Banco de Mejoras (Bank of Improvements) was born in 2014 as a social enterprise focused on giving low-income citizens of Costa Rica small lines of credit to improve their homes. In 2016, three architecture students from the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica (ULatina) joined the initiative, convinced that they couldn’t just sit on the sidelines of social disparity in their country. Juan Pablo Castillo, Josué Bermúdez, and Fabricio Abarca, all graduates of ULatina’s School of Architecture, joined the first Technical Inspection Unit team of Banco de Mejoras, which provides the families with assistance and orientation in the process of improving their homes.
“When you offer someone the opportunity to improve their way of life, you also help them to improve other aspects of their lives,” the Banco de Mejoras team said. “We have been surprised at how issuing these loans leads to improvements in emotional, professional, and familial areas.” The organization has so far issued 25 lines of credit, totaling over $20,000. Their work has gained the political support of the Vice President of Costa Rica, Ana Elena Chacón, and the First Lady of the country, Mercedes Peña, and they have also built partnerships with local governments and nonprofit organizations.
The families receive the credit in the form of materials to improve their homes, and also obtain advice and orientation on design, materials, and maintenance of the improvements from students of the School of Architecture at ULatina. Families benefit from this advice, and students are able to apply their theoretical and practical knowledge in the field. Just as Abarca, Castillo, and Bermúdez decided to participate in the effort to lessen social disparity in their country, they hope that the students who work with them will be motivated to do the same.