COVID-19 Relief in El Salvador: Starting small businesses
Helping caregivers earn a living by starting small businesses
The smallest and most densely populated country in Latin America, El Salvador has been beset by social and economic crises for decades. A civil uprising in the 1980s lasted for 12 years and left the nation crippled by high poverty rates, low employment and crime.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit El Salvador in March 2020, job opportunities were already scarce. Millions of El Salvadorans had fled the country during the civil war, and the exodus continued as citizens emigrated to other countries to find jobs. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 20 per cent of Salvadorans live and work abroad, sending remittances home to support their families.
The pandemic has worsened the situation, with government data indicating the loss of 350,000 jobs over the last year. However, the reality is far more dire, as most citizens are informal workers like day labourers who were already living hand to mouth. COVID-19 has forced many families into extreme poverty.
Compassion has been working with churches across El Salvador for more than 40 years, serving the most vulnerable children and sharing the life-changing gospel of Jesus. Since 2008, Compassion El Salvador has implemented skills training for older teens, helping train them to start their own businesses in agriculture or street vending. These efforts have met with great success as youth take responsibility for their futures and increase their family incomes.
In light of how devastating the pandemic has been for families living in poverty, our partners wanted to help caregivers get back on their feet. More than a third of our church partners in El Salvador identified the need for start-up capital for family businesses as being a top priority, even above food security. They wanted to help caregivers get the resources they needed to start sustainable businesses in food and beverages, production and commerce so they could provide for their families.
With your generous support, this intervention began in September 2020. Local church leaders, partnership facilitators and centre directors met via Zoom to lay out the implementation process and begin organizing administrative committees from each church who would be responsible for selecting and monitoring families.
Between September and October 2020, families were interviewed and selected. To be eligible, caregivers were required to have children or youth enrolled in the sponsorship program, be in critical economic condition as a result of the pandemic, show entrepreneurial potential and have demonstrated commitment to the centre and their local churches. Caregivers would also be required to receive financial and entrepreneurship training virtually at least every three months and be supervised by leaders from their local centres who would track their progress.
In October and November, selected families received virtual training from Compassion El Salvador’s team of entrepreneurship advisers. One key topic was covered every week, with topics including understanding their market, financial management, keeping a budget and having a growth strategy. Each session was recorded and posted on YouTube so that caregivers could access the training at any time if they needed to.
Following the training sessions, caregivers created a simple business plan and budget, which were presented to the entrepreneurship monitor at each church. Once approved, caregivers were then able to purchase their own equipment and supplies.
Most families were able to start their businesses by November 2020, while others started between December 2020 and February 2021 after their plans and budgets were reviewed. Monitors from each church conducted regular visits to track each family’s progress and assess any ongoing needs or concerns. Caregivers were also able to implement COVID-19 safety protocols at their places of business.
Your Gift Provides...
● Basic investment in small-scale businesses for more than 635 families
○ Purchasing vegetables, fruits and eggs or supplies for making and selling cleaning products
● Basic investment in medium-scale businesses for about 350 families
○ Purchasing small kitchen appliances to make tortillas and pupusas, or vending carts to sell food
● Basic investment in large-scale businesses for approximately 240 families
○ Purchasing weaving machines to make tablecloths and hammocks, or sewing machines to make masks
● 4 online workshops covering viable business opportunities, creating business plans, marketing principles and business finances
○ Teaching materials for use in workshops (eg, guides and business ledgers)
○ Internet connectivity for caregivers
● COVID-19 personal protective equipment for in-person monitoring visits
ReportA message from a caregiver
Before this intervention, I had a small fruit and vegetable business, but I couldn’t make it grow because the profits weren’t enough. With the pandemic, I was left with little product.
This project has been a great blessing because I was able to grow my business and diversify my products. Now I get more profits and I have also been able to improve my diet.
I can imagine a better future for my family, because now that I have more products, I will be able to make more profits.
Through this intervention I learned how to run my business in a planned way, to invest better and to receive higher profits.
I thank you for helping those most in need. For me it has been very beneficial.
ReportA message from a pastor
This intervention has been of great help to the beneficiaries since they have been able to start their businesses. We are hoping God will continue blessing it and that their businesses will continue to grow.
The project has been a great blessing for the church and the community. The beneficiaries have established their businesses, and this will help them support their families.
During the intervention we faced challenges, but we trusted in God. Through the training, beneficiaries had a guide to help them start their businesses, and although it was challenging, they were able to achieve their goals.
May God bless you for this great work. Many families living in poverty who had the desire to provide for their relatives were able to establish their businesses. It is wonderful to see the children and their families so happy when they receive help.
ReportThank you for your generosity
With your help, 1,227 Compassion-assisted families from 127 churches were able to start or recover their small businesses and begin generating income. Thanks to you, they are well on their way to economic recovery. They are so grateful!
Not only did caregivers receive critical start-up capital, but they have also been trained to lead and manage their businesses more effectively. They have learned how to plan and budget in a sustainable way and to monitor their ongoing expenses carefully.
Because of your kindness, these families have hope for the future. Their outlook is completely different than it was before this intervention. The teaching and training they received has been incredibly valuable; some caregivers even changed their business ideas after learning how to assess the needs in their local markets. Others were able to augment and improve their existing businesses, adding value to their product offerings.
Most important, these families now know they have the potential to get ahead. They have learned that even in times of crisis they have a support system through the church. As families continue to grow their businesses and thrive, they will have a wonderful testimony to share with others. Thank you for showing God’s love to these caregivers in need!