I am always filled with pride at this time of year. It’s a time to pause and reflect on all we have accomplished together at Friendship Bridge. The year 2021 proved to be even more exceptional than we expected, given the difficulties of the past two years with COVID-19 and the way it has changed how we do our work. Because of that, I am even more proud of all we accomplished and the progress we have made toward creating opportunities that empower women in Guatemala to build a better life. Together we achieved an incredible impact, in the lives of our clients, our staff, and the institution, which is why I must share some highlights from this past year.
- Served 32,310 clients, 2,393 more than in 2020.
- Disbursed $20.5 million in new loans, 112% of our goal.
- Portfolio quality results were outstanding, maintaining our position as one of the best in the region and industry with full-year write-offs of 2.5%, delinquency of only 0.27%, and client retention rate of 78.2%.
- Expanded our operations by opening three new branch offices where poverty and migration is the highest (Santo Tomás la Unión and Camojá la Democracia and Chacaco)
- Opened a Call Center with a newly installed PBX that allows inbound and outbound calls for clients with support in several languages, and routes callers to the appropriate area of the organization to resolve client issues faster.
- Remodeled the Lakewood, Colorado office and added a beautiful showroom for Handmade by Friendship Bridge®.
Staff + Team
- Friendship Bridge is a Great Place to Work!! Certified as a Great Place to Work® in Central America and the Caribbean 2021-2022.
- Achieved 2nd place as a Great Places to Work for Women in Central America and the Caribbean.
- Advanced our commitment to gender equality with 48% of internal promotions going to women.
- Women made up 50% of all manager positions.
- Friendship University, our internal training program, offered 14,097 total hours of staff training, with 4,179 participants and 56 training topics.
- Third-party research by our partners at 60 Decibels revealed that:
- Launched a special COVID-19 campaign to promote to clients the importance of getting the vaccine:
- 8,251 clients, or 35%, have received the COVID-19 vaccine, 4,503 of whom received at least a second shot, significantly higher than the rates in the rural population generally.
- Developed and shared throughout the country three videos to encourage clients and their children to get vaccinated in three languages.
- 98% of staff in Guatemala are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Implemented the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan: Impact2 (English // Spanish)
- Successfully rolled over and increased our Private Placement investment to $2.5 million an increase of nearly 60%.
- Raised $1.6 million in donations, grants, and fundraising events exceeding the target by $300 thousand.
- Stay-At-Home Building Bridges Gala: Her Business, Her Way raised $79 thousand.
- Circle Volunteers raised over $180 thousand and our Board of Directors helped raise a total of $445 thousand.
- The Health for Life Challenge fundraiser secured $144 thousand in donations with the support of 70 crowd-funders/donors.
- Received a 4-star rating on Charity Navigator for the second year in a row, the highest rating possible.
- Created Digital publications of Annual Report 2020 (English / Spanish)
- Funded record-breaking $2.7 million on Kiva platform.
- 15 demonstration plots allowed for 60 Agricultural and Livestock Production Field Schools with 450 clients, as part of our Women’s Agriculture Credit & Training program.
- Two non-traditional crops were successfully introduced in the region: watermelon and oyster mushrooms.
- Low-cost technologies were introduced to improve crop production: drip irrigation, injection system (Venturi System), mulch padding, and colored traps for the ethological control of pests.
- Successfully launched the AVICOLA Pilot project, educating clients about the management and breeding of farm animals. A total of 384 clients were trained in the Nebaj and Quiche branches.
Health for Life
- 75% of eligible clients utilized the Health for Life program vs a goal of 65% because health has become a priority since the pandemic and our committed team of nurses reached 91% coverage of the program.
- 31% of our clients chose a Family Planning method.
- Rolled out a mental health pilot program with expectations to expand in 2022.
- Resumed Non-Formal Education (NFE) sessions in the field, incorporating biosafety measures and technology tools for faster and touchless service for our clients.
- 27,988 clients participated in NFE during the year.
- Achieved a 72% knowledge retention rate exceeding the previous three-year average of 61%,
- Launched the E-Learning pilot project to 154 clients in the Advanced Training and Non-Formal Education with plans to expand its scope in 2022.
- Developed and launched the Blended Learning Methodology pilot, Puente de Aprendizaje, issuing iPads to clients for their use of this new methodology. Feedback was excellent.
Bridge to Success
- Launched the Bridge to Success program in August 2021. Through this program, Friendship Bridge is serving a new segment of clients, known as Entrepreneurs, who have growing businesses and can contribute to local employment and community sustainability.
- Golden-Globe-nominated actress María Mercedes Coroy generously donated her time to be featured in our Marketing Launch Campaign (TV/Digital channels) commercials, as part of the new Bridge to Success program launch to help recruit women Entrepreneurs for the program.
Handmade by Friendship Bridge®
- Sales at Handmade by Friendship Bridge® were $100 thousand with nearly 4,700 products sold. Clients in the program employed 106 people during the year and two new online stores were launched on Etsy and Shopify.
- Handmade by Friendship Bridge® was awarded a $100 thousand Marilyn Lone Endowment for Artisans with Friendship Bridge in honor of Marilyn Lone, a talented artisan. Annual distributions from this $100 thousand endowment will benefit women artisan clients working with the Handmade by Friendship Bridge® program. The endowment will provide ongoing support and education so they can continue to create sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families.
Because of you, Friendship Bridge is able to thrive and continue creating opportunities that empower Guatemalan women to build a better life. On behalf of the entire staff, our Board of Directors, and all of our clients at Friendship Bridge, we are so grateful for your support.