by Anne-Celine Jeffroy-Meynard
As my first week interning at Friendship Bridge in Guatemala comes to a close, I am very humbled, thankful, and excited for the next eight weeks! Getting to meet women who are the heart and purpose of Friendship Bridge motivates me to lift their voices through storytelling.
Working in Sololá, there is always movement and a friendly face to meet in the office. I am often greeted with a kiss on the cheek and a, “mucho gusto” by employees. Being able to work in such a dynamic and energized office makes the workday go by quickly! I find myself staying past the end of the workday, often without realizing it, because I’ll be editing an interview or chatting with a coworker over tea or coffee.
During my first week in Guatemala, I visited a Trust Bank comprised of seven K’iche women in the Western Highlands. After walking, taking two buses, and one tuk-tuk, we arrived at their village and were welcomed by a group of kids eager to play with our notebooks and devices while practicing their Spanish (the primary language there is K’iche).
Right on time, the Facilitator started the meeting with an ice-breaker. Following this, the Facilitator described how Friendship Bridge’s Microcredit Plus program works and what they can expect during their monthly repayment meetings and Non-Formal Education sessions. Finally, while the Facilitator asked each woman specific questions for monitoring and evaluation purposes, my co-worker and I interviewed the president of the Trust Bank, Santos. Santos is an illiterate, 35-year-old woman with five children who runs her own sewing and weaving business of traditional Maya clothing including huipils (traditional blouses) and fajas (traditional belts).
Before leaving, we all sat down to snack on freshly made horchata (a rice drink) and sweet bread, a delicious and satisfying treat. This was my favorite moment – enjoying an extremely generous meal while talking with the women and the children, laughing and smiling. Soon after, we said our goodbyes and traveled back to Sololá by bus, tuk-tuk, and foot.
This first experience in the field got me very excited about my future work – meeting more incredible women to tell their story. The women I met are self-starters, motivated, and hardworking. I’m sure they will succeed. I am very excited as I embark on this journey with Friendship Bridge, and I know I will continue to grow through more time in the field.
Anne-Celine Jeffroy-Meynard is studying International Studies and Public Affairs with a focus on Public Health at Seattle University. She grew up bi-culturally, half in the San Rafael, CA, half in St. Malo, France. Anne-Celine has previously studied abroad in India, South Africa, and Brazil on a community health program where she did primary research and fieldwork on environmental health. She has also virtually interned with USAID through Virtual Student Foreign Service analyzing their HIV program in Namibia. Currently, she is interning with Friendship Bridge in Sololá, Guatemala where she is acting as a Field Blogger and Storyteller. In the future, she hopes to engage in the field of global health to empower the voices and experiences of those who have been silenced by unequitable healthcare systems.