My name is Kyle Dougher and I am a rising junior studying Economics. In the weeks leading up to my departure for Ecuador I had a lot of uncertainty about the trip. I had never been outside of the United States, had not taken a Spanish class since elementary school, and did not know exactly what I would be doing as a Consultor Communitario with the Social Entrepreneur Corps. Being one who likes to feel well prepared for everything, I knew my trip to Ecuador would be a personal challenge. After three weeks of Rosetta Stone Spanish I had developed a not-so-impressive mastery of informing people that I have three bicycles but I knew such a level of Spanish would be insufficient while living in a country whose inhabitants speak little English. After reading some books by Muhammad Yunus, the father of microfinance and microcredit, I saw a lot of promise in the models suggested in the book but still was not sure what my role would be in implementing similar ideas in Ecuador.
Despite my initial concerns, the past two weeks have alleviated my uncertainty. Between four hours of daily Spanish classes and conversing with my host mom my Spanish comprehension has grown substantially. Through four hours of daily classes on micro-consignment theory I have also been able to gain a better understanding of the type of work I will be doing. The rest of my time has been spent exploring the gorgeous colonial city of Cuenca and experiencing the rich Ecuadorian culture the city has to offer. Between enjoying the sweets and fireworks during the weeklong festival of Corpus Christi, visiting museums about the Ecuadorian War of Independence, and sampling the local delicacy of cuy, every day in Ecuador has been a learning experience on many levels.
After two weeks of classroom preparation, we are finally set to depart to help implement the micro-consignment model at field locations with entrepreneurs. The idea behind micro-consignment, like microcredit, is to offer individuals the opportunity to make use of their inherent entrepreneurial talents to earn enough money to enjoy a dignified lifestyle. Whereas microcredit offers access to financial capital, micro-consignment groups seek to eliminate some of the risk involved with taking out loans by acting as suppliers and providing entrepreneurs with products that the entrepreneur pays for only once the product sells.
In the coming weeks I will be going out to our field location in Zamora and will be working with some of these entrepreneurs as they market and sell their products. These products include reading glasses, solar lights, vegetable seeds, and small stoves. I am extremely excited to begin seeing the model implemented in these communities and assisting the entrepreneurs with their sales.