Empower women. Eliminate poverty.

Tag : Guatemala

Meet the Aj Batz Trust Bank

Aj Batz Trust Bank

Four new members of the Aj Batz Trust Bank

The Aj Batz Trust Bank consists of 14 amazing women from the rural area of Chichicastenango, Guatemala.  These women have been clients of Friendship Bridge for many years, they continue to apply for microloans and education from Friendship Bridge because they feel it is a great tool for them.  Over the past several years, they have grown their businesses, which benefits their whole family and even other members of their community.

Recently, the Aj Batz Trust Bank welcomed four new members: Anastasia Quino, Maria Quino, Marta Cuterez, and Maria Calel.  All are very excited to be part of the group. “I learned about Friendship Bridge from a friend.  My husband and I discussed the opportunity and agreed it would be good for our family because to make more money at my small convenience store, I needed to increase the inventory,” explains Mary Quino.

“I live near the other members of the Aj Batz Trust Bank, so I asked them for more information.  I liked what I heard, so I made my decision to join.  I’m happy with this first loan cycle and I invested the loan in the production of textiles,” says Marta Cuterez.

Each month, the women meet to repay their loans and gather for an information education lesson.  These lessons are provided by a trained loan officer and are included with their microloan from Friendship Bridge, thus the name Microcredit Plus.  The loan officer travels to a home of a Trust Bank member for these meetings.  Topics range from budgeting and customer service to self-esteem and women’s health.

Even though it was cloudy and cold morning when we visited the Aj Batz Trust Bank, the ladies had a lot of fun during their meeting. Lots of laughs were shared, especially when all of the ladies got actively involved during this month’s education session focused on marketing (specifically product, price, place and promotion).  The clients freely compare their small businesses, and discuss openly whether they can implement any marketing strategies to promote their businesses. These women have businesses that are based around the Guatemalan art of textiles.  Their products include: tablecloths, napkins, huipils (Guatemalan shirts), scarves and much more.

The Friendship Bridge loan officer and facilitator, Tomasa Sen, starts the session with the first theme: product.  She talks about how the product size and presentation can make a difference in the mind of the client at the time of purchase.   The group also covers the importance of pricing your product so that it covers hard costs but is also market appropriate depending on their audience (wholesalers, retailers, or final consumers). Slowly the conversation turns to where they sell, which varies from woman to woman.  They sell in the Plaza, out of their home, on the street, or door-to-door.  Based on that, the women discuss promotions.  The ladies all agree that they can advertise their product in many ways including posters and word of mouth.

Meet the Trust Bank President:

Each Trust Bank elects its own board, including president and treasurer.  After the meeting, we had a chance to catch up with Aj Batz Trust Bank president, Tol Cuterez Josefa (she prefers to be called Josefa). Josefa is 46 years-old and has 12 children.  Her business is creating and selling textiles – mostly shawls, but she also makes tablecloths and huipils.  She uses her income to provide more nutritious meals for her large family.  Josefa enjoys being president because it allows her to improve her leadership skills and learn more about how to organize a group. Josefa’s dream is to see all her children reach sixth grade, and possibly advance to high school.  She knows this may be difficult because her children have many needs, and she and her husband have to give the same opportunities to all of them, but she is working hard to make this happen.

“I appreciate the support and tools Friendship Bridge provides. I also like the education piece of the organization because it teaches us how to be more profitable.  Many of us are a little shy to share our stories to the group but when we do, we enjoy it and we feel part of the change in our communities,” explains Josefa.

Thank you Whole Foods Belmar for supporting Aj Batz!

Dining for Women Visits FB Clients

Dining for Women is a global giving circle dedicated to helping women and girls in the developing world achieve their potential, gain equality in their countries and cultures, and overcome economic limitations and social bias.  They have over 9,000 members, have given nearly $2.8 million to programs that benefit women in poverty, and believe that all women deserve to be self-sufficient.  Friendship Bridge is one of the organizations they support and recently they visited us in Guatemala to meet FB clients and see the impact they are making firsthand.

Read about their adventures in a blog post by Rosemary McGee from Pennsylvania.  Here is an excerpt to get you started:

“We joined the 18 women of the Flor de Maria Trust Bank cooperative as they were busily tallying up payments. Brenda, from the area and their loan officer, was preparing for a lesson and discussion on good nutrition with help from photo charts. We became part of the group, as the women made room for us and pulled us into their circle with smiles and giggling. They obviously enjoyed each other and were happy to be together! It was an honor to be there!

Then it was back to Salvador our awesome driver and the van. We were followed by a swarm of very curious, giggling schoolchildren who were out on the hillside for “recess” (photo op!), next we were to visit a second cooperative closer to Sololá where the Grupo de Mujeres Izaput Cooperative meets. Their dynamic leader started the co-op of artisans 25 years ago and partnered with Friendship Bridge 6 years ago This now allows them to have inventory on hand continuously and increases their sales and income.

We saw a foot loom weaving demo in their workroom where the women work together on 4 looms while laughing, talking and listening to music. It was another joyful group of women. Of course, we did some more shopping from their beautiful array of handiwork which also included beaded jewelry and wooden masks!”

Read full post here.

Meet the Tzolojya Trust Bank

Members of the Tzolojya Trust Bank GuatemalaLocation:  Sololá, Guatemala
Members: 9
Average age of Members: 44
Average number of Children: 4.5
Average loan size: $655
Average years of education: 1.6 years

Friendship Bridge began working in the Sololá area in 1998. The area is located in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, at a distance of 140 kilometers from Guatemala City.  Sololá is one of the larger, more prominent communities near Lake Atitlan.

The Tzolojya Trust Bank, which means Sololá in the Mayan Kakchiquel language, was established about 10 years ago.  The group is comprised of nine members with an average age of 44 years old and an average formal education of 1.6 years (only two members have attended school).  Additionally, its members have an average of four children per member.

The women of the Tzolojya Trust Bank have varied businesses including: bakeries, flowers, vegetables, tortillas, snacks and concessions, owners of stores of daily consumption (convenience stores), avocados, and handicrafts. The average loan of $655 goes directly into these businesses.

In addition to financial support, the women of the Tzolojya Trust Bank also benefit from training (provided in their own language) once per month by Friendship Bridge staff.  They learn about topics such as: business and money management, over-indebtedness, how to market their products, and family and women’s health.

The women say they enjoy the group dynamics and the monthly meetings.  They participate actively in the discussions, and always offer support to each other. Last month’s lesson was about the proper uses of the loan, emphasizing strategies to avoid over-indebtedness.  The lessons are interactive and encourage discussion, giving the members an opportunity to express their thoughts on the topics.  Friendship Bridge incorporates the principles of Adult Learning Theory into its methodology, recognizing the importance of participation and drawing upon the women’s own life experiences in the learning process.

Stay tuned! We will highlight Maria Santos Samines Buch and Marta Julia Yaxon Morales, members of the Tzolojya Trust Bank, next week!

This Trust Bank is supported by a Friendship Bridge donor who prefers to remain anonymous.  Thank you for your generous support!