For the last 12 years, Ramos C. has been weaving and selling her Mayan handicrafts in a village along the shore of Lake Atitlan in the Highlands of Guatemala. You can find this shy woman weaving a belt or a tablecloth every day at a stall along the road, which leads to and from the docks at the lake. She works hard in order to take care of her ten children, aged 3 to 23. At the age of 42, she and her husband dream of earning enough to feed, clothe and educate all ten of their children. She never had an educational opportunity and speaks mostly the local Mayan language, Cachiquel.
Ramos will be starting her ninth credit, with more than four years of successful repayment history. The credit she is requesting in this cycle will be used to buy materials and also to pay for some of the school expenses of her children.
The closest she has come to receiving an education is at the monthly meetings of her women’s credit group called “Santa Caterina”. Here she learns about managing a business, health care for herself and her family and gets to talk with other women. Ramos likes the meeting very much, but because of her diminished hearing, it is sometimes hard to understand all that is going on, and sometimes the meeting deals with subjects, which are far from her normal day to day life.
Before she took out her first loan she could only make one product at a time because she had to sell that one in order to buy material for the next. With her small credits she has been able to buy enough material to weave many and sell her hand-woven craft at her own stall along the road, which leads to and from the docks at the lake.
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).