News & Insights
Finding Inspiration in Peru
by Peter Solar, donor relations officer, Global Partnerships
As Global Partnerships' Donor Relations Officer, I have the unique opportunity to plan our twice-yearly Impact Journeys. It was just a few months ago that I returned from Guatemala, where I took a group of GP donors and investors to witness the work of GP's partners firsthand. We ventured across rough roads, traveled in small ferry boats and rode in the backs of pick-up trucks to meet microentrepreneurs, visit their businesses and attend spirited village bank meetings. Now, I'm on the road again, this time with a new group of travelers, headed to Peru. I am excited to venture off the beaten path again to show our travelers firsthand how Global Partnerships' and our partners' work has real, meaningful impact at the household level.
Our first stop is the dusty Cayma neighborhood on the outskirts of Arequipa, Peru's second largest city wedged between towering volcanoes in the Andean desert. We are about to meet Gerarda and her husband Clemente, a couple who have been making and selling ice cream for more than 40 years.
Gerarda, who owns the ice cream business, is a member of ADRA Microfinance, a GP partner organization that serves primarily women in peri-urban areas who experience high levels of income inequality. ADRA provides women like Gerarda with access to working capital and brings them together in village bank settings that promote solidarity and serve as a channel to deliver additional services like access to savings, business and financial literacy education.
When we first meet Gerarda, she greets us with a gracious smile. She seems laid-back and relaxed, but when she speaks, her voice is firm and business-like. Clemente arrives moments later, pedaling a cream-colored bike cart, his smile widening as he approaches us. He is more soft-spoken than Gerarda, but he is clearly excited about our visit, rubbing his palms together as soon as he gets off his bike cart and waving us toward the couple's home.
They lead us down a steep road and into a tight, shaded alley that shields us from the searing heat of the Peruvian sun. We enter their brick house from the back and walk into the cool, dark room where the ice cream is made. We gather around the ice cream machine, a rectangular box the size of a chest freezer, its vivid blue paint peeling off around the corners.
"The machine is for the most part a freezer," explains Clemente. The freezer unit is attached to a spinning pot where the couple pours a homemade liquid ice cream mix. "Chocolate and lemon are the most popular flavors," laughs Gerarda. Once the pot starts spinning, the machine blasts it with freezing air, while the couple makes sure the layers of ice forming on the sides of the pot are returned to the mixture as it thickens and turns into ice cream.
Clemente explains that the ice cream machine was a big investment, but one that has paid off: They sell a cup of ice cream for two soles, or about $0.70 USD, and take home about 100-120 soles, roughly $30-$40, every day.
Selling ice cream has become more than just a business; with ADRA's guidance, it has helped the couple improve their lives. They have been able to set aside money for an emergency fund to cover existing loans, save a bit for retirement and consider expanding their business. "[ADRA] encourages us, they offer good advice on managing profits, and they bring people together in village banks to think about new ideas and discuss business challenges," says Gerarda.
Gerarda tells us that one of the couple's business challenges is distribution. Although both she and Clemente are in good health, selling ice cream from the bike cart limits them to only a few surrounding neighborhoods and Gerarda is thinking of purchasing a used car. She already has a model picked out and she is optimistic that she can make it happen with her village bank's guidance.
When we ask about family, Gerarda and Clemente talk about their six children with pride. They were able to send all of them to school with money made from selling ice cream. One of their daughters is a nurse; others are working professionals. But the conversation turns somber when the couple tells us about one of their sons who passed away not too long ago. "He used to come along every day and help us make ice cream," says Clemente as he firmly grips the side of the ice cream machine. "Our business and community is our source of strength and it keeps us going," he adds.
Both Gerarda and Clemente repeatedly tell us they feel proud and grateful for a visit from so far away. "We are encouraged to know there are so many people standing beside us in solidarity and we are humbled that you will be sharing our story with your friends and families," says Clemente and invites us outside for a cup of ice cream with a warm smile curling below his mustache.
We go back up the steep hill to where we met the couple earlier and gather around the ice cream cart. Clemente opens up the refrigerator lid and starts serving ice cream—the raspberry sorbet with swirls of mango ice cream I had was truly refreshing in the scorching desert heat. A small hatchback zips by and Gerarda points at it, "This is it! This is the car I want." The entire group erupts in cheers, everyone feeling uplifted by her entrepreneurial spirit.
A local stops by to purchase ice cream and we say our goodbyes, wishing Gerarda and Clemente strength and luck as we board the bus to continue our journey.
This is Peru as few visitors know it and these are the kinds of remarkable people we have the privilege to meet on our Impact Journeys, learning about their successes, challenges and dreams. We make friends along the way and return home with a deeper understanding of the promise market-sustained solutions hold for communities living in poverty.
To learn more about Global Partnerships' Impact Journey program, or to sign up for our next trip, click here!