The average Friendship Bridge client is a 37 year-old Mayan woman whose household earns between $1.11 and $4.16 a day. On average she has only 3.4 years of formal education, has four children, cannot read or write, and is unlikely to speak Spanish, the official language of Guatemala. All of this adds up to an inability to secure a loan that might better her situation. And that’s where Friendship Bridge comes in.
Friendship Bridge’s average loan size is $318 over nine months with a 3% monthly interest rate, and our clients maintain a 98% loan repayment rate. To borrow through Friendship Bridge’s Microcredit Plus program, women must first form groups of 7-25 members called Trust Banks. Each Trust Bank co-guarantees individual member’s loans and the women participate in Non-Formal Education sessions that are part of every monthly loan repayment meeting.
For me, it is really fun to be in a group: to raise oneself up, to be able to have a business, to be able to work,” Tomasa said. “We have so many needs because of all our children. Four of mine are in primary and one in high school. I didn’t have enough money before, but thankfully with Friendship Bridge I now have extra money for all those extra costs.”- Tomasa
Trust Banks are an integral part of the Microcredit Plus program. They create an empowering environment through the women’s support and encouragement of each other. In other words, they receive social capital in addition to the financial capital they receive through loans.
Each Trust Bank elects an executive committee that includes a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. This elected group is responsible for the management and leadership of the group. They problem-solve when there are attendance or repayment issues with individual members, they work with the Facilitator (loan officer) to conduct effective meetings, and they handle banking (making deposits into and withdrawals out of their account) on behalf of the group.