Imelda Sanum Zil and her husband, Odgas, have been married for nine years. They live in the area of Patzicia, Guatemala. Imelda worked with her husband in their early years of marriage to create small business businesses in trade and handicrafts. Unfortunately, they could not make enough money to survive.
Because Guatemala is a land rich in the production of fruits and vegetables, they decided to try a wooden crate-making business in 2005 for the shipping of produce. They purchased a power saw and small shipments of scrap lumber to create the narrow strips of wood used in making the boxes. But they could make just 25 boxes per day, and their monthly income was only $125. They were still very poor.
Due to the demand for more crates, the need to increase production became urgent. In August 2007, Imelda learned of the services provided by Mentors Guatemala. She secured a loan from them for $150. With this she purchased two additional table saws, hired more laborers, and began to increase the productivity of her business. Their operation now produces more than 350 boxes per day and employs seven full-time people, who can now provide for their families. The couple has gone from a net income of $125 per month to $1,250. “I have been very blessed by the loans,” smiles a teary-eyed Imelda. “We are so happy for this chance to work and also to help all these families with employment. I would like my daughter to go to medical school someday, and I know this will happen because we now have the means to help her do it. Thank you for what you have done for my family.”
In July 09, on a trip to Patzicia, Mentors’ staff gave Imelda some additional ideas on expansion. During a follow-up trip in January 2010, Mentors’ staff visited Imelda again. She had been quick to implement Mentors’ suggestions and had opened an additional operation a few miles down the road. Imelda hired five more full-time employees and has increased her net income again, now to $1800 per month. Her business grosses $169 per day and nets $75.
Imelda has not only raised her own family’s standard of living far above her national poverty line, but she has significantly raised the living conditions of 12 other families. She is a prime example of how microcredit can create a more formal economy in a developing country.