We are pioneers helping Central American refugees become economically viable immigrants in Mexico

What we do?

  • Enterprise – We help improve microenterprises and small businesses to provide more income to immigrants.
  • Inclusive Finance – We are experts in adapting financial products to bring more people into a solid financial future.
  • Impact investing – We help investors put their money to work to create substantial impact for refugees.
  • Training – We train both staff and refugees learn to improve their enterprises.
  • Evaluation – We are experts in a wide variety of evaluation methods. These help improve programs seeking to improve the life of immigrants
  • Improvements – We find digital finance solutions to help immigrants make efficient transactions online. It also minimizes contact during COVID-19 and cuts their need to travel. By filling in borrowing forms and making payments from a smart phone or computer, the immigrant saves time for making more income.
  • Housing – The second highest need of an immigrant is long term housing. Yet no housing groups in Mexico are dedicated to permanent housing for immigrants. We seek partners to help us pioneer this. Refugees deserve more than shelters or substandard and crowded rental units.

Our name of this Program – ECOMIGRATION

Stand for:

Hundreds of thousands of Central Americans now are fleeing to escape violence, ecological disasters, corruption, inequalities, poverty, and the consequences of previous wars. From Mexico, these Central American refugees cannot enter the US and fear to return to Central America. These refugees want to work to create a dignified life so thousands realize the benefits of a permanent residence in Mexico.

Our ECOMIGRATION program has two main emphases. Read more in a PDF.

We are experts in helping low-income Central American families to get the training and finances they need to create and grow their own businesses. We have been looking for allies willing to help Central American refugees in Mexico. We talked with over 30 financial institutions during the last two years, trying to convince them to lend to refugees. We finally found one microenterprise institution that is lending to immigrants.

We formalized an alliance with CREAR, a microfinance institution (MFI) based in the city of Monterrey, Mexico (located just 3 hours south of McAllen, Texas or Laredo, Texas). They have lent to 618 Salvadorans. At our encouragement, their board has agreed to expand their lending to applicants from all the Central American countries. Read more / download PDF.

With our alliance, we work to attract donations and international impact investment to help immigrants in creating or expanding microenterprises. Furthermore, we will use our training expertise to build entrepreneurial skills to improve the chances that each business survives and thrives.

Some immigrants are ready to borrow in Mexico

Some of the Central American refugees come to Mexico with a long history of being entrepreneurs and being successful borrowers. However, they have not found any institution to lend to refugees, even when they have the legal status to allow them to borrow.

Judith, a 47-year-old Salvadoran refugee living in Monterrey, Mexico, was unable to find credit since her arrival years ago. However, recently our our microfinance partner trusted Judith with a first loan for her family-owned food business. CREAR also provided training to grow her microenterprise so that she could pay the small weekly payments. But the MFI cannot provide these non-financial services without donations.

Read more success stories below.

Why do most Central Americans need training before they become good borrowers in Mexico?

    • The Mexican urban economy is vastly different and often much more sophisticated with established competition. Central Americans who just repeat the same things they did in their home country often fail. It would be unfair to encourage refugees to take on debt that they cannot repay. Orientation is essential.
    • Some immigrants have been employees in their home countries. They seek employment but it is extremely difficult to find during the time of the pandemic and the downturn in the Mexican economy. So their only option is to become self-employed. They need training to learn to learn how to be successful entrepreneurs.
    • Training helps them improve their ideas into a viable business.
    • They learn techniques to increase the number of their buyers to develop a regular cash flow to pay back weekly installments.
Donate now to help refugees learn how to be successful borrowers!

Immigrant grew her business with training and loans

Candida came to Mexico 30 years ago fleeing the war in El Salvador. In her apartment kitchen, she began cooking and selling a few tasty dishes to the Salvadorans in Monterrey. But she was could not grow since she did not have enough money to buy sufficient ingredients to cook more to meet the demand. Even though she had legal status, no Mexican institution would give her credit as even after 3 decades the lenders did not trust her as a “refugee.”

She heard that CREAR would train her how to increase her daily income to be able to borrow. At 67 years old she became a first-time borrower. With her loans, she has been able to buy more ingredients and sell more. She now has hired a younger Salvadoran cook to help her meet the increasing demand. The institution’s training taught her that to really grow her customer base, she needed to learn how to fix Mexican food and that has provided many more clients.

With the CREAR loans, she got her first savings account and now can put extra income in the safety of the bank on Monday to be ready for to buy on Thursday to prepare for the bigger weekend sales days. She created a Facebook pages so that the clients can order and pass by just to pick up the food. This has been very important during the continuing surges of COVID-19 when people want to limit their contact.

sauce for success

We have the curriculum and the trainers but no money to provide the essential training.

CREAR’s training program lasts the equivalent of 80 hours. There was a lot of demand but due to the dramatic downturn, they did not have enough money to both survive as an institution and keep training. Due to COVID-19 and few vaccinated, CREAR must limit training in person to only 15 people a month. They need donations to reactivate and increase the number being trained. It is eager to offer more of the training online to limit the contact of unvaccinated people.

Your donations can reactivate and improve the training!

It is important to lend to worker in low paying factory jobs so they have money for emergencies rather than go to a moneylender

Crear SuccessOur partner also lends to employees who work in factories like the car assembly plants to produce products for export to the US. These workers make only $40 or more per week. When they have emergencies, previously their only choice was to quickly borrow from a money lender who charges outrageous interest. CREAR has made arrangements with the managers of factories and large stores to make loans to immigrants that are then paid back gradually from their salaries. Dania—a 32-year-old Honduran immigrant—fled due violent gangs attacking her family and neighbors. She was hired by a factory in Monterrey and received training by CREAR about how to responsibly borrow when necessary. Months later, when she had a medical emergency, our partner quickly gave her a loan to cover the expenses. Later, she received a second loan for home improvements. Others have borrowed for supplies when their children start the school year and it is too much to pay at once from their small salaries. This type quick loan and gradually loan installments have been a vital help to many Central Americans.

We are sharing other examples of the success stories of Central American borrowing from CREAR. IDEAS is seeking investors and donors to increase the number of immigrants who are successful in transforming their businesses. Read more by downloading PDF.

Impact investments are needed

Investments targeted to positively impact the lives of immigrants are needed. Billions of dollars are now invested internationally to help support all types of impact. Worldwide less than $100 million in loans have been invested to lend to immigrants. Less than $50,000 in investments have been received by CREAR. It needs $500,000 to lend to more immigrants.

Despite the fact that new immigrants have been proven to build excellent credit records in many countries, they are still viewed as risky by most funders. Some microfinance institutions find immigrants as a very good market. From Costa Rica to the tip of South America this type of lending is growing. But in Mexico it does not exist.

We are pioneers in promoting lending to Central Americans in Mexico. IDEAS is there to assist in developing this new market. Our partner has proven it works.
Watching the news you see the tragic daily scenes of Central America on the border and inside of Mexico of Central Americans desperately seeking a stable life that they could no longer find in their home countries. We are grateful for those who provide all kinds of emergency aid, legal help, shelter, food and other short term assistance as it is vital to keep the refugees alive. But what about their long term life? Those who are able to go to the US and Canada may find income and jobs. But what about immigrants seeking self employment in Mexico? Impact investors are needed.

Other encouraging signs are that some are beginning to lend to social enterprises that are assisting refugees. For example, there is a corporation that is training refugees in computer coding to become highly paid programmers.

Catalytic capital is needed for lending and sustainable development for immigrants

For lending institutions and social enterprises that are serving immigrants, there is a need for patient and flexible capital that lowers the perceived risk for lenders. It can create the conditions to facilitate other types of investment. It can even blend with donations with investments.

Family foundations and others are provided blended donations and loans to assist.