Washington State Resident Helps Create Small Businesses in Rural Ecuador

Washington, D.C., February 26, 2009 - In a small town in Ecuador, 100 chickens have improved the lives of five area families and advanced the education of over 30 youth. The connection between 100 chickens and improved education may seem obscurebut to Peace Corps Volunteer and Bellingham, Washington, resident Alexis Austin, the concept was clear from the start.

Austin partnered with the local Ecuadorian nonprofit organization Creando Futuro to create an income-generating project for families with school-aged children. Five families in Muisne County participated in the project, agreeing to raise, market, and sell chickens to local stores for profit. All participating families have between five and eight children or grandchildren, and in accordance with the projects stipulations, they agreed in advance to donate a significant portion of their earnings to their childrens education.

For nearly a year, families saved $5 a month to contribute to the project. They researched the demand for chicken in local markets, and attended Creando Futuro-sponsored workshops on small business theory. Eventually, participants provided all materials and manual labor (a contribution of 46 percent of the total project cost) to build a structure that now houses 100 chickens.

"So far things are going really well," said Austin. "The chickens are growing fast, there are determined markets, the families are very excited, and future options for investment and sales are being explored."

A portion of this project was funded through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, which allows individuals or groups to donate funds to specific Peace Corps projects. The Partnership Program works to create true partnerships with the communities it serves. In order to receive funding through the program, a community must make a 25 percent contribution to the total project cost, as well as outline "success indicators" for the project. This helps to ensure community buy-in, a greater chance of long-term sustainability and, ultimately, the success of the project.

To find out more about the Peace Corps and the Peace Corps Partnership Program, please visit the Peace Corps website: www.peacecorps.gov . One-hundred percent of each tax-deductible donation goes toward a designated development project. In-kind contributions such as computers and school supplies can also provide valuable support to projects.

As the Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world. Historically, over 195,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries in which they have served. Applications to serve in the Peace Corps have increased 16 percent this past year, the largest boost in the last five years. Currently, 7,876 Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in 76 countries. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

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