All day, prior to our first business development class with the women in Teotitlán, I had butterflies in my stomach. Kevin Adler (another volunteer) and I had been preparing for this for several weeks. We had met with Carlos, the En Vía director, first discussing our interest in doing the training, and second, discussing the research I had done on various training models for microfinance programs. Carlos decided that we should invite 10 of the more experienced women in Teotitlán (those who had received 3 or more loans). We decided that we would meet with them for just a few weeks at first, in order to gather information from them as to what kind of training they need in order to be more successful in their businesses. We also wanted to get them to just talk about their businesses, so they could begin to help and support each other more.
We arrived at Enadina’s house a few minutes early, with a basic plan and a large pad of butcher paper. The women began to arrive slowly. At first we only had 5 of the 10 invited women, and thought that was pretty good considering this was a new idea and the women didn’t really know what to expect (and neither did we!). Then a few more arrived and we had our full contingency. But then a few more and a few more came, and luckily Enadina had plenty of chairs. We’re not totally sure why the extra women showed up, but they certainly seemed eager to find out what we have to offer!
It helps to have years of teaching experience, because I felt transformed from scared novice to “Superteacher” as soon as I got up in front of the women, except that until now I had never actually taught in Spanish. Kevin is a natural in front of a group, and has no trouble getting people to respond to a variety of questions. One by one the women talked about their businesses, the long hours they all work, their difficulty in making enough money, the ideas that Carlos has given some of them to diversify from rug making. We had barely begun to discuss the kinds of challenges that the women face in their businesses when the time was up. Luckily, we have another week or two to accomplish this first phase of the training, and all of the women said they plan to come again next week.
As we were returning on the bus to
, Kevin and I were all smiles. For me, it was an incredible beginning to something I’ve been wanted to do for a long time. If I can be a catalyst to help a group of women learn how to be better entrepreneurs, it will be a dream come true. But then, that’s what En Vía is all about. Oaxaca