milk and transport it to the central storage. We followed him and soon discovered another amazing story — that of Ignacio Martinez Moreira. But that is the material for another post… (Updated Aug. 14th — check out Ignacio’s story here)