Friendship Bridge provides microfinance, education, and preventive health services to help clients build resilience and pursue opportunities. We call this our Microcredit Plus program. 100% of our clients are women, and we target rural areas where poverty levels are highest in Guatemala. As part of our Client Continuum Strategy, we segment our clients into Dreamers, Entrepreneurs, and Leaders, which allows us to offer products and programs tailored to clients’ individual stages of development.
Our Client Continuum Strategy reflects our theory of change, which we view through the metaphor of a tree. The roots represent the various products and services we provide to our clients which build a foundation for their path to empowerment. The leaves of the tree represent the outcomes clients experience as they grow along the Client Continuum over time – on a path to grow from Dreamer to Entrepreneur and to Leader.
87% of our clients earn between $1.11 and $4.49 per day. On average they have had approximately three years of formal education, cannot read or write, and are unlikely to speak Spanish, the official language of the country.
Friendship Bridge’s average loan size is $318 over nine months with a 3% monthly interest rate, and our clients maintain a 97.7% loan repayment rate. To borrow through Friendship Bridge’s Microcredit Plus program, women must first form groups of 7-25 members called Trust Banks. Each Trust Bank co-guarantees individual member’s loans and the women participate in Non-Formal Education sessions that are part of every monthly loan repayment meeting.
Trust Banks are an integral part of the Microcredit Plus program. They create an empowering environment through the women’s support and encouragement of each other. We have found the Trust Bank environment provides our clients with social capital in addition to the financial capital they receive through loans.
Each Trust Bank elects an executive committee that includes a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. This elected group is responsible for the management and leadership of the group. They problem-solve when there are attendance or repayment issues with individual members, they work with the Facilitator (loan officer) to conduct effective meetings, and they handle banking (making deposits into and withdrawals out of their account) on behalf of the group.
Through our Microcredit Plus program, we offer monthly Non-Formal Education sessions at each Trust Bank meeting (loan repayment meeting) on topics focused on women’s rights, family, health, and business. To further meet our clients’ needs at their individual levels of development, we offer various credit products along with the Health for Life, Artisan Market Access, Women’s Agriculture Credit & Training, Advanced Training and Mentor programs.
Friendship Bridge provides Microcredit Plus as a hand up to thousands of women in Guatemala. The additional household income gives our clients a greater ability to weather unexpected life problems (illness or natural disaster), decreases malnutrition and spousal abuse, improves access to education for the family, and improves hygiene and healthcare.