Esperanza: Creating good jobs for the families of Las Malvinas II.
Esperanza is a social business with the main purpose 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 almost 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.
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' by most companies 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 and the women cook amazing, and provided free training for 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, natural soaps and scrubs with the island's best ingredients (coconuts, cocoa, cane sugar, coffee) that are sold in hotels, tourist gift shops and many other locations by Laura, our local saleswoman. We have begun to make soap under private label for other brands and hope to soon offer a wider variety of products for different customer segments. The more customers we serve, the more women we can hire.
We believe that every person was made in God's image; is of infinite worth, created out of love and 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.
'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'