Jos Adolfo giving a talk to schoolchildren. Photograph: Jorge De La Quintana
One of the reasons why those kids were working was because there was no money at home. Why cant I teach them to save?
Bartselana student bank he founded then now has more than 2,000 clients between the ages of 10 and 18 and offers loans, microinsurance and other financial services. The children can withdraw money from the cashpoints of several banks and building societies using personal bank cards, which no one else can use, and monitor their balances online. He also set savings goals his clients had to reach in order to withdraw money.
Seven years ago, Jos Adolfo managed to convince a handful of teachers and pupils that his idea could work. Then a student prize from his local town hall helped him get the support of a local cooperative to formally register his bank. Since then he has won awards nationally, then internationally and he has not looked back.
From winning Unicefs Child and Youth Finance International Award in 2014 to the Childrens Climate Prize in 2018 and
more recent accolades, Jos Adolfo has combined financial and environmental services.
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The student bank really took off when he came up with an innovative way for the children to earn money by collecting recyclable plastic or paper waste.
The children would sometimes bring savings of a few cents and I had promised that they could buy a bicycle, a computer or a laptop but with that amount of money it would take a long time, he says. I thought there must be a way they can earn money and I thought about rubbish; we all generate rubbish and I decided that was the solution.
The children bring plastic bottles, used school exercise books and old newspapers to a kiosk at their school where it is weighed and their bank accounts are credited with the corresponding amount of money.
Jos Adolfo struck deals with local recycling companies to pay his banks clients a slightly higher price than normal; for example 0.80 Peruvian Soles (0.19 GBP) a kilogram of plastic or white paper.
We dont want them to be in the street collecting rubbish but at home stopping the rubbish from reaching the street. So in their homes, they put out boxes for cardboard, paper, bottles they start collecting and it becomes valuable, Jos Adolfo explains.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed by Perus environment ministry, which has made home recycling one of its principal campaigns. The country has introduced a law to tackle its
estimated 18,000 tonnes of solid waste a day, half of which is not disposed of in landfills and ends up on streets, beaches and in rivers.
Hes making an incredible change in financial structuring and financial education that perhaps many adults could not have come up with, said Perus environment minister, Luca Ruiz, as she joined Jos Adolfo at a recent event in Arequipa.
By joining that with recycling and the handling of waste, a serious problem in our country, hes scoring a double goal because hes not just designing a financial opportunity for children and teenagers but also helping to reduce the amount of waste in the country.
Its a very hectic life for a 14-year-old, Jos Adolfo says. Even so, Im passionate about what I do and I always tell people they should do what they like rather than what others believe they should do.
The bank recycles about four tonnes of material a month and has kiosks in seven schools in Arequipa; more are on a waiting list. Increasingly the model is in demand in the rest of
Peru and abroad.
Meanwhile, Jos Adolfo is studying online as he no longer has time to attend school.
Hes given up many childhood things games, activities, what normal children do but he too is a normal child, he just sees things differently and thinks in another way, says his father, Herbert Quisocala, who left his job a year ago to help his son.
If he wants to cry, Im here to help him understand that life is like that and you have to learn to accept the good with the bad.
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