Señor Cheo at his small shop in Palmarito.

Say hello to Señor Cheo

In his village, there were no banks. And that was a big problem.

Palmarito is in the rural Dominican Republic. Like many rural parts of the country, the community lacked banks.

This wasn’t just an inconvenience. Having somewhere to save your money makes a big difference in economic wellness. Having an opportunity to take out loans is also important in the event of an emergency.

Banks may have been absent from the community, but the needs for emergency funds and loans were still there. When people fell into medical crises, they needed money. When families wanted to provide for their children through small businesses, they needed money. This need to access loans paved the way for some dangerous practices to emerge.

Loan sharks began to appear, offering access to money. These offerings often came attached to exploitative interest rates that took advantage of desperate circumstances.

Señor Cheo's neighbors in Palmarito.
Señor Cheo’s neighbors in Palmarito.

Being rescued from sharks.

The savings groups started by Plant With Purpose offered an alternative way to access cash without having to take out a risky loan. Señor Cheo joined one of these in order to pursue his dream of starting a small business.

In these groups, members can slowly invest their savings by purchasing shares, one bit at a time. After a little while, Señor Cheo saw his savings accumulate to the point where he could take out a loan up to three times the amount he had saved. Because the group was entirely community led, he did not worry about being taken advantage of or being held to an exorbitant interest rate. Group members themselves had chosen an interest rate together.

“This group has liberated us from slavery!” expresses Señor Cheo. “We were forced to turn to loan sharks, before, who charged high interest. Now we are free and use our own savings. We own the interest rate!”

Señor Cheo was able to open a small shop with his loans.
Señor Cheo was able to open a small shop with his loans.

These loans allowed Señor Cheo to pursue his big dreams

Appropriately enough, his group decided to name itself Progressing. Progress, is exactly what happened next.

Señor Cheo used his loans to start a small grocery store that he operated out of his home. He sold snacks, produce, and other goods to people in the neighborhood. His business did rather well.

Before long, he started to dream even bigger. He has begun work on a cement foundation next door. His vision is to expand his business into a larger space and to use it to bring his family even further financial freedom.

Purpose Partners have been extremely helpful in supporting our work in the Dominican Republic. Their monthly support of $22 has allowed savings groups to form. People like Señor Cheo are able to pursue their dreams as a result. We’d love for you to join! Learn more about how at our Purpose Partner sign up page.

Philippe Lazaro

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