Julia Mendez (Mexico)

Earning and Learning More

GracielaIn the highlands of Mexico, 25-year-old Julia Mendez Bautista lives a simple life. She works every day to earn money to feed, clothe and shelter her three children. Because she never learned to read or write, Julia’s options for earning money have been limited. She relies on the craft-making skills her mother taught her to make bracelets for the tourist trade.

To sell her bracelets, Julia travels by bus from her remote village seven times per month down a steep unpaved road to the town of Chamula, about 11⁄2 hours away. Her earnings aren’t always enough. From January to April, just before the harvest, Julia’s family—and her entire community—suffers through a “hungry season” when families must make do on just one or two meals per day.

More than Credit

Participating in Credit with Education—Freedom from Hunger’s landmark microfinance program—has helped Julia’s business grow, but the loans have filled an even more basic need. The credit has helped me buy more “ items for my bracelets but, sometimes, I use my loan to buy food.”

GracielaTo ensure her good standing with her credit group, Julia has been careful to make her payments on time. But Julia is quick to say that she values more than just the credit in this special microfinance program: the education she receives at regular meetings helps her safeguard her children’s health. My “ children have become ill less often, so I am sure that what I have learned has helped them,” Julia says.

Freedom from Hunger is helping nearly 1.5 million women around the world—women just like Julia—earn more and learn more. And the benefits just keep growing. “I share my knowledge with other women. Now I can help them know what to do when their children are sick,” Julia tells us proudly. She also has a new goal for herself: “I want to learn to read and write.”

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