Original article by: Homes for HOPE

Ana Suleika Cornelio de Alcantara had drive, passion, and a great business idea, but when she tried to grow her business, her merchandise was stolen. At one point her family was even robbed of 300,000 pesos (USD $6,000)! Ana ran a fish hatchery providing her customers with colorful pets that also helped control the mosquito population.  However, because of the robberies, her fish hatchery was in total bankruptcy and she did not have the space or financial resources to continue her business operations. Ana and her family were forced to move to another community and start over. After running out of resources in 2018, Ana contacted a loan officer at Esperanza International, HOPE’s partner in the Dominican Republic, and began the process of rebuilding. The relationships Ana built through Esperanza gave her hope that she could overcome her family’s extreme poverty. 

“We transitioned from having no idea of how to generate an income for our family after being robbed and finding ourselves bankrupt, to having an open door like Esperanza that supports us in what we need to be able to live a better life.” 

Ana used money from 3 subsequent loans of around $300 each to invest in a new fish hatchery and purchase needed supplies for her business, allowing her to diversify the fish she sells. She also procured construction materials which enabled her to expand her business’ footprint and used her sales profits to finish building a home for her family. Esperanza’s staff often sent Ana messages of encouragement and devotionals helping her to grow spiritually as well as professionally.  

When factors surrounding COVID-19 greatly affected Ana’s fish hatchery, her church, along with Esperanza’s business training webinars, provided the support Ana needed to start a grocery store in her community. The church encouraged and prayed for her as she launched, and despite opening the store during the height of the pandemic, it has prospered!  

“Before, my neighbors had to travel miles to get basic food,” Ana said.  

Ana’s “colmado” is the only easily accessible source of essential supplies and clean water in the surrounding area, and she is actively using her store as a platform to meet her neighbor’s needs. Ana and her husband partnered with their church through her grocery store to launch a ministry where they give essential food and hygiene supplies to those who lost their jobs during the pandemic and are now living in extreme poverty. They have delivered more than 1,000 rations of food to families in their community along with medicine kits for those who were sick.  

“I have learned to put God first in my plans, because God is the one who guides us… Before Esperanza, I was desperate for help because of the failure of my previous business and because I couldn’t provide for my children. Now, I am empowered to succeed in life with God’s grace.” 

Ana’s dream is to open multiple stores, turn her current grocery store into a warehouse where she can sell wholesale goods, and to enroll in college to study business administration. She also mentors and provides support to her family as they pursue their dreams of opening their own stores. Before partnering with Esperanza, she could not afford food for her family. Now, because of the financial freedom she gained through Esperanza and support from her local church, she is meeting the needs of more than a thousand families in her community during this critical time. We count it a privilege to present Ana Suleika Cornelio de Alcantara with the 2021 Homes for HOPE Award.  

“If you have a dream and you don’t have the opportunity to do something about it, then it will stay only as a dream.” – Ana