What We Do!
Fundación En Vía is committed to fighting poverty through the thoughtful combination of interest-free microloans, educational programs and sustainable tourism in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Interest-Free Microloan Program
En Vía was born from an idea of combining microfinance with tourism to provide small interest-free loans to women living in poverty. The microloans give women the opportunity to create or expand small businesses -empowering them to provide better financially for themselves and their families.
Through the combination of tourism and microfinance we are working to address two issues in Oaxaca, Mexico: interest rates on credit, and the dissemination of the tourism dollar to communities in need.
Microfinance can be an excellent tool for helping families to escape poverty -unfortunately, in Mexico the interest rates on microloans average 70% and can even reach 100% or more. These types of interest rates make it nearly impossible for working people to borrow money to improve their livelihoods. Our interest-free loans offer a different option that’s tangible, providing hope for a better future.
Our loan program also provides a simple way to funnel a tiny portion of tourism money coming in to Oaxaca to the people who can most benefit from it. Our program works to bring money into the community in a sustainable way that can have a positive impact over a longer period of time.
En Vía’s no-interest loans, generated through proceeds from our microfinance tours, ensure that our borrowers have a more viable option than commercial banks. Our borrowers are then able to leverage their loans to have a real impact on their small businesses, their lives and ultimately the entire community.
Our borrowers have used their loans for a variety of different businesses: opening a small home-based tienda (convenience store) to sell basic groceries to neighbors; making the hand-made traditional candles used in church and civic ceremonies; and investing in wool and dye to sell their own rugs instead of working for the big rug brokers outside of town.
Our English program, the first initiative beyond microloans, was launched in January 2010 to offer free English classes to the community of Teotitlán de Valle. With our team of dedicated volunteers, we teach afternoon and evening classes to over 40 students twice a week.
Our business classes, initiated in June 2011, are now a required component for our loan recipients so that they can manage their money to full potential. Our courses teach women basic skills crucial to managing a business: separating business and personal income and expenses, recording sales, tracking profits, and making decisions about credit, among other principles. The three-week course series aims to help women reach financial literacy so that the women can better manage their business and their loan. Read more about our business program.
Our marketing and branding workshops are a recent initiative that introduces our loan recipients to the importance of creating a brand for their businesses. During the classes, the women select business names, design logos and create marketing materials with the help of our volunteers.
Sustainable Tourism in Oaxaca
En Via’s unique form of sustainable tourism provides an intimate form of cultural exchange for travelers to connect with local women and experience a very special glimpse of life in the state of Oaxaca. Our tour participants are able to see first-hand how microfinance works and see their money used in a way that has a real impact on the community.
We use 100% of our tour fees to first provide interest-free micro-loans to the borrowers met on a tour, and once the loan is paid back, to cover administrative costs, give more loans, and support the rest of our work in the community.
Our tours are an excellent way for tourists to connect to the local culture, have a first-hand look at business development and see microfinance in action. Through our microfinance tours, participants experience a unique cultural exchange with the strong, hopeful and proud women living in the villages where we work.
Along the way, we have brought people from around the world face-to-face with some of the opportunities and challenges of microfinance, and more importantly, with the ideas, strength and power of the women working so hard to improve the futures of their families. Our tours enable us to give interest free microloans, which are more than just money for borrowers; they facilitate social change and cross-cultural exchange by re-directing tourism to the communities that need it most.
We recently launched an initiative with Tierra del Sol, a sustainable living center in Tlacochahuaya, Oaxaca that works to implement sustainable living through a variety of programs. These programs range from land restoration efforts, use of clean, renewable energy systems to increase biodiversity, and organic farming, among other important activities and principles. Through education and promotion of these ideas, Tierra del Sol hopes to address the resource and environmental challenges we face in the 21st century.
In fostering this partnership, our goal is to provide the women in our program with access to environmental education and sustainable living techniques. Women interested in implementing a system such as an organic vegetable garden, to grow food for their family, or dry toilets, to reduce water consumption and waste, can apply for an interest-free loan to invest in a specific project. The idea is that not only does this promote sustainability, but also these programs allow women and their families to save money by cutting down on costs associated with firewood, water, electricity, food, etc. Providing women a loan to implement these projects is a unique way for us to encourage savings. These saving can be invested in things such education, economic endeavors and/or family needs.
As an organization, we constantly strive to provide access to new opportunities and programs that strengthen community. We are looking forward to working with Tierra del Sol in this next adventure, as we address the challenges we will surely also be celebrating success.
Fundación En Vía is grateful for the support of all of the donors and volunteers who have made our work possible, with a special thanks to our institutional sponsors: The Instituto Cultural Oaxaca and StepUp Travel.
The Instituto Cultural Oaxaca has been a gateway to Mexico and to the Spanish language since 1984. The school offers intensive Spanish language classes to students from all over the world in the lively cultural setting of Oaxaca. The Instituto has supported this project by providing funding, unlimited space, a forum for reaching out to tour participants, as well as the invaluable time of its staff.
StepUp Travel is a website founded in 2005 to empower local people, organizations, and travelers to work together to promote quality responsible travel experiences and to emphasize the importance of personal exchanges, deeper cultural understanding, genuine benefit to local communities, preservation of the environment, and ultimately a more equitable world. StepUp Travel provided us with the first seed of an idea for microfinance tourism as well as generous funding for our work.branding-workshop