En Vía, meaning “On The Path” in Spanish, is a very unique organization geared at empowering women to lead successful lives and create small businesses in the Oaxaca valley of Mexico. The owner of En Vía, Carlos Topete, founded the group when he heard about Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2006. Yunus was the creator of the microloan idea, which makes it possible for people with little money to receive loans without interest.
From there, Topete’s organization blossomed. In 2008 he used his own money to form En Vía and was able to help 12 women living in poverty receive microloans; by 2011 Topete was able to reach out and help 260 other women from multiple areas of Oaxaca.
For many women, Topete’s strategy and way of running his organization are a blessing.
Guadalupe Lazo Hernandez is just one of the women En Vía has helped to get back on her feet. After her husband passed away she was struggling to stay afloat and feed her three sons with her weaving. She has received three microloans from En Vía so far, and her goal is to save up for a sewing machine so that her work is quicker, less costly and more efficient. She explains that the help from En Vía has far surpassed her expectations of just running her business, but instead she has been able to feed her children, supply them with school supplies and make their dreams possible along with hers.
Unlike other non-profits, En Vía does not just simply aim to supply women with money, clothing or food, but rather it allows them the chance to sell their products to Oaxaca travelers, gain an education and gain an understanding of how to expand their small businesses.
By charging a tour fee, Topete is able to generate more money for loans and give tourists the chance to see the advancement the women in the Oaxaca valley are making. The tourists are able to get first-hand encounters with the women and speak to them about their journeys. The tours also give visitors the opportunity to buy products to aid in the positive progression of the new lives of the En Vía women.
Topete wishes to extend and improve the entire community of Oaxaca. By involving tourists, connecting the different women involved in En Vía, and reaching out to other communities, he is laying down the foundation for a sustainable economy and giving the women resources for succeeding.
Oaxaca is a state dense with culture, history and traditions. With the help and push from En Vía, the women will be able to keep their cultures thriving by passing on what they have learned to their other family members and children. En Vía also allows the concept of micro-lending to expand outside of the Oaxaca community and reach other areas of the globe.
You can read more about Guadalupe’s experience and other women’s experiences on the En Vía blog, or watch a video from CNN of Guadalupe’s story.
– Becka Felcon
Sources: CNN, Wikispaces, En Vía, En Vía
Photo: Xica Cano