Empower women. Eliminate poverty.

Category : Cada Mes

Cada Mes Club – A Monthly Journey of Support

by Kyra Coates

Maria Pu is 41 years old and has 7 children. She is a tomato farmer in rural Guatemala, and lives surrounded by steep terrain and green hills. In 2014 she wanted to increase her crops, yet had no capital to do it.

“There are not many organizations that give loans to farmers because of the risk in agriculture due to bad farming practices or the weather,” said Maria. “Also being a woman, they do not take us as seriously.”

So she came to Friendship Bridge, and is now a member of a Trust Bank, and part of our Women’s Agriculture Credit and Training Program. Every month she meets with her fellow Trust Bank members for further training on modern farming techniques. Now after three years she is successfully watching her farm grow. Through all seasons, turmoil, successes, she has had Friendship Bridge Trust members and facilitators supporting her step-by-step along the way, and they aren’t the only ones.

Thousands of miles away in Colorado there is a family of four that month-by-month is supporting Maria and her training as well as other Friendship Bridge clients, though Maria has never heard their names before. They are Matthew and Angie Brand, parents to Sara, 2, and Ava, 1. The Brands are members of Friendship Bridge’s monthly giving program, called the Cada Mes Club. Their monthly donations support programs like the one Maria is a part of. They also volunteer their time with staff members at the Lakewood, CO office. Matthew helps with website and SEO optimization, and Angie takes on a variety of projects as needs arise. The Brands shared with us their thoughts on why they choose to support Friendship Bridge.

Friendship Bridge: “Why did you decide to join the Cada Mes Club?”

Brands: “We switched to the Cada Mes Club in 2017 in order to smooth out our donations throughout the year. Prior to that, we sporadically donated, but would often forget the schedule and then play catch up at the end of the each year in order to meet our personal donation goal. We have our donations scheduled with our bank to send a check monthly now and it’s better for our budget and hopefully helps Friendship Bridge with planning as well. “

FB: “What made you choose Friendship Bridge as an organization to support?”

Brands: “We found Friendship Bridge through Charity Navigator. It was important to us to give to a four star charity so that we knew our money would be used wisely. We identified with the mission of bringing people out of poverty because we feel that is how our money can have the biggest impact.”

FB: “Why do you volunteer your time?”

Brands: “We both started volunteering our time last fall. Angie has translated a Spanish document and Matthew is providing support and feedback on the website. Since Angie quit her job to stay at home with our children, we have less capacity to donate money, but like to offer our skills as somewhat of a substitute. Volunteering has also helped us learn more about the organization.”

FB: “What would you tell others who are thinking about joining Cada Mes or volunteering their time?”

Brands: “Anything that you can do, even if it doesn’t seem like much, will help others and make the world a better place.”

We here at Friendship Bridge want to thank the Brands for their generous support, as well as all our members of the Cada Mes Club, and all our volunteers. We wouldn’t be able to have the impact we do without you, so clients like Maria Pu can continue on her journey of having a thriving business to support her family and community.

Want to be a Cada Mes Club member and leave a lasting impact? Check out our Donate page here to sign up! Interested in volunteering with us? Fill out a volunteer form here and we will contact you!

Also, for our upcoming 2018 Building Bridges Stay-At-Home Gala all Cada Mes Club members get an exclusive ticket price of only $30! Don’t miss this opportunity to support an amazing event at an affordable price by becoming a member today!

Find out more about the Gala here.

Turning Promises Into Action: Why Our Work Matters

by Brittaney Lupo

The United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development pledges that no one will be left behind in the realization of human rights for all. Adopted in September 2015 the Agenda is a plan of action that contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals(SDG).  A report released February 14, Turning Promises Into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, reveals that without urgent action in regards to gender equality that pledge will not be able to be kept and many women will be left behind.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women, spoke to reporters at the launch of the report stating that the progress towards gender equality is moving too slow to achieve the SDGs by 2030. “Even where progress is made, it may not reach the women and girls who need it most and the ones that are being left furthest behind,” she explains.  

The women being left behind include the 330 million that live on less than $1.90 per day, a number that is 4.4 million more than men. Women in developing countries, like Guatemala, are more likely to not have access to clean water, sanitization and durable housing. Access to education is also more limited for with 15 million not ever getting a chance to read or write compared to 10 million boys.

At Friendship Bridge, we are dedicated to stepping up for these women and making sure they are not left behind. Over half of our clients fall into the criteria described above with a daily household income of $1.11 to $2.35, 0 to 2 years of education and living in homes with mud and dirt flooring. Through involvement in our Microcredit Plus program, our clients receive needed loans and education to grow their businesses and improve their incomes with 88% feeling that their incomes have increased or stabilized with 3% rising above the national poverty line. What we do is truly making a difference.

The Turning Promises into Action report shows that we cannot be content with what we are currently doing. It is not enough. We have more women to reach. We have more work to do in order to help achieve the global goal of human rights for all with no one left behind.

In order for us to keep reaching more women we need you. Here is a list of ways we need your help:


Without Firm Action on Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment, World May Miss Development Targets | Un News


2016 Annual Report | Friendship Bridge


Brittaney Lupo is currently studying Web Design and Development at Brigham Young University-Idaho. Through her course of studies her passion for social media as a means of promoting and raising awareness for websites has grown. Currently she is interning with Friendship Bridge as the Social Media Coordinator in Colorado. When she’s not on social media she is exploring beautiful Colorado with her husband and 3 children.


Faces of Empowerment – The Power of Education

by Rachel Turner

For the following nine weeks, Friendship Bridge is proud to present the photo series, Faces of Empowerment.  The women you will meet in this series are strong, smart, and determined to better their futures.  Welcome to the first photo of Faces of Empowerment.

“Each month after I come home from the Friendship Bridge education session, I talk to my daughter, Yani, about what I’ve learned. It’s exciting to pass on to my daughter what I’m learning about how strong and capable women are. Before I came to Friendship Bridge, I always heard that men know more than women, but Friendship Bridge has elevated us women and encouraged us by teaching us that men and women have the same value, and they should have the same rights. We are to be equally valued. This is the lesson I’ve remembered most and the one that I teach my daughter often.”
-Doña Arasely, Friendship Bridge Client

Friendship Bridge clients continue along their monthly journeys, making loan payments and receiving monthly Non-Formal Education lessons on the four pillars – women, family, business, and health.  The Cada Mes Club, our monthly donors, follows this journey closely. The Club’s support is integral in providing this life-changing education. This quarter, we’re teaching clients how to manage business logs.  Click here to learn how to join the Cada Mes Club.

Empower Women, Change the World

by Hannah Perkins and Marta Ixtuc

The United Nations’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is recognized annually on August 9th. “Women are given little opportunity for development, but we have potential,” says Sebastiana, a Guatemalan Friendship Bridge client. “So, I thank Friendship Bridge for having me as a client. Now, I not only have capital to work with, but I also have knowledge. I have learned a lot during the monthly trainings, especially in the management of money, budgeting, health, and other topics.”

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples brings awareness to the achievements and contributions that indigenous people make to improve world issues including human rights, the environment, health, education, and economic and social development. Mastering the art of weaving at just 12 years old and marrying by 15 years old, Sabastiana only attended school up to the first grade. After finding Friendship Bridge four years ago, she obtained microloans and educational training. Sabastiana now manages a traditional textile shop that her daughters run, a “nixtamal” (corn cleaning/grinding mill), and an animal husbandry business (chickens, pigs, and turkeys). Through the opportunities Friendship Bridge creates she has also been able to provide education for her children up to the sixth grade.

Friendship Bridge is a registered 501©(3) nonprofit organization that empowers impoverished Guatemalan women to create a better future for themselves, their children and their communities through microfinance, education, and health services. Friendship Bridge works primarily with indigenous populations in rural areas where the rate of poverty in Guatemala is the highest. Half of Guatemalan children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition and more than 60% of indigenous women are illiterate.

Why focus on women like Sabastiana? Globally speaking, women make up 70% of the world’s poor, and typically invest up to 90% of their income in their families and communities. Sabastiana’s time working with Friendship Bridge has empowered her to expand her business effectively, while investing in her family’s well-being by sending them to school and providing a healthy living environment. Investing in women and indigenous populations around the world improves universal issues and helps close the gap on formal recognition and understanding of current policies.


Hannah Perkins, Friendship Bridge Communications Intern, hails from Maine and recently graduated from Susquehanna University with a degree in Communications, Multimedia-Broadcast and a minor in Women’s Studies.




Marta Julia Ixtuc is the Communications Coordinator in Guatemala. Based in Sololá, she continues seeking to support the development of Guatemalan women in search of their own ways out of poverty.





Thanks to Photolease and the Cada Mes Club for making it possible to provide services to Sebastiana and other Friendship Bridge Clients.

Education Changes Lives Cada Mes

2017 is on its way, and our clients are enjoying the beautiful weather Guatemala has to offer. They continue along their monthly journeys with Friendship Bridge, making loan payments and receiving lessons on the four pillars – women, family, business, and health.  The Cada Mes Club, our monthly donors, follows this journey closely. The Club’s support is integral in providing this life-changing education. This quarter, we feature how preventive health education is saving lives. Click here to learn how to join the Cada Mes Club.

Doña Mili receives hugs from her grandson, while surrounded by family who are also part of her Trust Bank.

by Rachel Turner

Doña Mili walked slowly to her friend’s house passing small gardens and shooing chickens away with her handkerchief. She paused briefly to wipe sweat from her face. At 9 a.m., the sun already bore down on the small southern village near Patulul, Guatemala.

Arriving at Doña Ofelia’s home, Doña Mili walked up the dirt patio, gave Doña Ofelia a cheek kiss, and settled on a tree stump under the tin awning while waving flies away with her handkerchief. The women caught up on life since their last Trust Bank meeting, and Doña Ofelia continued sweeping the dirt patio – her one-year-old in tow.

The two ladies waited for their Trust Bank colleagues to arrive one by one. Doña Ofelia, as president of the Trust Bank, had offered to host a health clinic in her two-bedroom house with permission from her husband. As the community matriarch, Doña Mili, 49, came early to encourage the ladies to receive the free health education and services offered by Friendship Bridge and their partner The Maya Health Alliance (Wuqu’ Kawoq).

Doña Mili speaks with Nurse Dina from The Maya Health Alliance about preventive health during her exam.

A few months earlier, Doña Mili’s Trust Bank learned about women’s preventive health during their monthly Non-Formal Education (NFE) meeting, and although a bit wary, most of the twelve ladies excitedly signed up to see the traveling nurses for a free exam.

“In our community, it’s a luxury to get sick. It’s too expensive to get the care we need many times when we get sick,” said Doña Mili. “That’s why I encourage my group to take advantage of this opportunity for health services. Until our NFE meeting, many of us didn’t know what tests we needed.”

In our community, it’s a luxury to get sick. It’s too expensive to get the care we need many times when we get sick. Share on X

At the end of the day, after all the women had learned more about preventive health care, received pap smears, and glucose tests, Doña Mili sat on the same tree stump smiling and laughing with her friends and family from the Trust Bank. “This is our first time hosting a health clinic, and we had a great turn-out,” said Doña Mili. “We must continue with education – it’s so important!”

Rachel Turner is the Global Communications Manager for Friendship Bridge. Having worked and lived throughout the world, she’s excited to now call the foothills of the Rocky Mountains home. Rachel recently visited Guatemala to meet Doña Mili and other clients working with Friendship Bridge.

Non-Formal Education 4Q16: Trust Bank Board Responsibilities, the Solidarity Guarantee, and the Facilitator’s Role

 A special thanks to our Cada Mes Club – Friendship Bridge’s monthly donors – for supporting our clients on their monthly journeys.

Zoila says that the topic of solidarity guarantee is very important within the trust bank. This allows the women to create bonds of trust by getting to know each other and their businesses better. Trust is key to practice solidarity during payments and to support groupmates in difficult circumstances. Each woman understands that to be a part of a successful trust bank, she must have the commitment and responsibility of payment.

Each month the members of every Trust Bank travel, most likely by foot, to their designated meeting places to make payments on their loans and receive a Non-Formal Education lesson in their native languages on one of the four pillars – women, family, business, and health. During the below three education sessions, building group structure and trust are key components to a healthy support system and Trust Bank.

October – Board Responsibilities

The Trust Bank’s elected President, Secretary, and Treasurer face the group and kick off the meeting! They are the topic of discussion this month. To get the women thinking about leadership, they are asked to recall a leader they admire greatly and to come up with some characteristics that describe that person. Next they are read the story of a perfectly run, fictional Trust Bank, whose board does everything required in a friendly, respectful manner. The meeting ends with each board member reading a pledge of the duties she commits to perform during her term.

November – The Solidarity Guarantee

Each member of a Trust Bank commits to paying the entire loan even when one member defaults. This is called the solidarity guarantee. The concept of solidarity is made real to the women when they are asked to visualize how they feel and what they do when they learn a member of their community has experienced a birth or a death. Reciprocity, responsibility, empathy, respect, and common experience are ideas that come to mind. Since those feelings are made stronger the better known the affected individual is, the women are reminded of the importance of getting to know one another. As a final application of the concept, the women are asked at the end of the meeting to produce 20Q of their own money. Of course, not everyone will have it. The lack or possession of the money produces a set of feelings towards themselves and one another that should give them something to reflect on.

December – The Facilitator’s Role

A Facilitator at Friendship Bridge has a very big job. They assist in the formation of new Trust Banks, prepare for and teach a new lesson each month to dozens of existing groups, travel, often by foot, to remote areas to meet with clients, and they do all this in the rain or shine! This month the Trust Bank members are asked to describe their experiences meeting their Facilitator for the first time. At the end of the meeting, they discuss among themselves what medal they will award their Facilitator… gold, silver, or bronze… and why he/she deserves the medal received. It is intended to be an opportunity for the Facilitator to gain feedback on the important work they do.