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Lending Program Matches American Citizens with Struggling Mexican Entrepreneurs

LatinaLista — Maria Elena lives in Monterrey, Mexico. She used to work in a tortilla factory. Though she didn’t make a lot of money, her small salary, added to her husband’s wages as a mechanic, let Maria Elena, her husband and their daughter live with a roof over their heads and food on the table.

That is, until Maria Elena’s husband lost his job. In a country where 40 percent live below the poverty line, Maria Elena and her family were on the brink of making some hard decisions.

Decisions that have historically torn apart Mexican families looking for a way to just survive.

Yet, Maria Elena wasn’t going to give up so easily. After all, she had experience working in a tortilla factory. She decided to put that experience to good use.

She, with some help from her parents, and the love and support of her family, opened up her own tortilla shop. The business is two years old and with her husband’s help, along with three other employees, Maria Elena is making it work.

Maria Elena in her tortilla shop

But she still needs help. She doesn’t need a huge amount of money but enough of a small loan to let her buy a scale to weigh the tortillas. The industrial type scale she needs costs $250.00

Maria Elena’s story is but one example of the kinds of budding entrepreneurs in Mexico who are choosing to make something of their lives in their own home country rather than risk the chance of coming to the United States illegally.

To help Maria Elena and others like her who need small loans, too small for traditional lenders to bother with, the organization (Mexicans & Americans Thinking Together) has teamed up with microlender Kiva in a program that allows everyday people to help those like Maria Elena achieve their dreams and not have to leave home in search of them.

The way the program works is if you go to the web site, you can read Maria Elena’s story and those of others who all are struggling to start their own businesses in Mexico but need just a little capital to get going or keep going.

After reading the stories, you choose which person’s business you would like to invest in. The amount is up to you. It can be as little as $25 or higher.

You make the loan with your credit card. Kiva transfers the money to the local partners who then gives out the loans. But this isn’t charity.

The person whose business you invested in pays the loan back over the course of the year. There is no interest collected on the loan. Whether or not you want to continue to invest in another business once you’re repaid is up to you.

So far, according to Kiva officials, the repayment rate is 100 percent.

With Christmas around the corner, such a gift to someone would be priceless in its return on your investment — especially, if it prevents yet one more family from being separated by a border.

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