Y.E.S. = Youth Entrepreneurship / Savings
Investing Hope International has developed a new program to reach out to at risk, low-income youth in Colombia. The program works to provide a safe environment for youth from 12 to 21 years of age to explore entrepreneurship, generate income and learn how to save. Younger children are accepted into the program, but must be accompanied by a parent. This is done in partnership with churches and Christian foundations in low-income neighborhoods. The program is open to all members of the community, but most meetings take place in the church or foundation.
In the first weeks of the program, the youth are taught about basic business principals that are infused with Biblical truths. From a marketing perspective we discuss what is a product, how to establish a price, where could the product be sold, how can we promote the product. Within the first three weeks of the program, the youth actually begin to produce a low-cost product that can be sold in their communities.
The first product is a “candy kabob” where the kids learn about unit price by placing different candies on a wooden skewer which is then packaged and sold. The youth must learn to stay within their product budget. After making the products, Investing Hope staff records the amount of product each youth takes and tells them what they need to pay next week (return the cost of the products). When the young people arrive the next week, they pay off their “debt” and are allowed to make more product. The youth usually are nervous about selling, but early successes boost their self-esteem and they are able to sell with more ease.
Once every three months, the group will get together for a “Market Day” where they will make a large number of products to take and sell in the community. Adults accompany the youth to parks or areas with concentrations of people to offer their products. During those two or three hours of selling product, the youth start sharing about their lives and challenges allowing the adults to counsel and pray for them. The profit from those sales goes into their savings account. The youth are encouraged to continue saving with their own individual sales profits also. Savings are maintained in a box with three locks and safeguarded in the church safe or in the custody of one of the families involved. The boxes are only opened on production days. Some of the older youth are trained to receive the payments and register the savings of all the youth.
Over time the youth learn how to make more products, especially during different holidays. Products like Candy Cane Reindeer for Christmas, Heart Shaped brownies for Valentines Day, Chocolates and Sugar Cookies for Mother’s Day, etc. Investing Hope looks for products that are new for the Colombian market and encourages the youth to be creative. The program works for cycles of 6 months to a year allowing the youth to accumulate significant savings for their reality. In one of the pilot groups, the youth were able to save over $450 US during their six-month cycle.
The youth are impacted in many positive ways. New friendships are formed. Self-esteem is elevated. They learn new skills and a new confidence for the future. They are introduced to a God who loves them and desires a closer relationship with them and people who can encourage them.