Transforming Lives

Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.

José Luis Lux, a vegetable producer in the community of Chirijuyú in Guatemala’s Chimaltenango Department, and his family lived in extreme poverty. That changed in 1993 when his family led the community to establish an association of agricultural producers, Labradores Mayas (“Mayan Workers”), which sold vegetables to middlemen. With USAID support, the association strengthened production, became certified on international food regulation practices, and systematized administrative functions to comply with international buyer requirements.

USAID is working to get small farmers involved in international markets by helping them maximize production with crops like broccoli and form local cooperatives that give them more leverage. Converting small farms into well-functioning businesses will make the area more dynamic and productive and create better living standards for the residents.

Trafficking in persons is a serious problem in South Quito, Ecuador.  In six local schools, USAID sponsored a program for students ages 5-12 who are at high risk of becoming victims.

What can 77 women do with $5,000? Just ask Miriam Sánchez. This rural mom in Cubinche had few employment opportunities and, as a result, no reliable source of income. She led a group of women in forming a small association that would use their sewing skills to produce and sell clothing. Upon hearing about Miriam and the association, USAID provided financial support to help the group expand its operations.

A USAID program has been training teachers in creative ways to make learning in Spanish easier for non-native speakers. As they learn to read and write in Spanish, they also learn the skills to write in Quichua.

USAID launched a small loans project to encourage Ecuadorian banks and financiers to grant credit to these small entrepreneurs. Making small loans available to individuals with business sense and vision, but without a credit history, has proven to be an effective tool in the fight against poverty.

Northern Ecuador’s Condor Bioreserve stretches from Andean grasslands to Amazon rainforests. Its mountain streams trickle into rivers that supply water to the capital of Quito. The region is a sanctuary for the endangered spectacled bear and the Andean condor, the world’s largest flying bird. A top conservation priority, the bioreserve is threatened by unsustainable farming, over-grazing, logging, illegal hunting, and intentionally set fires. Local communities depend on natural resources to survive, yet come into conflict with wildlife when bears attack cattle pasturing near their habitat, costing families thousands of dollars a year.

In Colombia’s Caquetá region, more than 73,000 people have been driven from their homes by criminals and guerillas, usually at gun-point and with threats of violence. Blanca and Alberto were among those people. When forced to flee from their home with their children, they were violently uprooted from their community, family, and business.

“Illegal armed groups came to our house and gave us 24 hours to leave. They threatened to kill us if we went to the police, or if we didn’t leave,” Alberto said.

Héctor Manuel Lozano is 35 years old and was born and raised in Aguachica in south César, a region in northeastern Colombia. He works full time at the Citizen Coexistence Center, an organization funded partly by USAID, which helps promote peace and conflict resolution in a community torn apart by fighting. In areas where the central government is weak and often unable to provide services, coexistence centers play a crucial role.

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Last updated: January 12, 2015