Gringita in Peru

Ayacucho, Peru. It is my second week as a Kiva Fellow at FINCA Peru and though there are many exciting events to come here in Ayacucho (Carnival, Semana Santa) for now it is still the rainy season and the town has a sleepy, lethargic feel. Since I am still getting acclimated and easing into my role at FINCA, I figured that a first blog post about a loyal and lively FINCA client that I was fortunate to visit would be a good start.

We run into Antonia at her weekly communal bank meeting and she greets us with a high pitched “GRINGITAS!”- which many of the older FINCA members like to use to address myself and the other foreign volunteers – hugs, and many kisses. We visited Antonia a few days ago at her home a few blocks from FINCA’s office, in Santa Ana, the oldest neighborhood in Ayacucho. She lives in a simple house, with a small garden on a winding, cobblestone road at the top of one of Ayacucho’s many hills (at over 9,000 feet above sea level, the altitude does not help with climbing hills here).  She was born in Ayacucho and has lived here all of her life.

View of Ayacucho and FINCA Peru from above

FINCA Peru’s Ayacucho office, where clients come for weekly or bi-weekly meetings to make payments, collect new loans, and/or attend trainings offered

Antonia in front of her home in Ayacucho

Antonia has been a “socia” (member) of FINCA for over 13 years, and was proud to say that she has never once defaulted on a loan. She told us that her first loan was for $5, and she recently took out a loan for $2,500 to make improvements on her house. She was such pleasure to talk with and is so far the only client I have met that actually enjoyed being filmed and photographed and was not uncomfortable at all having four of us “gringitas” invade her home!

FINCA volunteers filming Antonia in her home

Antonia and her husband ran a business buying livestock- such as sheep and pigs- in neighboring rural towns and selling them in Ayacucho. Though she enjoyed traveling, she is taking it easy for now, since she is 78 years old (“más o menos”- she was not too sure). She has one daughter, Marina, who is also a FINCA socia, and 8 grandchildren (with 13 great-grandchildren!) some of who have carried on her amazing spirit of entrepreneurship, and continue to run her business. Antonia is not yet listed on Kiva, but I am hoping to get her next loan on the site!

Click here to join FINCA Peru’s Lending Team or to make a loan to one of the other members of FINCA Peru.

Geeta Uhl is a Kiva Fellow working with FINCA Peru in Peru. Want to be a part of the Kiva Fellows program? Learn more and apply to be a Kiva Fellow.

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