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Estela Castillo: Entrepreneur and Cancer Survivor

Estela Mamani Castillo is an entrepreneur and a cancer survivor. As a textile artisan, she makes clothes for children, adults, and even dolls. When Estela needed to invest further in her business, she received financing from Crecer IFD (Crédito con Educación Rural Institución Financiera de Desarrollo), a Bolivian financial institution. Thanks to a loan from Crecer, Estela was able to purchase materials and new equipment. She also has access to Crecer IFD’s healthcare program, which has improved her family’s access to medical services.

Crecer IFD first partnered with Oikocredit in 1999 and offers savings and credit services to women in poor, remote, and vulnerable communities. Last year, the institution was the runner up for the European Microfinance Award as a result of their ‘Inclusive Finance and Healthcare’ approach. Thanks to Crecer, Estela’s business is growing and, more importantly, her health has improved.

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Estela Mamani Castillo, I have five children and my oldest daughter has a child. Together with my husband, there are eight members of our family.

What do you do for a living?

I knit clothes for adults and children, every kind of knitting.

How long have you been knitting?

I have been knitting since I was 12 years old. I had a neighbor who did this and I helped them with sewing. Afterwards, when I started a family of my own, I bought a machine and started sewing by myself. It was easy because I already knew how. There are some items which are difficult to sew, so I bought trousers, for example, and took them apart to learn how it was done. My mother’s clothes were my patterns as well. I even do clothes for dolls. I knit everything!

How did you get involved with Crecer?

A lady who passed by just invited me and I got a loan. In the beginning I asked for 1,000 BOB (around $135 EUR), now I have one for 20,000 BOB (about $2,700).

How did receiving this loan make you feel?

Great, because I could buy wool and a knitting machine. Then I asked for more and now look how much I have grown my business!

Can you describe a day in your life?

When I wake up in the mornings, first I help my husband who is a driver, then the children. I wake them one-by-one, they have breakfast, I hurry them along, and they cook as well, so we all take turns.

What are your dreams for the future?

I hope that one day my children will be professionals.

Can you describe your perfect day off?

My day off is Sunday. I like to share the day with my family, cook us something nice for lunch and spend the day together, maybe going to the market.

You didn’t mention about your health screening check-ups, please tell me about them.

In the past, I didn’t like to have check-ups. I had my children at home with the help of my mum. I said to the doctor, you can look at me, but no touching.

I had some tests, but I didn’t pick up the results. After two years, when I finally picked them up, the doctor told me I had cancer. I felt like I was dying, just hearing the word cancer. I felt like I was dying. I feared for my children. The doctor gave me medication, and after a while the doctor was surprised because the cancer had gone. After that, I never missed another check-up.

Also in my loan group we agree on which date to go for our screening check-ups together. We encourage each other, and if anyone misses a screening test we have a 100 BOB (around $14) fine to pay.

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