Empower women. Eliminate poverty.



Marcela doesn’t crack a smile, it breaks across her face with such light that you can’t help but smile back. Behind it, she’s lived through countless setbacks, but chooses to stay positive all the same. Her resilience, paired with a little help from Friendship Bridge, has carried her to new heights that once upon a time, she couldn’t have imagined.

At 15, Marcela had stopped going to school and sought security in a husband. Her marriage went south when he started drinking and jeopardized the family’s wellbeing. After a decade and a half together, he passed away, leaving Marcela with 5 children. Faced with this adversity, however, Marcela soldiered on, and found economic opportunity in textiles.

As a girl, she grew up surrounded by community members who all knew the ancient Mayan weaving traditions. When her sister invited her to join a female weaving collective, and Marcela picked up the loom back up as if no time had passed. Immediately, it filled her with a renewed sense of self-confidence that had all but disappeared in her marriage. “I felt trapped before, but now I feel free,” Marcela explains.

Marcela also discovered Friendship Bridge when she became part of the collective. With microloans, her business grew from just her to employing 5 weavers. Today she manages three separate Friendship Bridge loans, adding up to 13,000Q. In 2016, things took off even more when she joined the Artisan Program as one of its first members. The program empowers artists like Marcela with the business savvy needed to develop products and sell to the U.S. “Before, I didn’t know what a ‘finished product’ really meant, but I’ve learned what it takes to get interested buyers to say yes to placing an order.” Marcela has sold dozens of products abroad, but she’s not about to rest on her laurels. “I still need to produce more, design other styles,” Marcela insists.

With her hunger for learning and love of weaving, Marcela has reinvented her life with independence and purpose, and her horizons look as bright as her toothy grin. “Everyone who put me down and tried to stand in my way only gave me more strength and courage to forge ahead and prove them wrong,” she says.