Hola! Vamos a Cambiar el Mundo
Every day on my way to work I pass by walls covered in graffiti. Most of the graffiti is colorful—symbols and slang that mean little to most who see it. But one message stands out from the rest. Sprayed black onto a white brick wall it reads, “Hola! Vamos a cambiar el mundo,” or, “Hello! We’re going to change the world.”
I’ve thought about the irony of this piece of graffiti. To community members, it no doubt represents a violation against their property—probably carried out by some rebellious youth. Their reaction represents a more widely held attitude about young people; too many adults have negative perceptions of youth.
For me, the graffiti represents something very different. It’s as though the anonymous artist is speaking up for his generation. “Hey! Over here! We have the potential to change the world.” He seems to be calling out for a bit of attention and an opportunity to do something great.
Vittana provides such opportunities to students (usually young people), by helping them finance higher education. In what the Economist calls a “hotbed of innovation”, Vittana is finding new ways to fund poor students in the developing world. Through our online platform, anyone can browse through our students and find one to support. With as little as $25, you can help them toward graduation. 100% of your loan goes to the students, which is then repaid as they graduate. The impact of these microloans has been astounding. 99.8% of loan recipients repay in full, increasing their income by 2.8 times on average. These numbers buck the conventional wisdom about loaning to the poor and the behavior of young people.
As a Vittana Fellow in Paraguay, I’ve had the opportunity to witness these results first-hand. Part of my job includes interviewing loan recipients in person. We talk about facts and figures of their loan amount, graduation dates, and changes in income. But I also get the opportunity to witness how access to education transforms their lives. One of my favorite examples is Claudia. After seeing the impressive work of her friend, Claudia decided she wanted to become a graphic designer. She found a good program, took out a Vittana loan, and got to work. Now that she has graduated, she’s been able to triple her income and start her own design firm.
More important than the economic benefits, however, is the dramatic improvement Claudia has experienced in her self-worth. “Before, I felt like I was nobody. Without education you don’t have many opportunities. But now I have more confidence—I’m more social….I think I’m an example to my family.”
Claudia is just one of many stories I’ve encountered during my work with Vittana. She is living proof of one of Vittana’s core beliefs: by empowering young people, we can unlock the potential of an entire generation. And with that potential, I believe that they will change the world.