by Marta Julia Ixtuc
Guatemala is a beautiful country full of hardworking people. Sadly, its political climate and several other injustices prevent families from having access to basic services and good opportunities for development. Added to these factors, the insecurity, and extreme poverty push thousands of Guatemalans to risk their lives by leaving their homes in search of the American Dream.
The US Government recently announced it is cutting all international aid to Guatemala as a way to rebuke the lack of illegal immigration control of thousands of people crossing borders to reach America—not only Guatemalan but from different Central American nationalities. This is a punitive decision that will cause more problems due to the cancellation of the cash flow to several humanitarian projects running in the country. This will force rural people further into extreme poverty and illegal migration.
For 20 years in Guatemala, Friendship Bridge has been helping thousands of Guatemalan women construct their own path towards empowerment, to make the Guatemalan Dream come true. The opportunities we provide keep families together, giving alternatives to migration with the creation of jobs and income. We teach them to manage resources and their businesses, ending poverty not only for our clients but for their communities, and ultimately reaching the Guatemalan Dream.
Ana, who lives in a rural area in the northern Guatemalan highlands, is a great example. She and her family are farmers and lived in desperate poverty. Ana’s husband wanted to migrate to the United States to support his family. However, he couldn’t make it across the border and was deported. They became deeply indebted from his journey from smugglers fees (“coyotes” charge around $12,000 per trip).
Ana stayed behind during her husband’s trip and continued to work on their farm. At a desperate point, she joined Friendship Bridge. Finally, she had financial support and a social help network with neighbors in her Trust Bank. With the training offered by Friendship Bridge, she became empowered, making better decisions for herself and her family. Ana soon joined the Friendship Bridge Women’s Agricultural Credit and Training Program. This program offers technical assistance teaching modern agricultural techniques for improving land use and sustainability. When receiving this support, Ana’s husband decided to stay in Guatemala without trying to return to the US. In Guatemala, their family could build a Guatemalan Dream.
Vidalia is another story of the Guatemalan Dream coming true. She had very little formal education but over the years she has built a small business for herself. Vidalia’s husband wanted to travel to the US due to the few job opportunities that Guatemalan farmers face. Vidalia, being an empowered woman, was able to express to her husband that she did not want to be alone, that they both had to work together to move their family forward. She has received Friendship Bridge’s services for more than 10 years and with it, she has managed to grow their business making jewelry, ornaments, bags, and other products. From their business profits, Vidalia was able to buy a sewing machine that her husband also uses to make new products. The business has been so successful that they now employ dozens of people in their community.
Community development does not happen overnight. It comes after several years, with the support of donations, grants, and investments from people who trust in Friendship Bridge’s vision and mission. We are bringing development opportunities that many Guatemalan families need and deserve. You are part of this effort and we need your help to create opportunities through our Microcredit Plus Program that empower Guatemalan women to build a better life. Please give today, and help us create more opportunities for Guatemalan women to make their Guatemalan Dream come true. Thank you for your support!
Marta Julia Ixtuc is the Client 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.