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“You NEVER default on a loan to a loan shark,” Lourdes’ emphatic response was punctuated by her fearful laughter. The other women in the group nodded heartily in agreement. This was the cold, hard reality from which Lourdes—the sole provider for her family, including her mother and two school-aged daughters — was relieved to be removed from. Diaconía, GAiN’s Micro-Enterprise partner in Paraguay, provided Lourdes with a realistic alternative to taking a loan at 500% interest from a loan shark.

Lourdes is a member of the brand-new Diaconía community group Pyahu (in Guaraní literally means “new”) located in the largely Guaraní-speaking area of Ñemby. Hers is a story of redemption — both financial and spiritual.

At one time she had as many as four loan sharks coming to her house on a daily basis. Since being freed from the chains of financial slavery and receiving her first loan from Diaconía, Lourdes has big dreams for her future as a
businesswoman. “I want to open a store that has everything for babies because the demand and the need is great; people are always having babies!”

The first step is to put a permanent roof over her despensa (a store that is run out of your home), as it currently consists of a weather-beaten sheet of canvas supported by poles braced in bricks.

A true entrepreneur, Lourdes currently sells everything from jewellery to lotions to socks and underwear to scarves and even sandwiches that she makes and sells. She used her first loan ($125 USD) to increase her inventory, which she estimates will last approximately three months. “Thanks be to God, sales are very good.”

Lourdes continued, “God has blessed us. Through this loan from Diaconía and the growth of my business, my mother came to live with me, my daughters are here; we are able to be together as a family and I can provide for them.”

Her thankfulness is evident in the power of her words and emotions.

Although a new member in the newly formed Pyahu Group, already Lourdes is experiencing the deep sense of community and accountability that is a common thread amongst all the groups in Diaconía. Each member is aware of the responsibility they have to one another, and this extends beyond merely the financial records. Each loan cycle contains biweekly lessons on business and life principles taught with a Biblical perspective. Through these lessons the women are discipled with strong Biblical teaching and become close-knit, like a family, carrying the financial burden when someone can’t make their loan payment, providing meals when someone is ill, inviting others to join them and start a business or attend church together.

Lourdes’ story underscores the Diaconía values: to believe, to learn, to grow.


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