Empower women. Eliminate poverty.

Tag : intern

Reflections on my experience as a Friendship Bridge Development Intern

by Zoe Seward, Summer 2015 Development Intern

My name is Zoe Seward. I’m a sophomore at NYU studying business and political economics, and I was a Development intern for Friendship Bridge this summer. I first got involved with Friendship Bridge as a freshman in high school, when the organization let me conduct an interview with them via Skype for my capstone Spanish project. When I developed an interest in the microfinance industry five years later, I immediately thought of Friendship Bridge as the perfect way to explore the sector. While the microfinance industry as a whole has weathered some serious criticism in recent years, Friendship Bridge is virtually unimpeachable, and is improving women’s lives in areas far beyond mere financial inclusion.

Over the summer, I worked on two major projects. First I did extensive research into 20-30 MFIs in Bolivia and Peru. I was looking for organizations with viable agricultural lending models for Friendship Bridge to incorporate into its existing credit products. The Bolivian microfinance sector is one of the most developed in the world, and places heavy emphasis on agricultural lending in particular. Agriculture requires unique financial structures because it is such a high risk sector, and because it takes such a long time for farmers to see return on investment. Friendship Bridge was looking to collaborate with one or two Latin American organizations with effective agricultural lending programs to more effectively reach its poorest clients, and my research was the first step in that process.

Second, I wrote an Executive Summary of the organization to apply for a major industry impact investing loan. This loan would allow Friendship Bridge to achieve the goals outlined in its 2014-2016 Strategic Plan, including the expansion of its Health, Artisan and Agricultural programs. Writing the Executive Summary was the perfect way to learn how an effective microfinance organization operates from the inside out.

Hopefully, the projects I worked on will eventually have a measurable impact on the women Friendship Bridge serves through the expansion of the Agricultural program and the organization as a whole. In the short term, it was exciting to see Friendship Bridge’s CEO & President, Karen Larson, inform her exploratory trip down to Bolivia based on my suggestions, and incredibly satisfying to have a dense six-page loan application to show for my work.

This experience defied all internship stereotypes. While there was definitely some stamp-licking and data-entry, the staff at Friendship Bridge went out of their way to make sure that I was involved in meaningful projects and that I got to learn about the inner workings of the organization and the industry as a whole. I got so much out of this experience, and I hold the women that I had the privilege to work with in the highest esteem.

A Reflection on my Experience as the Volunteer Management Intern

By Sarah Quiat, Volunteer Management Intern (Summer 2015)

When people asked me what I was doing with my summer, and I would tell them that I was working as an intern at Friendship Bridge, they would almost always nod their heads vaguely. I would then try to articulate my experience with Friendship Bridge this summer.

On my first day at Friendship Bridge, I stuffed envelopes with another intern in order to get the Spring Appeal out the door. Without even realizing it, I began my work with Volunteer Management, gaining a perspective on one of many forms of volunteering at Friendship Bridge that I would find myself constantly working to make more efficient in numerous ways. In my time at Friendship Bridge, I created a comprehensive Volunteer Management manual, automated the system of responding to volunteers, and created a method of communication between Friendship Bridge and its volunteers and interns once they have completed their work here. I updated the Volunteer Opportunities and Internships pages of the website, and I spent a lot of time incorporating the data associated with volunteers into Friendship Bridge’s database: updating the names and contact information of volunteers and interns, adding searchable designations for the work volunteers are interested in doing, and recording the time frames volunteers worked for FB.


Sarah Quiat, Summer Intern

Along the way, I worked on the Artisan Access to Market project that Friendship Bridge is piloting, so that the artisanal crafts made by Friendship Bridge clients can be sold not only in Guatemala, but all over the world. Using Excel, we detailed every aspect of the beautiful work made by clients. My work will allow Friendship Bridge’s Circles to “shop” for the client products they would resell in the States.

Though my work with the Volunteer Management program may not directly impact all of the individual women who are clients at Friendship Bridge, the program I created will help Friendship Bridge to take best advantage of the volunteers who are vital to Friendship Bridge’s existence. Interns and volunteers help in a myriad of ways that allow Friendship Bridge to reach so many more clients and donors than it could without them.

I have learned so much from my time at Friendship Bridge. It has been so empowering to be in an office of women who are working to help other women feel empowered. It has strengthened the idea for me that people, and more specifically women, are capable of creating beautiful change in this world. Working here and seeing the incredible impact that this organization has had for women in Guatemala, I feel confident that, as a woman, I am capable of so much more than I often let myself believe. Additionally I have felt so connected to so many people I have never even met, for the ambition and entrepreneurship that I read about, and for the drive and volunteerism that I saw as I worked to create the Volunteer Management program.

Thank you, Friendship Bridge, for the opportunity that you gave me: to feel so closely bonded to every person who has contributed something beautiful to this organization, and also to this beautiful organization itself. It has been a powerful summer.


Sarah Quiat will be a sophomore at Vassar College this upcoming fall, with an intended Economics major. She is from Boulder, Colorado, and is deeply passionate about hiking, the artwork of Frida Kahlo, spreadsheets, and creating spaces for those who feel voiceless to speak.