Maria is a mother of four from Southwestern Bolivia. She shares a single room with her husband, three teenagers, and a ten year old.
"We live with my family in a living room that is also our dining room, also our kitchen, bedroom and workshop. We used some tomato boxes as a closet for my children; an old piece of wood like a table, and bricks as chairs. It took me 4 hours to cook [for my family] on a small stove with just 1 burner."
Maria has longed to improve her family's living situation, but with limited income from her work as a janitor she's never been able to start. Her husband works hard to support their children, but after food and school costs, there's not much left.
"I want to live in my own house, that's my biggest dream", Maria says.
After sharing her dream with friends, Maria was invited to join a savings group through a local church. With minimal income from cleaning, Maria wasn't sure how she could save anything. Over time, however, she's learned to save "penny by penny" and now puts away four to five dollars each week.Maria's first goal was to improve her kitchen and make cooking easier. Within a year she was able to buy her own stove and reduced the time required for cooking by three hours a day.
"When my family saw me reaching my first goal, my children also began to save."
Maria's children began to compete against each other to see who could save the most. They set their sights on buying a wardrobe so that they could have a nice place to keep the dishes and clothing rather than storing them in boxes. After reaching their goal, the family decided together that their next target would be a dining room table and chairs.
These simple improvements have made a huge difference for her family.
"Now we gather with my family at every meal around the table, and my children do their tasks more comfortably. . .My family feels more united because we all saved together. My life is different, because I'm managing my money very well. I see that our living conditions have changed, and each time we improve the way [we live as a family]."
Today, Maria and her family continue to save. Her desire to live in a new home? "This desire is no longer a dream, it's my next goal", Maria says.
Maria and her husband recently purchased a plot of land and they have been able to use a loan from Maria's savings group to lay a foundation. Soon they plan to start building the walls.
"My example of savings is very valuable to other neighbors, because they know how I lived and now they see how I'm improving little by little."