Education is a critical component of Friendship Bridge’s programs. While microcredit provides our clients with a hand up for their businesses, education provides them with an asset for life — skills and knowledge to create sustainable change for themselves, their children, and their communities.
Friendship Bridge has created non-formal, participatory education lessons on topics clients identified as most important – such as business, money management, self-esteem, women’s rights, health, and children’s education. Friendship Bridge’s 60 Facilitators (loan officers) deliver the Non-Formal Education lessons at each Trust Bank’s monthly loan repayment meetings. Each month, Friendship Bridge’s 22,000+ clients in over 2,000 Trust Banks receive the same monthly curriculum, which Facilitators adapt to their particular clients’ lives.
Our educational curriculum is unique and responsive to our clients’ needs, taking into consideration that the average Friendship Bridge client has 2.6 years of formal education and many do not read, write, or speak Spanish (Guatemala’s official language). Lessons are interactive and are delivered through flipcharts that have illustrations and pictures to accompany any text so our pre-literate clients can follow along. Additionally, our Facilitators must speak Spanish and the local Mayan language of the Trust Banks they serve to ensure that all clients can understand the lessons.
Non-Formal Education is the backbone of our Microcredit Plus program, but we also offer other educational services. We offer Advanced Training for clients who want to learn how to make new products to expand and diversity their businesses. In 2015, 1,138 clients participated in Advanced Training and learned skills such as baking, sewing, piñata making, flower arranging, and canning. Friendship Bridge also offers training and education specific to clients who work in artisan and agriculture sectors, and offers a mentorship program to advanced clients in need of more in-depth business mentoring.