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The Reach of Seed Capital

By: Loza Leon, C.

Ecuador Newsletter PDF 

Graduation is a sequenced, time-bound approach that helps families graduate out of extreme poverty. By including savings groups and encouraging social connections, the Graduation Model is particularly suited to help refugees rebuild sustainable livelihoods in their host countries. It is 11:30 AM in the morning and the bustle in downtown Esmeraldas, a coastal city of 161,000 residents in northwest Ecuador, encourages many passerby to take a break and find something to eat.

Francelina, 31 years old, lives in the middle of the downtown bustle.

When she arrived to Ecuador a year ago fleeing violence from Tumaco, Colombia, one of the first things she noticed about her new neighbourhood was its lack of restaurants for passerby looking for somewhere to eat.

With this idea in mind, Francelina and her partner, Gustavo, started attending the financial education workshops offered as a component of the Graduation Model pilot designed by Trickle Up. Training modules in financial literacy offered by CRISFE, an Ecuadorian foundation whose mission is to contribute to social development, served as an essential support for households in the Ecuador pilot to engage in sustainable management of finances.

Throughout the five workshop modules Francelina and her partner attended, they found that the Graduation program’s training topics on developing savings habits and setting goals proved essential to their efforts to improve their socioeconomic condition.

“A goal of the Graduation program is to have households save at least 10% of their income on a continuous basis for 6 months.”

While presenting on their savings goal during the workshop, Francelina met Yolanda and Jose Luis, a couple from Buenaventura in Colombia’s Valle del Cauca region on Colombia’s Pacific coast. During this meeting, a business idea for a restaurant that combined the goals and hopes of both couples, Delicias del Pacífico, was born.

Both of the refugee couples developed good relationships with community members in their neighborhood, and soon enough their new restaurant opened in a space lent by the workers association of Esmeraldas. Today, the workers association members are frequent regulars at Delicias del Pacífico.

 

By participating in the Graduation program, Francelina, Gustavo, Yolanda, and Jose Luis not only found a sustainable livelihood for themselves, they also built strong relationships with their host community.

Jose Luis explains with great enthusiasm that the preparation of Sancocho, a soup made with meat, root vegetables, and traditional spices in Ecuador and Colombia, has shown him the differences and similarities between Ecuadorian and Colombian dishes.

“For some dishes, they [the customers] like the Colombian version better; in other cases, they like the Ecuadorian version better. We see day by day what people like best.”

The preparation of food as a sustainable livelihood component of the Graduation pilot program in Ecuador has allowed these two refugee couples to create a bridge between their old home in Colombia and their new home in Ecuador.