Elvia Rosa plays it close to the vest.
On a number of occasions, she has withdrawn from me. She isn’t a fan of sharing information and doesn’t like having her photo taken.
I’ve always been respectful. I tell her she’s not obligated to share anything and I always lower my camera around her and her children.
She isn’t shy. Rather she’s fierce and will defend her family at all costs.
She’s on a roll today, however.
I sit cross-legged on the couch and discuss her next loan. Her son, Edwin, scratches his shirtless stomach and wanders back and forth from the door. Each time he comes back, he has a fist full of cash; they run a small convenience store out of their home, and he keeps himself busy with customers. While Elvia and I talk, her eyes follow her son around the room.
“Look, I’ll let you write something about me so that people know how it is…”
Way back when, she says, in 1998 she was cooking and washing clothes to make a living. When hurricane Mitch displaced her and her family, things got even more difficult.
She split with her second husband and moved to Villa Soleada to start a new life. She put her kids in school and set up a small convenience store in 2014.
We met in January of 2015 when she took out her first loan of $25. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of watching her store grow from two crates of soda to an entire wall filled with inventory. She’s now the most popular store in town and holds a $150 loan with us.
Otherwise, I’ve only had rare glimpses into her life, until today.
“It starts from the bottom up,” she says, “I make sure to teach my kids everything about running this store. They know how to do it now, but they lack the vision. They just do it because it’s a chore, but they don’t really get it yet.”
She says she wants to show them how, so when they grow up “they’ll understand the value of business and be able to make a bigger project of their own.”
As if to demonstrate her point, Edwin approaches with a calculator. He reviews the last transaction with his Mother, which comes out to $3 and change.
I love Edwin. (We all do.)
I taught him for an extra curricular economics class I put together last year. His older brother, Kevin, told me they didn’t even need to give him an allowance anymore, because he stuffed away half his lunch money every day.
He’s a goofy kid, but he’s wicked smart. Watching him and his Mother fiddle with the calculator, I can tell: he gets it from her.
She finishes her mini lesson and Edwin gives us a funny grin and goes to watch TV.
She turns to me and nods.
“There. You know, if my kids are hungry I’ll help them of course – they’re my kids – but the important part is to show them how to do it themselves.”
We talk about receiving donations from people in the US. This time she shakes her head.
“People in Villa don’t need money, they need work. They need jobs.”
She says it’s better to donate things they need, so they aren’t tempted to spend the money on things that don’t matter. I offer an alternative viewpoint, but she’s firm in her belief.
“No. It all starts with the work.”
She tells me about a family emergency in 2015 where she had to borrow $785. She proudly announced she had paid it all back (plus about $90 in interest) within one year.
“The work is what’s important. That’s how we get better.”