A loan of $5,850 helped a member to buy straw.

Las Pampas (Montecristi) Group's story

The communal bank "Las Pampas" meets every 15 days in Montecristi, a place known for its rich pre-colonial culture and handicrafts, renowned both nationally and internationally. The area is also known for its famous Panama hats.

The group is comprised of nine women and three men who decided to join together to form a loan group which has helped the improve their lifestyles and businesses. Most of the members are involved in craft work, especially items made of straw, and one member works in commerce in general.

One of the members of the group is Mercedes Isabel, 28, who married very young and has seven children, ages 14, 13, 10, 8, 5 and 3, as well as a 10-month old baby. The eldest five attend school. Her husband is a farmer.

Mercedes Isabel is an artisan who makes and sells Panama hats. She works every day and enjoys her profession because it allows her to continue a long-standing tradition. Her hats are admired in many parts of Ecuador and the rest of the world. She learned her craft from her parents and she also teaches it to her own children so they can help with her work. Once the hats are made she sells them to traders who come to the city to buy crafts to sell in other locations. Thanks to the profits she earns her children are able to study, since her husband's salary is not enough to cover everything.

This loan will be used to buy straw to make the hats. Mercedes Isabel has been in the loan group since its beginnings and she likes the support she receives toward getting ahead.

Her goal is to give her children the best she can.

The smaller photographs are of the members who could not be present for the group photo.

In this group: Angela Eulalia, Narcisa Monserrate, Norma Isabel, Jacqueline Maricela, Deyse Isabel, Erika Alexandra, José Jimmy, Mercedes Teodolinda, Angel Fortunato, Eliana Liseth, Mercedes Isabel, Efren Alexander

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Translated from Spanish by Kiva volunteer Sherry Bess

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