By Amanda Schweikert, Kiva intern
I arrive by boat to the town of Santiago on Lake Atitlán in southern Guatemala. Santiago is a remarkably beautiful town set in a valley nestled between volcanoes, currently covered in an early morning fog. Making my way uphill and into town, I feel very comfortable as if I have been in this place many times before though it is my first trip here. In this picturesque municipality, ten women come together as part of the Flor de Azucena Atitlán, or Atitlán Flower Trust Bank. The group is made up of passionate, exuberant businesswomen that take pride in their Kakchiquel Mayan traditions while making use of modern conveniences to run their businesses and improve their lives.
The members run diverse businesses: from selling cosmetics or fresh fish to producing artisanal textiles. Each woman of the Trust Bank has two children on average and varying years of schooling, from no formal education to receiving a degree to teach primary school. During their monthly meetings, the women receive informal education on diverse topics such as health and wellness, business management and strategies to improve their sales in order to improve their self-esteem and run their businesses effectively. This month, before receiving their new disbursement of Kiva loans, the women discuss the details of the loan. They all agree to pay on time and to support each other in their business ventures.
The members of the Atitlán Flower Trust Bank are thankful for the generosity of Kiva investors. With the help of people worldwide, the women are able to work towards a brighter future for themselves, their families and the community of Santiago Atitlán.