If money talks, then it’s never too soon to start a conversation about savings. And in the Cruz Regional community of Cuilco, Guatemala, a small group of children were the first to speak up.
After watching their mothers form a savings and loan group through PCI’s Women Empowered (WE) initiative, five curious kids asked if they could join. However, since membership in “Las Maravillosas” (The Marvelous Women) is limited to adults, the mothers agreed to help the children form a group of their own.
For the past 10 months, “Soy el futuro de mi comunidad” (I am the future of my community) has met every two weeks to learn about setting goals, saving money and other smart financial habits. Its seven members range in age from 3 to 9 years old.
“I feel motivated to be in the group because I like saving,” said 8-year-old Romairo Vásquez. “My mom is in the [WE] group, so I am following her example.”
To help the children stay on task and make meaningful progress, members of “Las Maravillosas” taught them how to keep written records of their finances, facilitate meetings and do other related activities. The first “share-out” of the money they have saved together will be in December 2019, after meeting for more than a year.
“Las Maravillosas” said families in their community used to be wary of savings group models, because a local cooperative that provided similar services went bankrupt and left thousands of people with nothing. Through WE, however, the women have developed the financial and life skills needed to start businesses, share resources, improve their economic situations and lead positive change in their communities. Watching their children take an interest in saving and planning for their futures has been a bonus.
“When my grandparents and my parents give me money, the first thing I think about is to save it. So, I don’t spend it and wait for the group meeting,” said 6-year-old Yeison Vásquez. “I am saving to buy some clothes and shoes for when I start going to [school].”
Royler Mazariegos, 6, has similar aspirations to support his education while also budgeting for a little fun.
“I want to save to be able to go to [school] next year, and so I can have money to go on the rides during the town fair,” he said.
In rural areas of Guatemala, where the enrollment rate for middle school is less than 40% and communities are plagued by poverty, teaching children about the importance of education and money management is crucial.
As a result of WE activities promoted by PCI, local women are sowing valuable practices in their communities and among the next generation, which will help their families and communities build a better future for everyone.
Mabel Bejarano, Merli Escobar and Leslie Gómez contributed to this story.