By Fernando Gimeno
Quito, Jul 11 (EFE).- From emigrants working as house cleaners or caregivers to owners of their own businesses. That is the radical shift some Ecuadorians are making on their return to their homeland after a stint in Spain.
Thanks to a voluntary productive return program funded by the Spanish government’s Inclusion, Social Security and Migration Ministry and the European Union, these individuals have started a range of businesses in Ecuador that include animal breeding centers, retail outlets and even a store selling 3D-printed orthopedic devices.
They include Jenny Gallo, who returned in May with her nine and 12-year-old daughters to Ambato, capital of the central Ecuadorian province of Tungurahua, to open an innovative store that sells 3D-printed walkers, prostheses and splints for both people and pets.
The woman began manufacturing these normally exorbitantly priced devices after her daughter was diagnosed with Delleman-Oorthuys syndrome, a rare congenital anomaly with ocular, cerebral and cutaneous manifestations.
“The walkers we make are between $400 and $500. Elsewhere, you’ll find them for between 1,500 and 2,000 euros ($1,510 and $2,013),” Gallo, who had spent a year cleaning houses and caring for the elderly in the western Spanish city of Badajoz, told Efe.
“But there was no work, and since I was with my two girls things got really complicated,” the woman said, adding that she was a victim of fraud when acquiring cash for her return to Ecuador.
She then desperately sought help from Asociacion Rumiñahui, an Ecuadorian organization in Spain that assists people trying to access funds through the voluntary productive return program.
Another woman, 29-year-old Ana Gabriela Guajan, received assistance from that same program in launching an animal breeding business in Cayambe, a rural town north of Quito.
She had traveled three years earlier to the northern Spanish city of Pamplona to study business administration but had to interrupt her studies when she was diagnosed with leukemia and needed to undergo a life-saving bone-marrow transplant.
“It was a total success. Thank God I’m alive and I returned to Ecuador,” Guajan told Efe, saying she wanted to be with her mother while continuing with her rehabilitation.
“It’ll take a few more years to be physically recovered and be able to resume my life,” she said, adding that the breeding center for Guinea pigs, considered a delicacy in the Ecuadorian highlands, will allow her to cover the cost of her medication.
Further north, in the town of Otavalo, 27-year-old Jessica Rivera attends to customers who enter her animal feed store, which she opened in May after arriving from Madrid with her newborn daughter.
“It was the right move for me because I have to spend the majority of the time with her and I don’t have to leave her in another place in order to work,” said Rivera, who had done cleaning work in the Spanish capital.
Sagrario Salaberri, the counsellor of the Work, Migration and Social Security area of the Spanish Embassy in Ecuador, said the experiences of Gallo, Guajan and Rivera are examples of the promising opportunities that await enterprising Ecuadorians in their homeland.
“Returning (home) with a business, in which you also have independence and autonomy, is a big help and something that motivates you. If there’s vision behind an entrepreneurial project, it could be the future for an entire family.” Salaberri told Efe.
Although the voluntary productive return program also is available for migrants returning to other countries such as Colombia and Senegal, the partnership with Asociacion Rumiñahui has enabled around 250 Ecuadorians to benefit over the past 15 years, that organization’s president, Vladimir Paspuel, says.
The initiative, which focuses on migrants in situations of vulnerability, covers the airfare of each beneficiary and provides them with a 450-euro bonus and up to 6,000 euros to start their businesses.
The returning migrants must commit to not returning to Spain for at least three years.
“We urge the EU to get even more involved. I don’t think people should be sent back to their home countries with no resources or money. They end up re-emigrating later. We have to invest in enterprising people like Jenny, Ana and Jessica who have a strong desire” to succeed in Ecuador, Paspuel said. EFE