Esperanza: Creating good jobs for the families of Las Malvinas, Dominican Republic.
Esperanza is a Christian social business with the mission of creating jobs for the families of Las Malvinas II, a very poor urban slum in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. We've been working with the families of this neighborhood for over 10 years, when we arrived in 2008 as a part of TECHO (which means 'roof' in Spanish) -- a Chilean non-profit that works with extremely poor families in Latin America. Through the years and with the help of many partner organizations, we've built houses, parks, additions to the school, and a giant water cistern in the community. We've had successes and monumental failures with our projects, and in all this work we bonded with many families to the point where their poverty has became ours and it pains us terribly to watch them continue under the grind of poverty.
In general, our most common reaction to poverty is to build what we think is missing: a house, a school, a water well. Yet half of our projects would fail because families had no means to sustain them -- houses need to be maintained, pumps need servicing. We were 'schooled' on this by the women of the community. After a meeting, some women approached us and politely said they liked the stuff we build in Las Malvinas but if we just gave them jobs they could fend for themselves, thank you very much. But no one hires semi-illiterate women without a trade and that have kids and grandkids to look after all day.
This became a challenge:
Could we create a company that would hire people deemed 'unemployable' and still be profitable?
Esperanza therefore was built from the ground up to serve the women of Las Malvinas and goes the extra mile (or two) to give them meaningful employment. We started making soap because the process is similar to cooking (something the women do very well--believe us!) Then we provided free training to dozens of women. We placed our workshop inside the community so they can be close to home and not have to commute (actually, we commute to them). Our flexible work hours accommodate their family responsibilities, and the women earn a variable salary that better reflects their spending needs.
The company works - today the 3 women we've hired create high quality, all-natural soaps and scrubs with the island's best ingredients (coconuts, cocoa butter, sugar cane, coffee beans...) that are sold in hotels, tourist gift shops, and many other locations. We make soap under private labels for other brands and will soon offer a wider variety of products to expand our client base. The more customers we serve, the more women we can hire.
We are blessed to have an Executive Director/Missionary - Krista Webb, who manages the company locally and works with families of the community on other initiatives outside of employment: visiting mothers, providing meals and school supplies, and promoting health and good hygiene through hand washing with our soap. Our desire is to use the resources of our company (our people and the income we generate) to care for the spiritual and physical needs of as many people as possible in Las Malvinas, as well as our employees, suppliers, and customers.
We believe that every person was made in God's image; is of infinite worth; and is intended to flourish. Poverty, therefore, is wrong because it robs a person of her basic dignity and of opportunities to live out her full potential. As Christians, we have taken entrepreneurship to low income communities following the footsteps of Christ and His passion for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, and the invisible, hoping to be an instrument in freeing our world of extreme poverty. We use entrepreneurship and business because work is part of God's design for us; through work we serve others and contribute to society through our labor.
'If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday'
Esperanza Soaps is a project of Upward Ventures, a US-based organization dedicated to empowering families to rise from poverty through employment.
Visit Upward Ventures' site here.