Friendship Bridge is a nonprofit that aims to help impoverished Guatemalan women bring an end to their poverty through microfinance and educational programs. By providing small loans and financial education, Friendship Bridge enables women to start, grow, and diversify their own businesses, creating lasting change for themselves, their families, and their communities.
One method Friendship Bridge uses to dig impoverished women out of financial struggle is combining microcredit with education and social services. Friendship Bridge gives loans of about $318 each over the course of nine months with a small monthly interest rate of three percent. In order to be eligible for Friendship Bridge’s loans, clients are asked to form groups of 7-25 members known as Trust Banks. This method is known as Microcredit Plus.
Through this system, each Trust Bank co-guarantees individual client’s loans and ensures that all members attend mandatory informal education sessions (which also include monthly loan repayment meetings). In these meetings, clients are given important instruction on money management as well as life skills on health, business, women’s rights, and children’s education.
Grooming many self-sufficient clients and mentors, the program has truly evolved since its conception in Vietnam, where the organization focused on programs in medical education and providing medical supplies to war-torn areas in the 1990s. It eventually expanded its cause to Guatemala in 1998 and created the Microcredit Plus program in 1998.
Friendship Bridge’s programs have proven incredibly successful. Clients average a 98.6 percent loan repayment rate. Moreover, Friendship Bridge’s mentorship program has proven very useful by pairing long-term, advanced clients with inexperienced ones in need of “in-depth business mentoring.” Friendship Bridge educates and supplies women with business avenues and jobs that allow them to develop their own sustainable and reliable sources of income, and because of this to maintain a larger level of independence.
Through the organization’s Artisan Program, clients develop artisan and manufacturing skills that also align with their own cultural roots and traditions. As the second largest income avenue aside from agriculture, artisan economy is approximately a $32 billion industry. Friendship Bridge has an online store that sells many of its own clients’ products. The organization is responsible for the creation and growth of many women’s businesses, currently supporting more than 4,000 artisan clients.
Friendship Bridge records many of its success stories online, and is responsible for launching or improving thousands of successful and sustainable businesses. The organization’s site features the nonprofit’s home-grown clients-turned-business owners and entrepreneurs who credit the organization for much of their financial success. One such former client is Ana, whose home-cooked tamale business is putting her children through school and supporting her family. “Four years ago I had less business, and I wanted to have more goals to improve myself,” Ana explained. “Friendship Bridge has taught me to be an entrepreneurial woman … [It] opened the door for me to improve my business. Friendship Bridge gave me confidence.”
Friendship Bridge’s strategic combination of social services, education, and financial loan support has jump-started the careers and boosted the self-confidence of countless Guatemalan women.
Sign Up For Our Newsletter