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New Grants

Centro de Estudios Regionales-Guayaquil (CER-G), $343,350, over two years, to establish, in partnership with local micro-enterprises and three municipalities, a solid waste management facility serving businesses in urban centers and 12,000 resident families. (EC-379)

Fundación Cooperación y Acción Comunitaria (CACMU), $296,700, over three years, to improve production, sales and management of micro-enterprises through loans, training, technical assistance and marketing services that will benefit approximately 1,000 women in Imbabura province and their families. (EC-380)

Fundación de Desarrollo Comunitario Minga (MINGA), $163,820, over three years, to provide technical assistance and training in organic agriculture, formation of community organizations, community banking, cultural identity and volunteerism to 3,000 residents of 30 communities in the municipality of Muisne on the northwest coast of Ecuador. (EC-381)

CAMARI, Sistema Solidario de Comercialización del FEPP (CAMARI), $300,000, over two years, to increase marketing opportunities and income for 50,000 small-scale artisans and farmers, predominantly women, organized into 140 grassroots organizations throughout the country. CAMARI offers its beneficiaries training and technical assistance directed at improving the quality and handling of their production and their capacity to exploit new marketing channels, including the Internet. (EC-382) 

Movimiento Mi Cometa (Mi Cometa), $284,480, over two years, to provide training, technical assistance and grants to micro- and small enterprises that will generate jobs and leadership opportunities for 1,000 families in Guayaquil’s Guasmo Sur neighborhood. (EC-383)

Providing Opportunites for a Changing Neighborhood

By Wilbur Wright, Senior Foundation Representative for the Andean Countries

To families in Guayaquil’s Guasmo Sur neighborhood, a job and dry shelter cannot be taken for granted. Few employers are willing to locate to the flood plains of the Guayas River on the southern edge of Ecuador’s largest city, and each storm brings the threat of flooding. During the rainy season, lasting eight months of the year, drainage ditches overflow and waste waters stagnate, resulting in insect infestations, disease and damage to homes. The problems spiral as medicine and building repairs consume limited resources.

These conditions, and few indications they would ever improve, prompted area youth to look for the quickest route out of the neighborhood — until a small group of activists led by César Cárdenas insisted change was possible and took the initiative to bring it about. In 1990, they formed Movimiento Mi Cometa in a voluntary effort to organize young people, form local leaders, address housing and water problems, generate employment opportunities, and attract outside support. They began by knocking on doors and organizing their neighbors street by street to discuss their problems and then address them.

Having won over Guasmo Sur’s residents, the youth in Mi Cometa began tapping on the doors of municipal officials, civic leaders and national legislators. They started a model street program, a school to train leaders and a self-help home repair project. By 1995, Mi Cometa had captured the attention of the local press and stimulated interest in Guayaquil’s universities and service clubs. Scholarships became available to top leadership students along with resources for recreational and sporting events for neighborhood youth. In 1997,
a Peace Corps volunteer assigned to Mi Cometa not only provided support for training activities, but also opened a channel through which more than 200 youth volunteers traveled from the United States to stay with families in Guasmo Sur and assist in the construction of 50 homes on elevated sites with new water and sewage services.

The challenge of creating employment opportunities led Mi Cometa to the Inter-American Foundation. With its award, Mi Cometa plans to start community enterprises that will increase jobs, provide products and services, and become conduits to even greater partnerships and opportunities outside the neighborhood. The project, benefiting 5,000 residents in Guayaquil’s southern sector, will mobilize nearly $1 million in resources, one-fourth from the IAF. Approximately two-thirds of the total raised will be used to acquire essential equipment and support their initial operating cycles. The remaining resources will assure proper training and technical assistance during the start-up period. Mi Cometa’s community enterprises include gardens, food processing, youth employment centers, an Internet café, a building supplies center, a guesthouse, a savings and credit cooperative, a sewing shop, a convenience store, and a community health clinic.

At the conclusion of this project, not everyone in Guasmo Sur may have a new home or a new job yet, but attaining both will become far more possible. An initiative organized by local youth, and now led by them, will bring the entire neighborhood closer to these goals and serve as a model for other communities seeking positive alternatives to substandard living conditions and the loss of their young adults.