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Curtis Bennett
Ines Cano Diaz received mentoring through Cause for Hope to help her start her own business making tortillas -- a business that now earns her four times as much money per month. Diaz's family is seen here with (from left) Charles Didier, Curtis Bennett, Gary Coleman and mentor Larry ZuNiga.

Ines Cano Diaz learned from her grandmother how to make tortillas, which she sold in her hometown of Masaya, Nicaragua. She made $100 per month — that was before she found Cause for Hope.

Those at Cause for Hope tackle poverty by providing mentoring assistance to impoverished families and individuals throughout Central and South America.

“For us, mentoring is the secret sauce of Cause for Hope,” said Curtis Bennett, Cause for Hope’s chief operating officer. “It’s one thing to give someone a loan, but what do they do after the money is spent? In these impoverished countries, the whole idea of a budget is just something that they generally don’t do.”

In 2001, Dan Gifford, currently the chairman of the Cause for Hope board of governors, led a task force commissioned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to investigate poverty in developing countries and sources for improvement. Gifford concluded that mentoring was the key to success.

He later created the independent organization Cause for Hope, which is not affiliated with the LDS Church.

Diaz now makes $400 per month thanks to Cause for Hope’s mentoring program. She has employed her daughter Reyna to help make 500 tortillas a day, up from 50 previously, and is able to track her tortilla business’ progress since learning to budget her expenses, Bennett said.

Relying completely on funding from generous donors, Cause for Hope officials have hired 21 full-time mentors who each work with as many as 40-50 families at a time. These mentors visit with each family or individual two or three times a month to help establish budgets and to provide vocational training and general financial education.

Cause for Hope’s main goal is to help families achieve self-reliance. According to the organization, in 2013 Cause for Hope helped 1,600 families — each family earned an average of $82 per month and had $22 in savings per month. After mentoring through Cause for Hope, each family earned an average of $293 per month and placed $91 in savings.

“A lot of people come to us asking how we can know that our system will work,” Bennett said. “One of the things we’re very proud of is that we can quantify our impact.”

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By tracking the progress of each enrolled family or individual in its database, Cause for Hope estimates a total economic impact of $6 million through the 1,600 families in 2013. For Bennett, however, the personal reward is more individual.

“The most gratifying thing I hear when I talk to these families is when a father will say, ‘I was in poverty, and my parents, and my grandparents,’ ” Bennett said. “ ‘But finally, once and for all, I’m out, and my children will never have it.’”

See causeforhope.org for information.

Taylor Hintz is a Deseret News features reporter and currently a journalism student at Brigham Young University in Provo. Email: thintz@deseretnews.com