Each year, we celebrate clients who demonstrate HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing Thurman Award winners. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO, the Thurman Award celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. We’re excited to share the story of this year’s honorable mention from Asia: Gemma Vasquez.
When digital photography began growing in the Philippines, the small photography studio where Gemma Vasquez’s husband worked quickly went out of business. Scrambling to find other work, Gemma and her husband soon landed on a new business venture: selling popcorn.
With loans from the Center for Community Transformation (CCT), HOPE’s partner in the Philippines, Gemma’s business has seen significant growth. Since joining CCT in 2008, Gemma has used loans to purchase material to build the carts, popcorn sugar, salt, food coloring, margarine, paper bags, and kerosene. They’ve also purchased a motorcycle to make it easier to run business-related errands, and Gemma has opened a sari-sari, or convenience store, in her home, stabilizing their income even when popcorn sales are slow. “I am certain that I would have no business if not for CCT,” Gemma shares.
As their business has grown, Gemma has been able to provide jobs for many friends and neighbors from the community where many people struggle with unemployment. The popcorn vendors travel to busy areas of nearby towns, and many are hired for birthday parties or other events. With their increased income, Gemma has also been able to send all of their three children to school, one of whom is now in her third year of college.
Gemma has loved the spiritual guidance she has received through CCT—a major reason she became a client. Where Gemma once struggled with anger and impatience, the CCT staff say that she has grown increasingly patient and peaceful as she has come to know God more.
“I thank the Lord that CCT trusts micro-entrepreneurs like me with large amounts of money for our businesses,” Gemma says. “I also thank the Lord that through my business, all the needs of my family are met.”