Clara A. S. is a Mayan woman who lives high above the beautiful Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Such a beautiful place hides the reality of her poverty. She is 49, married and has ten children, the youngest being 6 years old. Her daily struggles to feed her family and to be able to send all the children to school are immense. Though her husband works as a driver, that does not provide enough to sustain them so they must both work hard to provide for their large family.
Ever since her first loan 6 years ago, she has been making cheese and selling milk. She started her business using her first loan to buy a cow. That cow grew to an enormous size and had a calf. With sadness, she explained that the mother cow died suddenly, leaving her with a 21-day-old calf, which she bottle-fed until it could make it on its own. This calf is now fully grown and has produced a calf of its own.
Besides making cheese and selling milk, she has bought 10 baby chicks. In three months, when they are grown, she will sell them for about US$13.
Though she never went to school or learned to read or write, she is able to speak two languages: Her native language is Quiche and she also speaks Spanish, which she learned as a young girl when she started working as a housekeeper at the age of 7.
With this next loan she will buy a male baby calf, raise it and sell it for meat when it is mature. With this increase in capital she rests assured that the business will prosper and expand, which will result in her being able to send all her kids to school and provide proper nutrition for her family.
About Friendship Bridge
This loan is administered by Friendship Bridge (FB), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that empowers thousands of impoverished Guatemalan women through its Microcredit Plus program. The program combines small loans averaging US$350 for four-to-twelve month loan terms with non-formal, participatory education.
As FB clients, women start, expand, or diversify their businesses and learn practical lessons on topics including business, health, and self-esteem. FB’s clients borrow as a group, forming Trust Banks (groups of 7-25 women who serve as co-guarantors of the loan and act as a self-regulating support network).