OUR FIRST STEPS TOWARD OUR FUTURE

Bolivian youth are changing the way of thinking in a new business. 62 youth were part of an innovating project funded by Barnfonden to help them to create and develop their own business plan.

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THE BEGINNING

Oruro is a small town located in the Bolivian southern side, last century the region had its golden era with mine activities but today most of its populations work with formal and informal commerce, due to the near Chilean border, this is the main economic activity. Youth in this town look for an income source to help their family but the lack of knowledge about basic business management is an obstacle. “There are courses about this but they are expensive”, tells Alvaro Vargas, ´Estrella del Sur´ program coordinator, “enrolled youth can´t afford them and their future is unknown. With this opportunity we can give a hand to great youth ideas.”

ChildFund Bolivia and Barnfonden from Sweden developed a project to help these girls and boys with free technical and financial instruction about business development, “we must help our families, this is a great opportunity because they give us technical training, and also materials are free. Of course we must compromise our time and commitment to complete the course and create our small business” says Diego, one of the youth entrepreneurs.

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THE PROCESS

This project had different steps: 62 girls and boys were selected by their ideas and commitment, each one with a business idea. There were chefs, artisans and engineers who trained them and helped to develop that primal idea. Then, they also learned about business image and marketing; of course finance managing took part in training too. “These boys and girls are an example for us. I know many of them since their first years. There is hidden genius among us” tells Isabel Mamani, ‘Jesús de Nazaret’ Project coordinator. “they learned about finance and numbers very fast. Suddenly they were able to calculate costs and benefits,” tells very happy.

“It is amazing how these young boys and girls have unique ideas”, tells, Mayra Andrade, chef in charge of baking courses. “They have huge expectations, and the most interesting is their age: fourteen, sixteen year-old boys but with big dreams.”

Finally, after 9 months of technical training, they can proudly present their ideas to the public. They managed to have an exposition in the local government hall. That morning investors and local authorities visited every stand where girls and boys explained their ideas.

THE RESULT

That day, eight projects were selected by different investors and other 42 are in a promising negotiating process. That new experience for all youth entrepreneurs was also a value lesson. “I feel I am a winner,” says Max, he is 16 and created an electrical repair services business, “despite I get an investment today or later, or if I must re think my idea, I know I can reach my goal now because learned how to improve my ideas.”

What comes next? Every project selected by an investor must prove it works; the other ones must improve some weak points to get investments too. Oruro might look as a small city but it is full of gigantic ideas for sure.

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Sponsorship and Raquel’s Silver Lining

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Raquel displays some of the silver products she has made.

 Raquel, 19, is a young leader in her Bolivian community. We asked her to tell us about her sponsorship experience, what she’s up to now and her career plans. 

How would you describe your friendship with your sponsor?

I have a beautiful relationship with my sponsor. She tells me about her country and sends me pictures with beautiful landscapes, places where she goes with her family. She also tells me about her daily life and how she worries about me and my family. I love when she sends postcards.

 

What have you learned from your sponsor?

My sponsor is consistent about writing; we keep in touch often, and we know what is going on in each other’s lives. I learned a lot about the value of friendship with her. I think she is my best friend because she has taught me a lot about other places, about respect for the family. Her letters are written in a simple way but tell me a lot. I know she thinks about me all the time.

Tell me about the new activity you’re doing now.

The local partner in my community started a silversmith training program, and I was curious about how to work with silver and make a ring myself. The day I made my first ring, I was very happy and proud. I continued making other small pieces of jewelry, first during my free time, and now I am part of a small association.

Now that you have learned this skill, do you have future plans?

I would like to own a business, making jewelry with my own style. I would also like to teach other youth to make rings, earrings and many more things. Of course, I would also like to learn more about this art.

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Raquel is a sponsored girl She is now part of the Silversmith Program in Local Partner “Renovación Madre Niño” in Oruro, Bolivia. Caption: Raquel (center).

 I understand you are the association’s president. How do you feel about holding this position?

Well, all of my friends and partners elected me. They told me I am a responsible, dynamic and good friend, and they trusted me.

Now we run our association by ourselves. All of us are youth, and we learn something new every day. I know this is a big responsibility. All of us want to strengthen our small association.

What is your biggest challenge and biggest triumph?

My biggest challenge is to find the time to keep up with this new responsibility and stay on time. We want to build our own brand — not only a logo but an identity. We would like to be known in Oruro and throughout Bolivia.

My main satisfaction is to see us grow as people, both as silversmiths and as friends. Being at the silversmith workshop is fun. We all are friends and take care each other.