The Angeles Trust Bank is a group of nine women from Santa Clara la Laguna, located high above Lake Atitlán in the Sololá department of southwestern Guatemala. The average age of a member of this Trust Bank is 38 years old and the average education level is two years of formal education. Now, however, most of these women are earning enough to send their children to school and that is a priority for them.
The women of Angeles Trust Bank have a variety of businesses mostly in commerce, including selling clay pots, kitchen materials, clothing, and produce. A few raise bulls and chickens to sell at the market. The Angeles Trust Bank have been together for over six loan cycles and have built strong friendships and have built a circle of support.
They met recently for their monthly repayment meeting and non-formal education lesson. On this day Sara, their loan officer, taught them the importance of eating healthy food using available resources. Often, members of the Trust Bank do not speak Spanish or cannot read, so Friendship Bridge provides easy to use flip charts and hands-on participation to ensure everyone learns. A discussion comparing the importance of meat vs. vegetables begins and many of the women share their thoughts.
Lucia Dolores, who has five children, mentions that fruits and vegetables are nutritious, readily available in the community, and they are less expensive than meat. Eating meat everyday for her family is not an option because of cost. Instead of spending $ 0.50 in herbs and other vegetables, sometimes they spend $5 on two pounds of meat and use it for just one meal. Sara, the Friendship Bridge loan officer, mentions that sometimes people think eating healthy means eating meat every day, but according to research the foods that should appear daily on the plate are: vegetables, fruits, bread, potatoes, tortillas, beans, rice, and oats, which are not hard to get.
At this time the conversation turns to mealtime hygiene. Hygiene for the cooks and simple tasks like children washing their hands before every meal, for better health which means fewer doctor visits.
“Through Friendship Bridge, we are helping ourselves,” said group member Yolanda Yac. “Before we had access to credit, we made just a little bit. Now with our credit, we can buy the beads, thread and everything we need to make more fajas to sell. We couldn’t attend school, but thank God, we are fighting to educate our children and we can pay for them to go to school. The education Friendship Bridge provides is also a benefit for us. We can sell more and learn how to improve our businesses and invest in them.”