Since 2018, Vida Plena has been empowering women in the Dominican Republic to break the cycle of poverty
It is yet another rainy and cold day in Boston and Yung Winata, Ale Eguren and I (MBAs ’22) open our laptops to connect to Zoom. On the screen, Josh Porter smiles while updating us on the sunny, warm weather of the Dominican Republic. Since September last year, we have been having these monthly meetings as part of a Consulting For Impact Club pro-bono consulting project.
Porter started Vida Plena in 2018 as a ministry of 2nd Mile Missions, with a clear mission—empowering women in the Dominican Republic to break the cycle of poverty. They do so by “providing artisan trade training, micro-finance programs, adult literacy classes, and dignified employment in a safe, secure, and Christ-centered environment.” Since then, 101 women have completed classes, 19 micro-loans have been given, 25 women have been employed and 11,124 pieces of jewelry have been sold. This impact was achieved despite the Covid-19 crisis, which completely paused all tourism on the island.
“Like many others, achieving the economic and business goals of Vida Plena have been challenged this year,” says Porter. “Our local clients in the hotel and excursion industry closed in March and most have yet to reopen. However, despite the challenges this year, we’ve been able to continue providing trade training, adult education, micro-finance, and dignified employment to the women we’ve made a commitment to without ceasing. Their invitation and participation in the programs and employment we offer makes a statement under normal circumstances, but in a community that is currently suffering more than 80% unemployment, the way that 2nd Mile Missions and Vida Plena has been able to continue investing in those on the margins communicates that we’re here to stay and are firmly committed to loving them in word and deed for the long term.”
Vida Plena’s team’s enthusiasm and passion to help the women in their community is contagious. Together with Eguren and Winata, we find ourselves feeling more and more involved in their mission. On the one hand, as members of the Consulting For Impact Club, we help structure their strategy, organize ideation sessions and explore ideas to grow both revenue and margin. On the other hand, as millennials, we fall in love with their products. We buy earrings and matching coconut bracelets, and we plan post-pandemic trips to their workshop in the sunny island, picturing ourselves wearing the beautiful shorts they make.
We would like to share three learnings from this wonderful experience. First, when developing a strategy, always align it with your mission—Porter continued to emphasize during our meetings: “no matter what we decide, I need to be able to keep the women on the payroll.” Second, no impact is too small to try. Every pair of earrings sold directly helps empower women in the Dominican Republic. And they are so beautiful! Third, practice makes perfect. Winata, Eguren and I have multiplied by several factors our learnings from the classroom by putting them into practice.
How can you help? Spread the word. Share Vida Plena’s website and follow them on Instagram. Buy the products that you like or make a donation to their mission. And if you are in the Dominican Republic in the future, visit them at the workshop and meet the wonderful women who are hard at work in elevating this community!
Noelia Lombardo Gava (MBA ’22) was born in Argentina but identifies herself as a global citizen. She is a biomedical engineer, a management consultant, a storyteller and a lifelong migrant. She loves the outdoors, diving, yoga, reading, and good debates.