The alliance signed by Fondo Esperanza (FE) and Fundación Emplea one year ago has given people living on the streets in Chile access to a comprehensive service to enable them to start up their own businesses and provide them with opportunities for the future.
The pilot program entitled “FE’s Excluded Segments” clearly meets the bank’s mission of working to support people in vulnerable sectors of society. The program focuses on developing entrepreneurs in penitentiaries and also, since one year ago, people living on the streets.
Fondo Esperanza joined forces with Fundación Emplea to work with entrepreneurs through the “Creciendo Juntos” (Growing Together) community bank (BC) and help them develop their enterprises through the comprehensive service offered by FE, which includes microcredits, training and support networks.
Patricio Asenjo (37) is a founding member of this community bank. He sells items for cars such as paper handkerchiefs, chargers, cellphone holders and air fresheners. “With FE’s help I’ve been able to make money to pay for a place to live and to eat. But I’ve also learned how to use money responsibly. For example, I’m now trying to save for a house”.
Jorge Jaña (37) is an itinerant vendor on public transport and is currently in his first cycle in this community bank. “I spent a long time living on the streets, and I’ve been able to get ahead thanks to Fundación Emplea and Fondo Esperanza. Although I can’t read and write, I’ve been able to get ahead and I dream about having my own house, or a at least a fixed abode”, he says.
Rosa Fuenzalida is a trader from Recoleta who works as an itinerant vendor. She now has an on-street candy stall and recently obtained a municipal sales permit. What she recalls from her experience with Fondo Esperanza is the kindness she was shown. “We received so much support and that’s given us confidence. That’s good because we feel welcome here, they greet us with a kiss on the cheek, they ask how we are and they don’t look disapprovingly at us. They see us as people just as we are and we’re really grateful for that, because sometimes people don’t see you for what you really are, but judge you for the way you look”, says Rosa.
On the agreement with Fundación Emplea, Verónica Toro, head of BC at Fondo Esperanza, highlighted the challenge posed by undertaking this project. “It has required significant work to adapt to the methodology of the organization to the particular features of the people on the streets, and these are profiles that need a lot of care and support. The group members’ own sense of responsibility has been crucial to this process, as these are people who have to fight against the tide every day of their lives”, she says.
In terms of the benefits of this alliance, Jenny Pérez, head of Social Programs at the Fundación Emplea, highlights the links they have developed with the members of the community bank. “These are highly participative people, but the most important thing is that they now have a relationship with each other, which gives them the opportunity to share their troubles and achievements. They have shown a strong sense of responsibility to themselves, and are now feeling more empowered as people and as self-employed workers”, she says.