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© 2016 Opportunity Internationala 501(c)3 nonprofit.

Meet Engelberto

By Lydia Baldridge Meier

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. - Lamentations 3:20-22

Engelberto and his family lived in rural Colombia on a small farm near the village of Maria La Baja until one fateful day when everything changed. Hoping to be among the first to arrive at the marketplace in the morning to take advantage of early risers at his market stall, he jumped on the first bus before light. However, a group of armed men stopped the bus and ordered everyone to get off. It did not take long to discover that the men were part of a paramilitary group searching for guerillas.

They asked each person where they were from, and if the answer was a rural area they were shot and killed on the spot. Engelberto watched five of his close friends get murdered – all while desperately hoping for his own survival. That night, Engelberto rushed home, packed up his family and the few critical belongings they could carry and fled to Arjona.

Safely in Arjona, Engelberto used what little money he had to purchase about 40 avocados. He found it difficult to get started since he was new in the marketplace. Worried about how he would put food on the table, he was so grateful when another entrepreneur in the market told him about Opportunity Colombia. Today, he can purchase about 250-300 avocados twice a week because he can buy them at a wholesale price. Purchasing in this manner led to an immediate increase in his profit margin – and he can now buy enough to meet the needs of his neighbors on the streets of Arjona. 

As a member of the “Hand of God” Trust Group in Arjona, Bolivar, a small city about 40 minutes south of Cartagena, Engelberto has learned to grow his business. Today, he sells avocados, bananas, plantains or yucca, depending on what is in season. Now on his seventh loan, Engelberto is able to support his extended family and has built a new life in Arjona.

When Engelberto’s wife fell ill this year, he was able to afford her surgery and medication. Before Opportunity, Engelberto says he would never have had the money set aside to manage this emergency, but he felt blessed to take $200 from what he has saved to pay the deductible for the surgery and the medications.

With dedication, determination and assistance from Opportunity, Engelberto has had the chance to start over and care for his family. Although he can never forget about terrible tragedy he witnessed, Engelberto can move beyond that day in Maria La Baja and build a new life and future for himself and his family.

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