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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 and his wife, 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 Latin America: Eduviges Cruz.

Before Eduviges Cruz opened her business, there were no convenience stores in her neighborhood. Seeing the opportunity to develop a business that would meet her community’s everyday needs, Eduviges used loans from HOPE’s partner in the Dominican Republic, Esperanza International, to start her convenience store, which has grown to include a wide variety of groceries and household items.

With the store’s profits, she and her husband bought a piece of land and built their own home. She relishes that she now has the means to buy shoes and school supplies for her children. “Everything changes … when you start to work,” Eduviges says. This is a statement she firmly believes, and she’s encouraging others to join Esperanza and start their own businesses.

And it’s not just the access to capital and training that Eduviges appreciates. Through Esperanza’s group repayment meetings, she also heard the Gospel, accepting Christ’s love for the first time. Later, through her witness, her husband also came to know the Lord, beginning a new season of healing and reconciliation in their marriage. Eduviges testifies that God “has turned my wailing into dancing. He’s clothed me with joy. I know what I’m talking about, because I went through some pretty difficult situations. And that’s why I say that God’s turned my wailing into dancing.”

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Bustling with customers, Mamola’s house is a center of activity in her Dominican community. Neighbors gather to purchase household staples from her colmado, a small convenience store she operates from her front room. Every other week, members of Mamola’s community bank meet in her home to fellowship, study Scripture, and repay their loans.

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Mamola has been involved in business since she was young, learning the importance of hard work from her father. Widowed with five children and 12 grandchildren of her own, Mamola hopes to pass on this legacy of industry and ingenuity.

In 2008, Mamola took out a $177 loan from Esperanza International, HOPE’s local partner in the Dominican Republic, to expand her business buying and reselling dishes. Realizing her community would benefit more from groceries, Mamola used subsequent loans to open and expand her colmado. “I started with everything,” she remembers. “Just a tiny bit, but a little of everything.” As her store has grown, she stocks her shelves with larger quantities of rice, coffee, fruit, sugar, and other staples.

Giving back

Mamola appreciates Esperanza’s biblical teachings, especially the opportunity to pray together. She says she has learned more about her faith through her community bank’s time in the Word:

The Lord is my God; He is my everything, because He is the one that helps me.

Several years ago, Mamola’s husband got sick and eventually passed away. In addition to grieving his loss, Mamola faced overwhelming medical fees that left her in debt. She shares that she overcame this challenge with the help of Esperanza, the extra income from her colmado, and her five children.

A well-respected matriarch in her community, Mamola has connected several women with Esperanza. With her income, Mamola helps care for her grandchildren and has made improvements to her home, replacing the walls with sturdier concrete. Hardworking, humble, and thankful, Mamola dreams of expanding her business and passing it on to the next generation—along with her legacy of faith and hard work.

Miguelina Padilla

Each year, HOPE celebrates clients who demonstrate HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing the Thurman Award. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, 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 Miguelina, this year’s honorable mention from Latin America!

On any given day, Miguelina Padilla’s home is a flurry of activity. She operates a busy hair salon and used clothing and shoe store, occupying the front of her home, while the church Miguelina and her husband started a few years ago meets on the side. The church also hosts community bank meetings for Esperanza International, HOPE’s partner in the Dominican Republic.

A strong foundation

Having previously lost her home and business when the space her family rented was sold, Miguelina understands the value of stable home ownership. When the Padillas built their own home in 2008, they could not afford to install a roof, electricity, or a bathroom. But Miguelina dreamed of improving their home and reopening her hair salon, and she says Esperanza came at the right time. She used small loans to purchase salon products and equipment, declaring, “I’m going to work now, doing what I know how to do.”

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Approximately 70 percent of the clients served in the HOPE network are women. In honor of International Women’s Day, we celebrate the remarkable mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and entrepreneurs making a powerful difference in their families and communities.

When Christie’s mother suddenly fell ill in the middle of the night, an ambulance ride to the hospital cost more than they could afford. And later, when Christie’s pregnant sister-in-law had delivery complications at home, no ambulance could’ve reached them in time. Yet both her mother and sister-in-law made it to the hospital in time because Christie is one of the few women in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, who owns and drives a car. Having the resources to provide for her family’s needs, Christie says, is “a gift of God.”

A few year ago, owning a car was a distant dream. Christie used to struggle to turn even a small profit from her market stand selling fruit and vegetables. Bad weather and fluctuations in market prices often meant inconsistent income for her family. So when she joined HOPE Congo, she invested her first business loan in more stable products like rice and beans. With each loan cycle after that, Christie diversified her inventory, slowly transitioning to office supplies.

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Today, her business is a bustling stationery shop, selling pens and notebooks to students and providing local businesses with copy and print services. With a steady income—enough to send her children to school and purchase a car—Christie has found a new entrepreneurial spirit, saying, “My business is a true stationery shop. … Today, I’m a business woman.”

As the shop has grown, so has Christie’s vision. Having bought two new computers and looking to rent a larger space, she hopes to start an internet café to cater to her existing customers. Beyond her new business ventures, Christie remains committed to her HOPE community bank, driving members to repayment meetings and suggesting new ways the group can grow together in solidarity. She especially appreciates the 20 minutes of each meeting spent in the Word: “The Word of God cultivates love among us. It solidifies the connections between group members.”

Seeing God’s blessing in her business and family, Christie knows where her strength comes from, saying, “It’s the Holy Spirit who equips.” And she is determined to use her God-given gifts, skills, loans, and even her car to provide for her family and bless her community. “We believe that God has given us these things to help us,” she says. “We have to show Him what we do with it.”

art-compDo you know a woman like Christie whose dreams and prayers have helped shape your life? Honor her courage and love with this FREE digital print download at www.uncharity.org!

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Use your power. Ask them for whatever you want. You’ll be surprised at how eager they are to please you.

This, explained the instructor, was how we, six representative shopkeepers, were to deal with the other 120 participants in this 30-minute game meant to simulate the social and economic realities for millions of families who live in extreme poverty.

The setup was simple. An open conference room outfitted with plastic tarps, one per family unit, supplied with newspaper and a bucket of water and flour paste. To pay for rent, food, and perhaps health care, these families would make paper bags. These were then sold to shopkeepers like myself in units of 10.

While the setup was simple, the psychology of the game proved to be anything but. As shopkeepers, we were informed that in this game we held the power over the families. We were to pay little for their product. So little that most families couldn’t afford to pay their exorbitant rent at the end of the 10-minute “week.” We could yell and demand extra favors. Our job was not only to cheat, but also to systematically and emotionally oppress their will to do anything but hopelessly make more bags.

The simulation began with loud rock music. We walked between the frantic families, hunkered over ripped newspaper and paste, clapping and yelling at them: “Work faster!” The first family to approach me bowed respectfully and presented their 10 bags. I paid them well, compared to the next shopkeeper, and consoled myself that I wasn’t THAT bad.

But soon, to my surprise, I changed.

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As a child, Ramona Rodriguez didn’t have the opportunity to attend school or learn to read. Though she refused to let illiteracy hold her back, the challenge cemented Ramona’s determination that her children would never face that obstacle in life. Whatever sacrifices she must make, her four children would go to school.

That resolve propelled Ramona, even as she mourned the untimely death of her husband and the father of her still-young children. As a single mother in Villa Mella, Dominican Republic, she worked multiple jobs—selling cleaning supplies and clothing and tending other people’s homes—to ensure she could feed her children and send them to school.

After several years, Ramona remarried, but her drive to provide never wavered. Ramona’s mother raised her to believe that nothing can be accomplished without the Lord—and Ramona now sees how He blessed her with an indomitable spirit, strong faith, and innate business sense that have helped her become the successful businesswoman she is today.

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