By Francisca Villegas, Program Manager, City of Tucson, Arizona
Last summer, I received a call asking me to host two fellows from El Salvador. I was thrilled to accept these bright experts in their field. I run a program that is dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in Tucson, Arizona. I believe that being open and willing to share information, experience, and ideas is what led me to this opportunity. I was very excited when it became my turn to visit their home country and learn more about the work of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
I have had an incredible time in El Salvador! As this is my first visit to this beautiful country, and coming from a desert region, I was awestruck by the lush greenery that surrounds me here. My experience so far has been absolutely fantastic. With the wonderful company of Jose Carlos and Andrea, I have hung out with locals and visited places that probably would have otherwise been inaccessible.
It was an incredibly rewarding experience to witness and exchange best practices with the recently established company TIGMA. The business was created to provide employment for workers who are unable to find work during the off-season of the Zafra. It was heartening to learn that these individuals were able to start a business with the help of a fellow I hosted back home. This experience emphasized the significance of sharing knowledge and paying it forward.
During my recent trip to the country, I had the opportunity to explore it from different angles. I visited small rural towns and the capital city and participated in various activities and classes. I met with high school students from two programs, Juventud Integral El Sauce (JIES) and Superate. These students identified problems and developed businesses using digital technology to solve them. We discussed their plans and the possibility of creating businesses in the future. Regardless of the location I visited, I consistently found friendly people and bustling commerce. And, of course, I always enjoyed delicious pupusas.
Furthermore, I had the pleasure of visiting the renowned Escuela Superior de Economia y Negocios University, ESEN, where I had a productive conversation with Paola Quezada, the Coordinadora de Centro Emprendedor. We discussed the current curriculum and ways to promote economic growth in our local communities. While there, I also met with Rodrigo Molina, a disruptor and digital innovator from Escuela Digital de Santa Monica, and had the opportunity to converse with Enlance, a finance organization committed to offering capital access to the most vulnerable in El Salvador through communal banks. I am excited to continue the conversation with all of them.
This experience inspired me to improve as an economic development practitioner, as we need a more inclusive and innovative ecosystem.
Going forward, let’s embrace the power of helping others. Let’s create more bridges and unlock the endless possibilities that lay before us.
All opinions expressed by the program participants are their own and do not represent nor reflect official views from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, or of the Institute for Training and Development, Inc.