Written by: Melissa Lemus
Wow – these first two weeks have flown by! It’s crazy to think that we have only two and a half weeks left in Peru to wrap up the project; but we are continuing to plow through the multiple layers of this project. The great thing about being in Peru is that not only are we working on a project that has the potential to have a longstanding impact for these women micro-entrepreneurs, but we are also getting an awesome opportunity to familiarize ourselves with this beautiful country.
Each of us has had unique experiences during our time in Peru. While some have traveled to the Peruvian Amazon, some of us have stayed around Lima to discover the areas nearby. Over Semana Santa, I joined my friend from college and her friends at a beach an hour from Lima. Although I had assumed we would be staying at the beach the entire weekend, my friend had different plans for me! Over the course of the four-day weekend, I was taken to Ica and Lunahuaná so that I could see and experience more of Peru.
In Ica, gigantic sand dunes emerged from the horizon. As I got closer to the dunes, I could see people taking advantage of the landscape – sand-boarders and sand buggies were visible at the top of the dunes. On my way to Lunahuaná the next day, I traveled through the Andes and the Cañete valley. Along the ride, I passed old Inca ruins which turned out to be Incahuasi (House of the Inca), the most important and strategic city that the Incas built in the Lunahuaná region. The ruins were formed by four groups of buildings: the palace of the Inca, the headquarters with granaries and deposits, the city and the fortress. The trip was not complete until we had a quick swim in the Cañete River.
My Semana Santa adventure (and my two weeks in Lima, of course) helped me experience first hand the large diversity of the country, both in the physical and in the business sector landscape. Even though I was away from Lima, and not technically working, my mind was still on the project. I met motivated women that had multiple businesses – from restaurants, to selling beautiful dresses and jewelry on the beach, to little bodegas. Whether in Ica’s agricultural sector, or in retail shops at the beach, or in mercados in Villa El Salvador, I could see that in each region, there are millions of opportunities for women micro-entrepreneurs to flourish. By witnessing this, I realized how important this project truly is. Much of the existing research on microfinance stresses the importance of training and mentoring in the development and success of female micro-entrepreneurs. If we can create a mentoring model that will provide women throughout Peru with the training and tools necessary to grow their businesses, then we will surely be helping them achieve their dreams.