Investing in Families; Changing the Story

Seniors in Venezuela did everything they were “supposed to do” throughout their lives as responsible adults. They worked hard and supported their families. They sacrificed and saved for retirement, to make sure they would have what they needed when they were older.

A wise way to live, surely. 

But then political turmoil began, followed by economic chaos. The currency dropped, and hyperinflation began. In the last six years, the overall inflation rate has increased to 53,798,500%. That’s not a typo. The inflation rate has climbed to nearly 54 million percent in six years.

The numbers are so huge, it’s hard to comprehend what it means, but in practical terms, Venezuela’s seniors are now living in poverty, no matter how much they saved throughout their lives. When the currency crashed, their savings became worthless. And many have found themselves raising grandchildren, nieces, or nephews when their parents left the country to try to find work somewhere else.

As Venezuela’s currency dropped in value, it became virtually worthless. In 2019, a migrant from Venezuela stopped across the border in Colombia to leave an encouraging note for future walkers. Like others before him, he used money as notepaper. Photo by Jen Meyerson/PLC.

Erwin found himself in that situation. When his mother abandoned him and left him to live with an uncle, he was well-cared for and raised like one of their own. But when things got desperate financially, Erwin dropped out of college to help support the family. His uncle was already retired, his older cousin–a chemical engineer–had lost her job, and there was no income coming into their home. 

Things were pretty bleak for Erwin’s family when we first met. But they had a lot going for them. Erwin had the energy of youth, his uncle had 30 years of carpentry experience and some tools, and his cousin had a strong drive to be productive. We partnered with Erwin to start a business based out of their home, a carpentry shop that specialized in making wooden gift baskets used by gift shops and florists. All three worked hard to establish the business, investing whatever skills they had.

Erwin’s uncle had more than 30 years of carpentry experience to bring to this new venture. Photo by Ronal Labrador/PLC.

Erwin’s uncle knew how to be efficient and productive. That set them up to maximize profits from the beginning. Preemptive Love’s job coach helped the family hone in on seasonal products, making special items for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. This proved to be a profitable move. 

They continued to listen to their clients, creating the products they were seeking. They treated customers well and built the kind of relationships that would bring stability to their business. Their first six months had challenges, which was expected. But when our job coach sat down to analyze how much this family accomplished in their first months of business, it was shocking.

The family’s household income increased by 681%.

The family was no longer food insecure—they felt 100% certain about their next meal.

Production in their workshop increased by 6000%. Yes, that’s not a typo either.

In this part of Venezuela, it never gets cold but rains a lot from April through November. The family installed a roof over much of the backyard, which provided all the protection they needed for a workshop. Photo by Ronal Labrador/PLC.

To put this into perspective, this is what those numbers mean in practical terms:
-Erwin was able to go back to college, while his uncle and cousin ran the day-to-day activities of the business,
-when Erwin’s uncle got hurt, they had the money he needed to get medical treatment,
-they paid for repairs to the area they use as a workshop, making it a much more functional space,
-they had enough savings to cover sick days when the whole family came down with covid, 
-they bought a used car
-and they found a local animal shelter to receive donations of sawdust, so they were able to help a local organization with their waste product instead of paying to get rid of it.

A notice board with upcoming orders keeps the business organized, and the family encouraged. Photo by Ronal Labrador/PLC.

At the six-month mark of their new business, they had some cash savings, fully stocked inventory, and orders for the whole month ahead. It was fantastic. They were no longer in a pit built by poverty. They were in a great position to build, save, and grow.

Not every small business grant we give turns into this kind of success story so quickly. But what is utterly humbling to think about is the fact that this family had everything they needed to succeed—except for a small financial investment. 

This is where we can come in, to join families who have what it takes to change the story of their lives. To stand with those who have skills, but not equipment, who have experience, but not supplies. You can invest in families like Erwin’s, and make a dent in the effects of an economic crash. And you can make that investment today.