By Nicole Brajevich, 2015 Marketing and Treasury Intern
This year I had the honor and privilege of working with Friendship Bridge as both Marketing and Treasury Intern. I am entering my second and last year as a graduate student at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, where I am studying Global Finance, Trade, and Economic Integration with focuses in International Development and International Administration. I am also in the process of receiving a Global Business and Corporate Social Responsibility certificate.
I was introduced to Friendship Bridge in March 2015 through a course at the Korbel School. As part of the curriculum, students acted as consultants to NGOs of their choosing in the Denver community. I chose Friendship Bridge because of my interest in poverty alleviation, women’s empowerment, entrepreneurship, Latin America, and because I wanted to learn more about the microfinance industry. Friendship Bridge was the perfect fit.
My DU consulting group researched peer-to-peer (P2P) crowdfunding for Friendship Bridge. My subsequent internship continued this work by assisting with the crowdfunding campaign that launched September 1st. Within a few short meetings, we had determined a focus for the campaign – Friendship Bridge’s pilot healthcare program Salud para la Vida (Health for Life). I learned a lot about the healthcare program through this campaign and a lot about my own preventative health. The statistics behind the campaign really struck me: “cervical cancer is the second most common cancer affecting women in Guatemala” and “64% of indigenous women reported that they did not wish to have children in the next two years, yet only 10% have access to contraception.”
In addition to helping with the crowdfunding campaign, I uploaded and organized thousands of photos to an online database so Friendship Bridge could easily find appropriate photos for each blog post, annual report, appeal, and social media post. Looking through these photos gave me a better understanding of the work Friendship Bridge does in Guatemala. Many clients looked happy and empowered, some were hard at work, and others were meeting with their Trust Banks. Many lives have been changed through Friendship Bridge and I cannot wait to see how Salud para la Vida will continue to have an impact on the lives of many more clients.
In my role as Treasury Intern, I assisted with several projects. First, I researched the current economic and political environment of Guatemala for the purposes of preparing two items: a “State of Guatemala Report” for the CEO to share with the Board of Directors and an economic indicator monitoring process that will help the Finance Committee better understand currency exchange risks. Second, I utilized the MIX Market financial and social performance database to benchmark Friendship Bridge against 18 other Latin American MFIs. The data will be shared with Friendship Bridge’s Board and utilized in other ways within the organization. And finally, I researched other Latin American Kiva field partners for the purpose of monitoring and potentially improving Friendship Bridge’s performance. Overall, my work has helped Friendship Bridge better understand the environment in which it operates.
I believe Friendship Bridge is a model for what people should think of when the term “microfinance” is mentioned. I saw this at their 25th Anniversary Gala, during which the support and passion of 300 guests illuminated the room. Friendship Bridge does more than just hand out loans; they are improving the lives of many Guatemalan women through various programs, training, and education through their Microcredit Plus program which touches on all sectors of life. It takes a team to get where Friendship Bridge is today and passion, inclusive consulting, and listening to what their clients want is key to their success.
Friendship Bridge is making a difference, and they let me help them make a difference. My internship was not just “busy work,” but work that was used and distributed throughout Friendship Bridge. I learned more than I could have ever imagined and I felt like I made an impact. As I begin a new chapter in my education, I will take with me all the knowledge and success I have learned here. This was a dream internship and I hope to continue making a difference in our world.