Nearly 28,000 people gained access to financial services for the first time and more than 2,500 entrepreneurs received support for their businesses during the first year of World Council of Credit Unions’ (World Council) Economic Inclusion Project (EIP), a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded activity based in Peru and Ecuador.
Implemented in June 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and a political crisis in Venezuela, the goal of the project was to help Venezuelan migrants and vulnerable local residents achieve socioeconomic security by gaining greater access to financial products and services, entrepreneurship and employment programs, and to employ a strategy to help women avoid gender-based violence.
“A year later, we observed with satisfaction the achievements of the project that generate opportunities and impact in the lives of our beneficiaries and their families. 27,948 beneficiaries have access to financial services and, for the first time, Venezuelan migrants have access to loans in their host countries, demonstrating the openness of financial entities with this migrant and refugee community,” said Jene Thomas, mission director of USAID Peru, at a Sept. 17 virtual event held to share the lessons learned with partners, allies and government representatives from Peru and Ecuador.
In its first year, the project also managed to support 2,519 Venezuelan, Peruvian, and Ecuadorian entrepreneurs through business development programs, including the School of Dreamers in Peru and the Entrepreneur Camp in Ecuador.
“Alone it is very difficult to move forward. That is why your help was very necessary—from everything we learned in the training and from the seed capital fund that helped us strengthen the business. Today, we can no longer say that the pandemic affected us, because we feel the opposite,” said Romel Gonzalez, an Ecuadorian entrepreneur.
In addition, EIP supported 781 Venezuelan professionals in revalidating their university degrees so they can practice their profession in their host country, including doctors who are already on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, teachers, dentists, accountants and administrators. EIP also trained 1,507 beneficiaries in strengthening professional skills, so they have access to new or better jobs.
“Behind each of us there is a family of three, five or 10 people, so the number of people that you have supported is much higher, because not only are you helping those of us who are here, but you are helping those who are still there, in Venezuela, and they depend on us. I thank you because you gave me a break at a time when I was going through a suffocating situation,” said Jessica Álvarez, a Venezuelan doctor who now practices her profession in Lima.
Since its inception, the project has also worked to strengthen its practice with financial education programs that have already reached 4,885 beneficiaries. EIP has also had success implementing a strategy aimed at the prevention of gender-based violence, reaching thousands of women, who make up 62% of all EIP program participants.
"All these impacts would not be possible without the collaboration and commitment of the more than 40 partners and allies that work with the Economic Inclusion Project in Peru and Ecuador, which is prepared to continue generating opportunities in its second year," said Oscar Guzmán, director of the Economic Inclusion Project.