Providing Hope and Opportunities to the People of Nicaragua

 

  The International Gazette         Philadelphia, PA            July 2014

 

SosteNica Provides Hope and Opportunities to Nicaraguans

 

By David  Block

 

 

 

Some people have the desire and ambition to create new things, to develop new programs, but unfortunately they lack the follow through.  Then there are those who have great ideas and excellent follow through. Alan Wright of West Chester, PA fits the latter category.  

 

While traveling through Central America over 20 years ago, he conceived the idea of launching SosteNica. SosteNica is a non-profit 501c3 organization based in Nicaragua. The organization makes it possible for low income Nicaraguan citizens to borrow money at low interest rates in order to create businesses and projects. According to Wright, the loans now range from $600.00 to $700.00 dollars. “We’d lend them the money, with their profit they’d pay us back,” said Wright. But there’s more to SosteNica than lending money. SosteNica is committed to improving the environment.

 

 

 

The Beginning

 

When Wright and his wife Paula Kline traveled through Nicaragua in 1984, they were impressed by the beauty of the country, its culture and people.

 

Wright observed that the banks in Nicaragua only provided loans to the wealthy citizens. According to Wright, Nicaragua was the second poorest country in its hemisphere, and many of the country’s low income citizens had no way of improving their quality of life. “They could not get money to develop their ideas,” said Wright.

 

Wright knew that he and many of his colleagues in the U.S. could improve the these Nicaraguans’ financial predicament; Wright had learned about Muhammad Yunus and how he began the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, where small amounts of money were lent to poor Bangladeshis. He provided them with micro-credit.

 

However, Wright did not take off with his idea until 1990; this was after he visited the Lankester Botanical Gardens in San Jose Costa Rica. Wright said that an English botanist set up the Lankester Botanical Gardens in order to develop and cultivate orchids. But after his death, it was bequeathed to the Costa Rican national university and they kept the orchids, but they turned it into a native arboretum for native trees. “You entered this place and you saw on the outside of the gates, a barren treeless parched landscape,” said Wright. “And then when you walked into the gates, you’re in a tropical paradise. And it just hit me – this whole Pacific Coast of Central America had been this ecosystem before the Europeans came, and  chopped all the trees down.” He was convinced that incorporating an ecosystem – caring for and improving the environment – coupled with giving Nicaraguans incentives to take out small loans to start their own businesses was completely viable. So did a lot of Wright’s associates in the United States. 

 

Nicaragua was a good choice to launch SosteNica because in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, that country had been in the news as frequently as Iraq is today.

 

SosteNica was officially launched in 1991. For its first ten years it was under the umbrella of a different non-profit organization. By 2001, it officially became a non-profit with 501c3 status.

 

 

 

What’s in a Name

 

 

 

SosteNica was not picked at random. Wright said, “Soste are the first two syllables of Sostenible (sustainability in Spanish) and Nica are the first two syllables of Nicaragua. … We did our first loan in 1991; we lent $500.00 to a women’s weaving cooperative.”

 

A current SosteNica project is a housing program. “We’re designing a home with all natural materials earth, timber, volcanic rock, and it will include eco-technologies such as a composting toilet, a fuel efficient stove, and gray water treatment,” said Wright. “This house would be made available to low income people at a subsidized interest rate.”

 

Local and regional Nicaraguan governments know about SusteNica. Wright concluded, “they {the local and regional governments} often come to us to ask about the areas we’re working at. They know that we have close contact with the people {living in specific regions}.”

 

For more information: www.sostenica.org

 

 

 

 

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