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International Women's Day - Mexico

Wednesday, 19 Nov 2008

By David Munoz

Mrs. Blanca Flor Patricio Lopez lives in the state of Chiapas in Mexico. She is a woman who recently received a loan from FUNED, the VisionFund affiliated microfinance institution.

In the middle of small coffee aisles and hen houses made of mesh, one must cross a little stream in order to get to the place where the intense smell of fresh coffee originates. A dense cloud of smoke covers the house patio. At 67 years old, we find a woman filled with spirit. She brings out a few chairs, feeds the hens, cleans the table and blows the timber in the stove with her palm fan. She is eager that we taste her delicious coffee.

“I have always wanted to have a mill, but I could not buy it because I didn't have the resources.”

Mrs. Blanca Flor cannot sit at all, while she answers questions, she stands up to roast more coffee and puts some more logs in the fire.

“In my parents’ house I remember that there were small coffee plantations for our self-consumption. Now, I have my little plants, and as you can see it tastes better than the instant coffee.”

Mrs. Flor approached the local microfinance institution and asked for a loan in order to purchase a mill.

Just a few weeks later, Mrs. Blanca Flor was awarded a loan of $400. Through this loan, she was able to fulfil the dream she pursued for so many years.

"It works for me because people comes to grind, it is a business… it is a good business. When the time comes to pay the credit I already have the money in advance.”

Mrs. Blanca Flor reveals that the mill not only blessed her financially but little by little transformed her life. When she became a widow more than five years ago, she was totally on her own. Two years later her youngest children decided to move to the USA.

“It helps me very much because people come to grind coffee, corn, pinole and chocolate. All different types of people come here; they grind from three to five kilos up to 20 kilos in just one day. For example, there is an old lady who can barely walk and she asked me to grind for her two kilos of corn. I do not even charge her and I ask a (local child) to help her take all her things to her house. I feel good doing these types of things.”

Costs charged to use the mill are affordable for most people, which has made her business quite popular. For example, while other mills charge three or five pesos per kilo, Mrs. Blanca Flor does the same work for half the price. Providing her service as a low price, plus how she treats people has given her new clients and friendships.

Cheerfully she tells us that she has begun to put some money aside to invest in two new stones for her mill, in order to be able to grind other materials. She estimated that she can make more money by also grinding pepper, which is very common in the region.

Blanca is also a grandmother of children who are sponsored by World Vision.

“I love to see my grandchildren smile. They can smile because World Vision sends them to school. I did not have those opportunities when I was young, my life was very different.”

And while the smell of coffee continues to saturate the air, it is clear that Blanca’s daily effort coupled with effective credit can help to completely change her life.