Empower women. Eliminate poverty.

Tag : education

Education Changes Lives Cada Mes

2017 is on its way, and our clients are enjoying the beautiful weather Guatemala has to offer. They continue along their monthly journeys with Friendship Bridge, making loan payments and receiving lessons on the four pillars – women, family, business, and health.  The Cada Mes Club, our monthly donors, follows this journey closely. The Club’s support is integral in providing this life-changing education. This quarter, we feature how preventive health education is saving lives. Click here to learn how to join the Cada Mes Club.

Doña Mili receives hugs from her grandson, while surrounded by family who are also part of her Trust Bank.

by Rachel Turner

Doña Mili walked slowly to her friend’s house passing small gardens and shooing chickens away with her handkerchief. She paused briefly to wipe sweat from her face. At 9 a.m., the sun already bore down on the small southern village near Patulul, Guatemala.

Arriving at Doña Ofelia’s home, Doña Mili walked up the dirt patio, gave Doña Ofelia a cheek kiss, and settled on a tree stump under the tin awning while waving flies away with her handkerchief. The women caught up on life since their last Trust Bank meeting, and Doña Ofelia continued sweeping the dirt patio – her one-year-old in tow.

The two ladies waited for their Trust Bank colleagues to arrive one by one. Doña Ofelia, as president of the Trust Bank, had offered to host a health clinic in her two-bedroom house with permission from her husband. As the community matriarch, Doña Mili, 49, came early to encourage the ladies to receive the free health education and services offered by Friendship Bridge and their partner The Maya Health Alliance (Wuqu’ Kawoq).

Doña Mili speaks with Nurse Dina from The Maya Health Alliance about preventive health during her exam.

A few months earlier, Doña Mili’s Trust Bank learned about women’s preventive health during their monthly Non-Formal Education (NFE) meeting, and although a bit wary, most of the twelve ladies excitedly signed up to see the traveling nurses for a free exam.

“In our community, it’s a luxury to get sick. It’s too expensive to get the care we need many times when we get sick,” said Doña Mili. “That’s why I encourage my group to take advantage of this opportunity for health services. Until our NFE meeting, many of us didn’t know what tests we needed.”

In our community, it’s a luxury to get sick. It’s too expensive to get the care we need many times when we get sick. Click To Tweet

At the end of the day, after all the women had learned more about preventive health care, received pap smears, and glucose tests, Doña Mili sat on the same tree stump smiling and laughing with her friends and family from the Trust Bank. “This is our first time hosting a health clinic, and we had a great turn-out,” said Doña Mili. “We must continue with education – it’s so important!”

Rachel Turner is the Global Communications Manager for Friendship Bridge. Having worked and lived throughout the world, she’s excited to now call the foothills of the Rocky Mountains home. Rachel recently visited Guatemala to meet Doña Mili and other clients working with Friendship Bridge.

Non-Formal Education: Savings, Loan Responsibilities, and a 6-month Review (Spring 2016)

A special thanks to our Cada Mes Club – Friendship Bridge’s monthly donors – for supporting our clients on their monthly journeys. 

Each month the members of every Trust Bank travel, most likely by foot, to their designated meeting places to make payments on their loans and receive a Non-Formal Education lesson in their native languages on one of the four pillars – women, family, business, and health.

April – Getting into a savings habit

We all know that putting a little away for a rainy day is a good idea. In reality, creating a savings habit is hard work. Accordingly, the women start off April’s lesson by listing all the reasons we don’t save. These are the hurdles they will need to overcome if they are going to start saving. Next their Facilitator provides them with a four step plan: 1) Name a specific goal (home, education, health). 2) Estimate how much that goal will cost. 3) Set a date at which the goal is to be achieved. And 4) Calculate how much you will need to save weekly or monthly in order to meet the goal amount. Each woman goes home that day with a liter soda bottle “bank” that has her personal answers to the four steps written on a label on the side of the bottle.

May – Accepting a loan and what that means

In May, the women reviewed the process they underwent to form their Trust Bank: from a single woman’s initial idea, to the sharing of that idea to recruit other women, to the meeting they had with a Facilitator for the first time. The question today is, “Why did you go through so much effort to acquire that first loan?” To answer that question, the women are given four images that represent the stages of plant cultivation and are asked to put them in order: sow, water, sprout, sunshine. Next the women explore the various ways that their loan is like a seed used to grow the fruits of their businesses. The women learn that accepting a loan to finance a cash short-fall does not generate an ability to repay the loan. Using a loan as an investment in a business, however, can.

June – Reviewing the past six months’ lessons

The Facilitator starts the June lesson asking the women to raise their right hands. Lo and behold, they all do. Their actions are the definition of a habit. Changing a habit requires motivation and determination. If the women are going to advance their businesses, discarding old habits is going to be necessary. Accordingly, the women reflect as a group on the goals they have set for themselves since joining their Trust Bank and what might be getting in their way of achieving those goals – it is most likely old habits. The Facilitator asks questions such as: What do you do if someone offers you additional credit? How about when your expenses are greater than your sales? Have you created a budget yet? Or put any money away for an emergency? The women go around the room answering these questions, offering each other advice regarding behavior change.

 

Here are a few client reactions:


  • “The topic about savings is really important. The examples we used today can help us find different ways to implement it with our family. Starting today I want to create a savings plan for one month so I can buy a set of pots that I need to cook fruit that I use in my business.” 
    - Keila, age 26



  • “It is important that every woman has a reserve fund through savings, because our children come first to us for school supplies. Friendship Bridge also makes us realize the value of our own health and to invest in ourselves, so our savings can help us get medical checkups.”

    - Maria, age 47, pictured in middle in red

 

 

Our Non-Formal Education program is the backbone of our Microcredit Plus program, and one of the Plus services that we feel truly empowers our clients. Thanks again to our Cada Mes Club for helping support this program!

 

Our Dreamer Clients: Cruz

Dreamer: The earliest stage of development on our Client Continuum. Dreamers are often new to the Friendship Bridge program. Most of them are just beginning to experience increased confidence and family decision-making. Their priorities are usually beginning to shift from basic survival to education for their children and healthier standards of living. Not surprisingly, one of the first things they do with their earnings is provide better nutrition for their families and put their children in school.

 

IMG_5534Born into a poor family of 11 children, Cruz did not have many aspirations for her life. Her father struggled with alcoholism and did not support the family, so rather than attend school, Cruz had to work every day in the fields to ensure her family had enough food to eat.

Cruz’s life followed the typical pattern of a Guatemalan woman, and she married young, at age 18. She had seven children, but two died very young. Because she had not attended school, Cruz learned to weave in order to support her family, like her mother had done. “I had to accept learning my mom’s job, and now it has become my business. I am grateful for my mother’s teachings. She fought very hard for me and my sister to become good weavers.”

However, in order to give her daughters a chance for a better future, Cruz needed more capital to grow her business. She heard about Friendship Bridge from two women in her community who were Friendship Bridge clients, and she applied for a loan and joined a Trust Bank. In addition to her loan, Cruz says the monthly Non-Formal Education sessions have been very valuable, and she has especially benefited from trainings on health, hygiene, family planning, self-esteem, and wise investing.

With her Friendship Bridge loans, Cruz has been able to grow her small weaving business and send her five daughters to school. She is proud of giving them a chance at a better future, and Cruz says her experience with Friendship Bridge has brought her much satisfaction and joy. “Thanks to my small business and my loans, I am improving my quality of life,” she says. Cruz is also proud that she and her husband have been able to build a larger home to create more space for their family and her business.

“Friendship Bridge has been instrumental in my journey to create a business and generate income. My entire family has benefited from my loans,” says Cruz. The loans and the education Friendship Bridge offers have increased Cruz’s confidence as a woman and given her more hope for her future, key characteristics of our Dreamer clients.

Tomassa and Sanidad Divina

 

photos and story collected by Robert Weigel, Kiva Field Intern

The first thing you notice about Tomassa is the warmth and the pride that practically radiate from her when she speaks. As we waited for her Trust Bank meeting to begin, she welcomed us into her home as if we were long-lost friends.

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She shared a little bit of her story as we waited for the rest of her Trust Bank to arrive. Tomassa speaks little Spanish, so a translator bridged the conversation from her native language of K’iche. Tomassa is the oldest of five children, and at age 38 she herself has mothered ten children.

One by one the members of her Trust Bank, Sanidad Divina (Divine Healing), arrived at the meeting place. It was obvious the women were excited to be together at their monthly meeting. Tomassa and the rest of the Trust Bank listened intently as the Facilitator led an education session about proper family planning.

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As the Non-Formal Education session ended, Tomassa remarked that this topic was one of her favorites that she has learned about so far. “I cherish these meetings greatly,” she said, “because as a child I never experienced any type of formal education.” As the oldest child in her family, Tomassa said she had to mature quickly and take responsibility for household chores as her father tended to the fields and her mother took care of her siblings.

Life as a Guatemalan woman was difficult, she said, but it got better when she met her future husband, a hard-working boy from her village. Tomassa said she and her husband have supported and loved each through many difficult times. She smiled and said he is the love of her life.

Tomassa’s smile widened when she recounted to us how a financial and supportive push from Friendship Bridge gave her the chance to begin her animal husbandry business. She currently owns twelve animals – two pigs, four turkeys, and six chickens. It was clear she took great pride in her work.

With her face constantly beaming with joy and her voice full of pride when she talked about her business and what she has learned through Friendship Bridge’s educational sessions, we couldn’t help but get excited, too. Here was an empowered woman who was creating a better future for herself and her family, a future she could be proud of.

Giving Provides Opportunities for Grateful Clients

Petrona tablecloth

Petrona is an artisan weaver with five children – she shows a tablecloth she will set at market.

Giving is empowering and so is gratitude. In the case of Friendship Bridge clients, gratitude is the experience of being thankful for the opportunities that develop and resources that help them achieve their dreams.

On December 2, following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday will celebrate generosity on a global scale and encourage giving to benefit others. For assisting our clients in Guatemala, your act of giving could be as simple as contributing on the Donate section of the Friendship Bridge website or donate on the Friendship Bridge crowdfunding site, http://empowerwomen.causevox.com/. You could also set a 24-hour goal for December 2 and create a personal fundraising page (it’s easy – go to Sign Up in the right corner of the page, write why you want people to give, and invite your friends and family to donate)!

Giving Tuesday BannerWhen you give, you are helping clients like Petrona Churunel Noj, a 32-year-old mother of five boys who produces handmade fabrics to sell at market. Her weaving artistry with a backstrap loom creates shawls, tablecloths and blouses as well as other finished products. She lives in Chuacruz in the western highlands of Guatemala.

Petrona was unable to attend formal school, but with her Friendship Bridge loan and involvement in the Trust Bank Girasoles Chuacruz (“Sunflowers of Chuacruz”), she receives non-formal education to improve her business and reach her goals. Now she has a variety of materials to weave and is meeting the demand of her local and national clients.

The quality of her life has improved, and she is passing achievement along to her children by using a “Rapidito Escolar,” or school loan, to support her children’s education. The loan helps Petrona with school fees for three children already attending classes. Petrona can buy new shoes for her kids to walk to school and uniforms. She truly values this product because it provides both necessary and extra items that help her children develop fully and reach for better opportunities. Petrona and her husband, a laborer, plan to provide education to all five children.

Petrona is excited for the year-end holidays as she expects to sell more during this time. This will allow her to make money to prepare for the new school year starting in January, 2015.

Your generosity and support will help Petrona and thousands of other entrepreneurial women in Guatemala care for themselves, their families and communities. Please consider giving on December 2, or before year-end.

 

Petrona weaving

A colorful tapestry woven by Petrona, who has local and national clients in Guatemala.

Education Teaches Clients Concepts for Success

Education Teaches Clients Concepts for Success

Trust Bank education

Two clients review a handout during non-formal education in a trust bank meeting.

Non-formal education (NFE) is a lifeline for more than 22,000 Friendship Bridge clients. In addition to the monetary resources Friendship Bridge clients receive for their businesses, topics like “empowerment,” “avoiding over-indebtedness” and “children having children” speak to the realistic environment of women in rural Guatemala. While the training for clients is considered “non-formal,” the curriculum for how to facilitate learning on key topics is quite strategic and specific.Country Director Astrid Yerlin Cordona Morán de Paiz said the program teaches the women about what it means to be respected, financially wise and healthy, as a woman, as a wife, a mother and a business owner.

Topics are developed two years in advance to provide strategic direction but the timing of delivery is flexible according to client surveys. Timely topics that are immediately applicable to clients, such as the real dangers of child migration to the U.S., are pushed to clients as quickly as possible. Reports indicate that 80 percent of clients attend sessions of 45 minutes to an hour during their monthly Trust Bank meetings. Trust Banks are solidarity groups of seven to 30 women who co-guarantee the loans of their fellow members.

A flip chart with pictures and an accompanying training guide for the facilitator are the main tools used to lead the conversation. The Learning Network, a group of facilitators who represent one of each of the six Friendship Bridge branches, meets monthly to rehearse topics a month prior to deployment in the field. This group then replicates the activity within their respective branches so that all facilitators are trained on how to deploy the next month’s topic and can anticipate client concerns and dynamics. After the topic has been introduced in the field, The Learning Network relays client and facilitator feedback to the Education Manager for future revisions.

To continually improve the quality of the education sessions, all Friendship Bridge facilitators will take a 60-hour module developed by Freedom From Hunger, a long-time partner. The course will end with a certificate of completion for each unit, which covers information related to health, nutrition, business and managing money.