In Her Own Words: Simona on Participating in a Savings Group in Bolivia

Editor’s note: Simona, a 55-year-old mother of seven, runs a micro-business selling empanadas and other food in Tarija, Bolivia. She is a member of a savings group organized by Five Talents’ local partner in Bolivia, Semillas de Bendicion (Seeds of Blessings). Here, Simona opens up about her life, her husband’s health, and her experience participating in a savings group (translation by Five Talents Program Officer McKenzie Butler).

I [was born] in the countryside, near Camargo, a beautiful land where there is a lot of fruit. As I am female and my family is very poor, I didn’t go to school. We worked in the field, but I liked to sell vegetables and fruit more than planting and harvesting, so I always went with my parents into the city to sell.

Later, I got married and had seven sons. My life was very difficult. I wanted my sons to have the opportunity to study, so we went to live in the city, but [there it] was even more difficult. There wasn’t enough money, and my husband, who worked as a bricklayer, began to drink.

One day he had a stroke, and [for a while] he couldn’t move. Little by little, he began to recover, but he was still very angry because he couldn’t work or do anything. He always sat at the door chewing coca leaf and looking at people angrily.

Two years ago, I began to sell food and empanadas to earn money. I didn’t sell much, and my husband sat by my side angrily watching as people walked by on the street without buying anything.

However, one day I was invited to join a savings group. Out of curiosity I went. They taught us about saving and lending the money [to one another]. I had never heard of this, so I joined because I wanted to learn new business ideas, and also I wanted a micro-loan.

The first time when I saw them give all the money that we had collectively saved to another group member, it scared me. I feared that she wouldn’t return to the group, but after she returned and re-paid the loan, my mind began to change.

When it was my turn to receive a loan ($15), I was happy. I bought a crate of oil, and I felt very relieved. My business made a lot of profit.

Something that I really like [about participating in a savings group] is that we learn each week something good for our family and business. And I learned to pray and to pray for my spouse, and he has started to heal more and more.

Now, my husband walks better, he moves his right arm a little more, he is friendly, and he helps me cook and sell the food. Last week, we went to our plot of land in the field, and he told me that he was going to stay a week longer to continue working a little more.

Recently, he also received some glasses that he really needed. He felt very happy because no one had ever given him something so valuable. I continue to pray for my husband and my family, and I give thanks for the help we’ve received in our businesses.

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