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Working with Youth in Central America

Since 2013, migration north from Central America by tens of thousands of unaccompanied children has put stress on the border and on the political environment. It is the result of a crisis in the communities from which they come: lack of security, lack of an economic future and poor infrastructure.

Communities in Central America tell of families separated and the anguish of parents who have lost contact with their children, worrying about whether they are safe and alive.

Neither the communities from which they flee nor their credit unions want this.  In Guatemala, in the Western highlands of Quiché, Huehuetenango and Quetzaltenango, San Marcos and Totonicapán, we remember these communities 20 years ago, vibrant with colorful red yellow and blue weavings and textiles. Most of that is lost now to low cost Chinese competition. 

In the recent years, we have worked with Guatemalan credit unions and their association, MICOOPE, to finance small farmers which has helped provide higher income in rural households and provide an economic future for youth. Yet there is limited employment opportunity in agriculture and the communities are far from airports, ports or the capital city. Transport of fresh produce to market is risky because of landslides and strikes that block the roads.

So the credit unions look also to finance small business to offer youth jobs or opportunities to start enterprises. We work with them to help them upgrade their ability to do business lending. Risk is high. There are very few businesses to offer jobs. Young people start businesses but are also highly mobile. The survival of new enterprises is only 7% nationally in Guatemala. So where to start?

We build an alliance with the Ministry of Economics, the CUs and local businesses. The state helps the CU put a business training center in the credit union. The CU uses the training course graduation to screen borrowers. The private businesses offer a “micro-franchise” to set up chicken restaurants, bakeries or internet businesses. Credit unions finance the purchase of the micro-franchise license, purchase of the equipment and working capital.   

As they do everywhere, CUs help provide jobs and an economic future for their communities. Thank you for your support in helping them do that work.  

Safe Travels

B-

Brian Branch
President & CEO
World Council of Credit Unions