A loan of $3,675 helped a member to purchase thread for weaving and inventory for store.

Belen Cerro De Oro (Group 2)'s story

The road into Cerro de Oro cuts through lush forests, passing by men with machetes chopping away, others carrying their day’s gatherings on their backs to be sold as firewood in town. Along the forests are thousands of rocks, several serving as billboards for political slogans, too many others as memorials. The road opens up to an emerging little town, with a school on the right, and an avocado tree on the left. Underneath the avocado tree sit 28 women, vying for the relief its branches offer from the unforgiving sun. They have gathered here once a month for the past seven years. The women of the Belen communal bank have overcome insurmountable odds, one loan at a time.

The women of Belen come from a region rich in weaving, and many grew up learning the intricate art from their parents. From the time they were young, they were working for meager wages in weaving factories, earning barely enough to survive, with no way to get ahead. After joining Friendship Bridge, they were given the initial push they needed to escape their poverty. Today, seven years later, every single woman has her own weaving business, earning a fair income that supports their families and even enough to send all their children to school. They wear this success with a humble pride, supporting each other in their victories and obstacles.

Ten of the 28 women are asking for a loan of 28,000 quetzales ($3,675), ranging from $300 to $400 per person. Nine of the women will invest this money in their weaving businesses, purchasing thread to weave intricate huipiles (traditional blouses like the ones in the picture), skirts, scarves, and blankets. A single huipil can take up to a month to make, and after an initial investment of about 200 quetzales ($25), it can be sold for around 500 quetzales ($65). All the supplies are purchased in the nearby town of Santiago de Atitlán. A few of the women also employ as many as five other women, and part of the loan will go towards paying their salaries. Having the extra help greatly increases production (which is essential when a single product takes a month to make), and therefore adds significantly to the potential income. One woman also runs a small store, selling snacks, soft drinks and daily necessities such as soap and toilet paper. She plans to restock her store and add new varieties of snacks to keep her customers interested.

The women of Belen have come very far over the past seven years and they don’t plan on stopping. They want to expand their businesses; the ones who currently work alone would like to someday hire help. They would also like to expand to other nearby markets, bringing in new customers. Everything they do is for the future of their children, and their dreams revolve around educating their children, with the hope that they can learn to read and write, and someday become professionals, free of the hardships of their parents.

In this group: Carmen, Santos, Juana, Julia, Josefa, Elena, Concepcion, Melchora, Carmen, Luina*

Loan details

Lenders and lending teams

Loan details