From Elizabeth Bueno, Kiva Program Intern at ACCION USA, Kiva’s first Domestic Field Partner.
Although I grew up in Queens and currently live in Brooklyn, the Bronx can feel like a world away. I find this interesting, since when I was a child I would dream of going to India or another far off country to somehow help humanity. My family never understood why I would want to go to India when I come from Colombia, a country that also suffers from deep poverty and even an internal civil war. What I’ve learned, especially living in New York, is that you don’t have to go very far to make a contribution to this world. My visit to an ACCION USA client, Leopoldina, was a reminder of that fact.
As the Kiva Intern at ACCION USA, one of my duties is to visit our clients to capture video and stories to post to the Kiva Web site. After a 50-minute subway ride, I came out from underground to the ecstatic rhythm of salsa music blasting from several cars. The smell of fried food mixed with incense burning from the local restaurant to provide a rapid awakening. I followed my Google Map and made the long walk to Leopoldina’s apartment in the public housing buildings.
Leopoldina knew that I would be making a visit to capture a video for the Kiva.org website. She greeted me very warmly and professionally. In her kitchen she had laid out a black cloth that beautifully displayed her gold jewelry. It was such an energetic environment; there were loud noises and medical equipment strewn around the house. She got right down to business and explained her hard, yet inspiring path to entrepreneurship.
Leopoldina was a factory worker. Because she is the mother of a special needs daughter, she left to be a housekeeper since it would allow her flexible hours. Only later did she decide to start up her own home-based jewelry business, using a small business loan from ACCION USA to purchase her first batch of inventory. In her eight years in business, she has become very skilled at selling. Leopoldina explained that selling her jewelry is therapeutic and lifts her spirits during difficult days. I was amazed by her knowledge of the art of sales. She beamed self-reliance.
As I sat at Leopoldina’s kitchen table, I could hear the moaning sounds of her daughter in the other room, and the neighbor’s shouting. But the sound that truly resonated was the strength and determination that I heard from Leopdoldina’s voice. “Me encanta Nueva York, mucho!” ’I love New York,’ she said. I felt a deep reminder for why I love New York, a city where immigrants like she and I can meet by happenstance and realize that we are both living our dreams.