Elsa Martinez is an Opportunity client in Cartagena, Colombia. Recently, she shared her incredible story with us in her own words.
We were moved and inspired, and wanted to pass along her powerful words to you.
My name is Elsa and I live in Cartagena, Colombia. I want to share how you have impacted my life.
When I was 9 years old, armed bandits arrived in my town. I was so afraid. Everyone had to leave immediately otherwise we would be killed…but where would an entire town go?
We ran with whatever we could carry in our hands. Every time I thought we were safe, the police would arrive and push us out. We made little houses of plastic and wood, but they would cut them down and burn them. We would come back the next day and try again to build a place to stay.
I told myself that I belonged in my own home. Even when we walked for days, I had this conviction. When we heard other displaced people were going to take over a vacant land, we joined them. Over the years people tried to take my little patch of land, and I never fought for anything like I did for that.
But even with a home, life was still difficult. When I had my fifth child, my partner left me for another woman. It hit me hard. I didn’t know how I could provide for them alone. Still, my children belonged in a safe place and taken care of. I had to carry on.
I started my own business to survive. I had practically nothing, but I did have experience: I knew how to make fried food, so I decided to start a small business. Thanks to the support of kind people like you, I joined a Trust Group with Opportunity International, and we each received a small loan. We needed each other for support and encouragement…we belonged in community together.
Over time, I expanded my shop, repaid my loan, and took out an even bigger loan. I learned to save, and eventually with this profit, I was able to build my very own home—a little concrete house for me and my children.
Now, I want my children to succeed. I tell them to fight for what they want, just like I did.
Sometimes women think they cannot go at it on their own. That they cannot get ahead. I tell them no—that things are not so. I’m an example of that. I’ve succeeded.
I have fallen and gotten back up and here I am. I have overcome my obstacles and fears. Thank you for being a part of my journey.