Alheli

The Preeteen President

Empowerment groups help both people and the planet

Wherever Plant With Purpose works, participants join empowerment groups. These groups support environmental restoration efforts with economic development through loans and savings. As community members save their extra income in shares and lend money to each other to generate further income, poverty declines. From the group president, to each individual member, these groups generate incredible buy-in.

This drop in poverty has obvious benefits. People live better lives. They are able to save for emergencies, improve family nutrition, and send children to school. But individuals aren’t the only ones who benefit from these practices. Economic empowerment is so good for the environment.

This is largely because poverty is such a major contributor to environmental problems like soil degradation and deforestation. Poverty pushes farmers to making destructive choices as a last resort. These include things like burning fields or cutting down trees to generate immediate income.

Saving money is key to overcoming this level of poverty. Desperation, however, often pushes people away from the habit of savings.

That’s why these community empowerment groups are so important. We’ve found that as participation in these groups increases, harmful environmental practices decrease. Participants also plant a greater amount of trees.

Middle schoolers at a group meeting in Haiti
Middle schoolers at a group meeting in Haiti

It’s never too early to start this practice. 

Typically, these groups are attended by the adults of a household. Mothers tend to be early adopters, as they generate much of the farming income across the developing world.

While this means that participants are often old, that certainly doesn’t include younger household members from participating. In fact, in communities that have really benefited from the practice of community saving, many children are trained and taught to participate in these groups. Some start groups of their own.

In fact, in places like Haiti and Tanzania, these practices are built into student lessons. Savings groups were established in middle school so students could develop these good habits early. Other groups are established outside of schools, but are still designated for children.

In other communities, teenagers are integrated with community savings activities.

The impact of practicing savings at an early age is difficult to quantify, but it absolutely makes a big impact in the long term economic health of a community. By ingraining good financial habits in community members at an early age, the sense of empowerment to solve problems and start good endeavors really starts to spread.

Alheli presides over her savings group's meeting
Alheli presides over her savings group’s meeting

Alheli became the President of her group in Mexico

Plant With Purpose has helped start 107 of these groups in Mexico. Out of these many groups, one runs as an all-children’s group. One particular group is in Chepeginio and their President is a 12-year-old girl named Alheli.

The twenty or so members range in age from 4 to 25 with the majority between ages 9 and 12. Collectively, they have saved 7,700 pesos (over $400 USD) this year. After seeing their successes, many of their parents sought to join adult groups of their own.

Sandra, on staff with Plant With Purpose’s local team in Mexico shares, “When I first started visiting this group, it surprised me to see the children come alone to the meeting. The children want to participate on their own – not parents’ pressure!

Seeing Alheli hold an important leadership role in her community at such a young age assured the community of her hopeful future as well as theirs. She already is a young businesswoman and makes embroidery to sell. Loans from the group help her with the embroidery practice.

The children are learning the habit of saving at a young age and through their influence, several of their parents have joined the adults savings and loan group. These children and these groups show that the future can be so bright for communities like Chepeginio.

Plant With Purpose exists to help you support children like Alheli be the solution to our planet’s ecological problems. Through focusing on the spiritual roots of environmental challenges, we see transformation take place at every level. Want to partner up? Sign up to become a Purpose Partner here!

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