Empower women. Eliminate poverty.

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Friendship Bridge clients experience intergenerational change

60 Decibels’ report reveals positive trends toward next-generation impact among Friendship Bridge clients

One of the reasons we support women in Guatemala is because we have a vested interest in creating intergenerational change among impoverished families, as reflected in our Theory of Change. When our clients have the financial resources to keep their children in school, it can change the trajectory of their futures.
“We care deeply about breaking the cycle of generational poverty, and we have so many stories of clients who have experienced intergenerational impact because of Friendship Bridge,” said Caitlin Scott, Chief Strategy Officer at Friendship Bridge. “But we wanted more concrete evidence to show this.”
As a result, Friendship Bridge commissioned the global impact measurement company,  60 Decibels, to measure how our clients are experiencing change. Here’s what their research discovered:

Higher child and parent engagement

94% of clients strongly agree that their children are more engaged in their education than they were at the same age. The vast majority of these clients attribute this change to their involvement with Friendship Bridge, either in whole or in part.

Photo: Robert Weigel

 

In addition, all clients are more engaged in their children’s education since working with Friendship Bridge. 89% say they have learned skills that allow them to support their children’s education and personal development. Clients report participating in more decision-making about their kids’ schooling and feel more optimistic about their children’s futures.

“Consistently, we see our clients putting their children’s needs ahead of their own, in hopes of setting them on a path to a better future,” Scott said. “It’s exciting to see that they feel like they learned how to better support children in school through their participation in our programs, so that their children have higher educational attainment and greater opportunities than they had.”

Increases in parental skills 

60 Decibels’ researchers found that 68% of Friendship Bridge clients strongly agree that they have learned parental skills that allow them to support their children in different ways. This includes feeling more equipped to support their children’s education, having an increased sense of responsibility to guide children’s actions, and being more able to help with their kids’ personal development, such as learning to read. 

Elena, a Handmade by Friendship Bridge® artisan client, works hard to make changes for her children’s futures.

Elena, a weaver from Solalá and a Friendship Bridge client since 2012, has seen firsthand the changes in her children’s lives because of the skills she has developed. Her first Friendship Bridge loan allowed her to expand her small textile business; later training through the Handmade by Friendship Bridge® program taught her a variety of finance and marketing skills, despite having only a 4th grade education herself.

Through the growth of her business, she’s been able to afford education for her four children and says she has gained a greater sense of empowerment. 

Elena is incredibly proud of how her children’s skills have grown alongside her own. “My three daughters, thank God, have graduated from high school with a bilingual secretary diploma, and two are studying at a university,” Elena reported. Two of her daughters have since been hired for jobs as tour guides at a small homemade chocolate factory in their community. Elena is proud to see them putting their bilingual skills (English and Spanish) into practice, even as young women.

“I hope that…we can better support our families and our people can be more prosperous,” Elena said.

See page 24 to learn more about Intergenerational Impact.

60 Decibels 2023 Impact Awards and performance rankings are based on the 60 Decibels 2023 Microfinance Index. Ranking is determined based on companies evaluated in Africa, Asia, Latin America and globally. For more information, visit 60decibels.com. 60 Decibels is a registered trademark of 60 Decibels, Inc.

2023 Microfinance Index gives Friendship Bridge top recognition for client impact

Friendship Bridge ranks as #2 MFI in Latin America

An important part of measuring the social impact we have in Guatemalan women’s lives comes from partnering with 60 Decibels—a global impact measurement company that is the producer of the world’s first microfinance impact benchmark. Based on phone interviews with 277 of our clients conducted this year, 60 Decibels’ trained researchers have compiled insights about our clients, the outcomes they experience, how satisfied they are, and how we can improve our impact and business performance.

The 2023 Microfinance Index Insights Report reveals that Friendship Bridge received a Top Impact Award for Latin America, ranking #2 in Latin America among all microfinance organizations surveyed in the region.  

“We are proud that our clients’ evaluation of their experience in Friendship Bridge is overwhelmingly positive,” said Chief Strategy Officer Caitlin Scott. “It mirrors what we see in the field and it is so motivating to see it reflected in the data.”

In addition, we learned the following about the experience of our clients in six distinct dimensions of impact and what impact they attribute to Friendship Bridge: 

  1. Access: 87% said it would be difficult to find a good alternative to Friendship Bridge (p.9), and 99% of clients use their loan for a business purpose. (p. 8)
  2. Business Impact: 93% of clients report the income they earn from their business has increased. (p. 11)
  3. Household Impact: 97% of clients report that their quality of life has improved (p. 13), with 74% reporting having improved food security and 76% reporting increase in expenditures on home improvements. (p. 14)
  4. Client protection: 87% “strongly agree” that Friendship Bridge fees, interest rates and penalties are easy to understand. (p. 16)
  5. Resilience: 64% of clients say their ability to face a major expense has improved (p. 19), and 87% say they have increased their savings. (p. 20)
  6. Agency: 95% of clients have a financial goal and 93% say their ability to achieve that goal has improved. 87% of clients report having improved self-confidence, and 79% say their ability to make decisions independently has improved. (p. 22-23)

Learn more about the dimensions of impact here: English / Spanish

“My sales have increased, and I have been able to improve the kitchen in my house,” a client who participated in the survey reports. “I have made more investments, leading to higher profits.”

Other exciting insights

  • Across the 21 indicators in the benchmark, Friendship Bridge is almost always ahead of the field. (p. 31)
  • Longer-term clients report relatively more positive outcomes in business income, quality of life, home improvements, access to healthcare, ability to face an emergency, and their ability to support their children in school.
  • Friendship Bridge is contributing to intergenerational change. (p. 25-26)

 

60 Decibels 2023 Impact Awards and performance rankings are based on the 60 Decibels 2023 Microfinance Index. Ranking is determined based on companies evaluated in Africa, Asia, Latin America and globally. For more information, visit 60decibels.com. 60 Decibels is a registered trademark of 60 Decibels, Inc.

Friendship Bridge Opens a New Branch Office in Chicacao

On July 14, 2023, we celebrated the opening of our newest branch office in Chicacao, Guatemala. One of the opening ceremony’s impactful moments came when our client, Elena, told her story of involvement with Friendship Bridge. She started her journey as a Trust Bank member, entered our Bridge to Success program as an Entrepreneur, and later won 1st place in the Successful Entrepreneur category at the 2022 Women’s Entrepreneur Awards. Elena shared how Friendship Bridge has helped her on her path to development and empowerment. 

Dancers from a local high school provided the entertainment.

Entertainment included students from the Marimba dance group at a local high school, Instituto Mixto de Educación Básica por Cooperativa – IMEBAC, who showcased traditional dance routines. Fifteen clients attended the event and were given the gift of kitchen pot and pan sets; other sets were raffled off during the event. “[This was] a way to celebrate them as clients, and recognize their time and effort made in order to [join] us,” says Guatemalan Marketing Coordinator Nohelia Guarchaj.

In line with our commitment to environmentally friendly practices, the ceremony was free of single-use materials such as balloons, plastic decorations, and cups. Guarchaj worked with an artisan to create decorations made from corn husks, flowers, and other natural and reusable materials.

The Chicacao branch opening used environmentally friendly decorations created by an artisan.

Ingrid Jannet Guir Piedrasanta will serve as branch leader alongside sixteen collaborators in the Chicacao office. She comes to the new office after working as the branch leader in Mazatenango. Ingrid’s move provided an opportunity for another employee, Dina Sicá, to be promoted at her former location.

The Chicacao branch opened with a portfolio of 2,158 clients, with a goal of acquiring 3,005 clients by the end of the year. The expansion, which gives Friendship Bridge a total of 12 branch offices, continues our commitment to Responsible Growth, one of the main goals in our Strategic Plan. Chicacao was chosen as the best place to expand after conducting detailed research based on the following factors:

  • The level of targeted growth of clients who do not have access to formal bank credit
  • The level of entrepreneurship in the area
  • Migration conditions and local development

“The opportunity was seen to bring the operation closer to areas of high potential in the region,” notes Guarchaj. “Additionally, [we will be] able to cover a larger potential market, with the certainty that our target market is located in that region.”

In Memory of Anita Bunch: Friend of Friendship Bridge

So many of our supporters have wonderful memories of Anita Bunch (1940-2023) and her ongoing commitment to Friendship Bridge. Following are personal recollections from our colleague, Nancy Hiester.

I met Anita in the year 2000 as I embarked upon my career with Friendship Bridge. She was a bit nervous about me since I was brand new. Within a few minutes of interaction, we became kindred spirits, close colleagues, friends, spiritual pals, and partners for life helping Friendship Bridge succeed in all endeavors. Anita’s smile always lit up the room and reflected compassion, grace, humor, and spice.

Throughout the years, our bond strengthened as Anita and I become close amigas. She shared with me her life story and was always SO proud of her daughter and her three magnificent grandchildren.

Anita introduced me and our Friendship Circle to walking the labyrinth, which is a symbol of spiritual health and wellbeing. The morning of every “Evening in Evergreen,” we would walk the labyrinth at the Church of the Transfiguration with members of the Evergreen Circle to inspire success at the event. As we walked the labyrinth, we meditated and reflected. That night, Anita and I danced, laughed, and pranced as funds were raised for our Guatemalan sisters.

My favorite memory of Anita was from our very first insight trip in 2000. We had a close-knit group of eight individuals who visited clients, learned about their businesses, and the benefits of Microcredit Plus. After a full day of making house visits, the group was invited to attend a local religious ceremony. Only half of the group went, Anita and I included. We found ourselves in a room surrounded by flashing colorful lights, plastic food and figurines hanging from the ceiling, and non-stop tinny Christmas carols. I gave Anita a secret look of astonishment. After a few minutes in the room, each individual was guided up a ladder to give the wooden statue of the deity a kiss, a tip, and a bottle of gin. Needless to say, Anita and I always had a laugh about that time on the lake in Guatemala.


Anita had a rich spiritual side, which was filled with joy and commitment to empowering women in Guatemala. For the past 23 years, Anita has been a positive force in my life with fun, silliness, and deep conversations, creating a strong relationship. Although she lived a full life, I will always miss Anita. I’ll continue to hear her voice in my ears and her song in my heart.

—Nancy Hiester

 

Rest in peace, Anita Bunch. Know that Friendship Bridge as an organization would not be the same without your contributions, and we as individuals would not be the same had our lives not crossed paths with yours.

Read more about Anita’s life and her wishes for memorial contributions.

 

Friendship Bridge Honored for International Women’s Day 2023

WorldDenver recognizes Friendship Bridge as the 2023 Organizational Honoree

On March 8, 2023, Friendship Bridge was honored by WorldDenver at their International Women’s Day event, held at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, for our work that empowers women in Guatemala. We were introduced in a video message by Denver Congresswoman Diana DeGette. Accepting the award on Friendship Bridge’s behalf was Marta Julia Ixtuc Cuc, Communications and Public Relations Specialist, who traveled from Guatemala for the event, and Board of Directors Vice Chair Susan Zimmermann.

Alongside Friendship Bridge as the 2023 organizational honoree, Lucille Echohawk, an advocate for Denver’s Native community, was chosen as the individual honoree, and introduced by Colorado Governor Jared Polis. The keynote speaker of the event was Jane Marie Chen, co-founder and CEO of Embrace Global, who has saved thousands of babies’ lives through the development a portable, low-cost infant incubator. Chen encouraged the audience to remember that “we are enough, exactly as we are,” and asked the crowd, “what is the legacy that you want to leave?”

Here are two highlights from Friendship Bridge’s acceptance speech:

“Friendship Bridge definitely has changed my life. I started working with Friendship Bridge 16 years ago…as a front desk person, and today I [work in] Communications and Public Relations. Friendship Bridge has empowered me throughout the years. Over these years I’ve been working with literally thousands of women in Guatemala, whose lives have been changed because of Friendship Bridge.”
—Marta Julia Ixtuc Cuc, Communications and Public Relations Specialist 
“Eleanor Roosevelt once said that a woman is a lot like a tea bag. You don’t know how strong she is until you put her in hot water. Let me tell you, our women in Guatemala live in hot water. They have challenges that you could never imagine. When we talk about giving these loans to over 33,000 women, what do you think the repayment rate is from these remarkable women? It is over 98%. JP Morgan, eat your heart out!”
—Susan Zimmermann, Board of Directors Vice Chair

In addition to being honored, centerpieces for the event consisted of Handmade by Friendship Bridge® products made by our artisan clients—baskets, napkins, beaded coin purses, and tote bags—an order which provided additional income to four entrepreneurs in the program.

 

How The Women of Friendship Bridge Embrace Equity

International Women’s Day:

Handmade by Friendship Bridge® employees and clients embrace equity in a gender unequal country

Travel to any of Guatemala’s larger cities such as Quetzaltenango, Antigua, or Guatemala City, and you’ll find opportunities for women in education, careers, and as decision makers in society. But Guatemala’s rural communities still tend to function under traditional patriarchal systems where women have less of a voice. According to the UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), violence, in various forms, continues to impact the population, with women, girls and adolescents disproportionately affected. Cases of femicide and missing women have increased. In addition, Guatemala ranks 113th out of 146 countries in gender equality, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2022, making it the most gender unequal country in Latin America and the Caribbean.

This is where Friendship Bridge comes in, with the goal of empowering more women and eliminating poverty across all areas of Guatemala. 89% of the women we serve come from rural communities. The following women work with Handmade by Friendship Bridge®—two as employees and two as artisans the organization serves. This year for International Women’s Day, learn what they’ve overcome and how they are working to #EmbraceEquity in different ways.

Siona
Age: 23
Job: Product Assistant at Handmade by Friendship Bridge®

Siona, an indigenous Mayan young woman, remembers living in poverty at age four. “We had no house, nothing to eat, my dad drank a lot of alcohol and hardly cared about the family, and I had no toys or clothes,” Siona remembers. “My mom worked making huipiles, but it took her a month to make one. It was a very hard time for me and my siblings. When my father stopped drinking (I was 8 years old) he worked hard [as a boat driver], but there was still not enough money because there were five children at that time. Even then, if more than one of us got sick at a time, my mother could not go to the doctor because she did not speak Spanish, and we didn’t have enough money.” 

Siona’s parents did give her the opportunity to stay in school (many of her peers had to drop out in order to work) and she attended the MAIA Impact School in Panajachel, Central America’s first secondary school for rural indigenous young women. Through MAIA, she applied for an internship at Friendship Bridge, and afterward was offered a full-time job. In 2022, she began working for the organization’s artisan program, Handmade by Friendship Bridge®, as Product Assistant. She plays a critical role in working directly with HMBFB®’s artisans, using her knowledge of Spanish and Kaqchikel to help them develop new products in addition to quality assurance, placing and receiving orders, packing for export to the US, and more.

“Being at [Friendship Bridge] is one of the best opportunities I have had. I am living new experiences and I am growing with new knowledge as a person and as a professional. My life has taken a complete 180 degree turn—now I can support my family, pay for my own university classes, and buy my own things. Handmade by Friendship Bridge® has given me the opportunity to learn English, meet new people, and above all, have the opportunity to work with artisan clients. I thank [Friendship Bridge] for trusting in my abilities and giving me the opportunity to work.”
—Siona, Handmade by Friendship Bridge® Product Assistant 

How Siona’s job helps her #EmbraceEquity: “Friendship Bridge not only empowers the clients, but also us as employees. We have the opportunity to make decisions and start projects; we just need to trust ourselves since inequality has always existed. But we can change it as we come to value ourselves more. I can break stereotypes both in the family and in society. Working there also helps me be an example for more girls, adolescents and even for other women to want to improve themselves.”

Siona’s hopes for the future: “I would like to finish fixing up [my family’s] house and for all my siblings to finish school; to see them become great professionals and excel. I’d like to be able to pay for a trip for my parents to go to another place or country. I would like to graduate from college, continue studying, get a job as a manager, buy a motorcycle, have my own house, and travel to another country.”

Erika
Age: 34
Job: Textile business owner

Erika lives in Quetzaltenango in the Guatemalan highlands, where most residents make a living in agriculture. The only girl among five brothers, she enjoyed helping with her family’s trade. Her father was a tailor; her mother, a weaver and seamstress. Erika was fortunate to complete high school while many around her had to drop out to help support their families. 

After finishing high school, Erika took a year off to consider college, but a surprise pregnancy changed her plans. Instead she got married at 20 to a shoemaker, then suffered the tragic loss of her first child. 

She and her husband combined their skills to start their own textile business. She loves designing products for her clients, and is skilled at making quality travel bags from leather and repurposed Guatemalan textiles. Business challenges come when she can’t find enough of certain recycled materials to fulfill an order, but her work has allowed her to overcome challenging financial circumstances.

How Erika’s job helps her #EmbraceEquity: “Thanks to my business and the help of my family, my job makes me an equal. I contribute to my family finances and I don’t depend exclusively on my husband providing for me. I can support the needs of my home, my own needs, and those of my children.” Erika takes advantage of business training offered through Handmade by Friendship Bridge®, and has explored training with The Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), sponsored by the U.S. Embassy.

Erika’s hopes for the future: “I hope to have my own house (she lives with her in-laws); that my children will become professionals; and that my business will continue to grow.”

 

Indira
Age: 24
Job: Communications and Visual Design Coordinator at Handmade by Friendship Bridge®

Since Indira was a young girl, she’s been drawn to color, design, art, and photography. She expanded on these interests with a degree in Communications and Design at Universidad Galileo in Guatemala; she is the first person in her family to go to college. She currently lives with her mom and two brothers (17 and 13) in Panajachel, Sololá, and is the primary income contributor in her family. Recently, she lost both her grandmother and father, with whom she lived, and it’s been the hardest time of her life. She is learning to cope by working hard and expressing her emotions, and also by studying and sharing as much time as possible with family.

Indira started working at Friendship Bridge in 2019, after college, in the Handmade by Friendship Bridge® program. “Most of the artisans I work with are operating businesses within beading (jewelry), sewing/textiles, weaving, basket-making. My favorite part of my job is to develop creative ways to promote the artisans’ work. I love it when I make the artisans laugh and capture their beautiful smiles in a photograph. With my creative skills, I am looking to drive positive change in causes such as sustainable production, poverty eradication, and economic growth.”

How Indira’s job helps her #EmbraceEquity: “My job helps me feel that I can deal with everything. Through the inspiring stories of the artisans, I remember that every woman is brave and strong and we just need to work hard on whatever we want. My work is one of my safe places—here, I can be who I am. Through my daily tasks and projects, I feel fulfilled and capable. It feels good to be an independent woman in a world for men. My heart rejoices in the realization that I can support my family and that I have a way to keep striving to get my brothers and mom ahead. Everyday I feel a bit more empowered and now I try to empower every woman I meet.”

Indira’s hopes for the future: “I hope to achieve a masters degree that I already started, and I’m also hoping to support my brothers to go to college and be professionals. I have also set out to achieve all of my father’s dreams for us that he couldn’t achieve. I don’t know how yet, but I’m sure that some day, my family and I will have our own house here in Panajachel. I’m also sure that some day I will become a mother, and I want to be as loving as my parents have been to me. The further I get, the further my family will go, too.”

 

Elena
Age: 47
Job: Weaver and Entrepreneur

A member of the Tz’utujil Mayan ethnic group, Elena grew up near coffee plantations. As one of seven children, she began working at age eight and only went to school through 4th grade. Her mother taught her to weave as a child and she has good memories of “cutting coffee” on the plantation.

Elena married at age 20, worked in a restaurant for six years, then started her own textile business, and had four children along the way. She’s known for weaving a variety of unique scarfs, blouses, and ponchos. She loves working with other artisans and being able to create what she likes, but competition is a challenge for her business. She also wishes she could afford to sell her products abroad; standard shipping fees make it too expensive for her.

How Elena’s job helps her #EmbraceEquity: “There is cooperation of everyone in my family to work together.” Once, Elena participated with a group of women in the Women’s Office of the City Hall in San Juan La Laguna, where the mayor invited her to represent her neighborhood. Together with other women, she helped identify opportunities for the artisan sector. Elena believes that the participation of women in decision-making spaces is important: “In order to develop the artisan sector, I think it is important that the women have the opportunity to have a direct artisan market, both inside the community and outside it. I hope that we can all earn a monthly income, so that we can better support our families and our people can be more prosperous.”

Elena’s hopes for the future: Elena hopes to finish her online store and be able to ship some products independently at a lesser cost. She’s proud that her three daughters are now bilingual secretaries at a chocolate factory, and can put their English skills into practice in customer service.

2022 Achievements

Dear friends,

It is my great pleasure to share with you Friendship Bridge’s outstanding results of 2022. Across our organization, there were many achievements, overachievements, and surprises. I am filled with pride as we review 2022, my final days with Friendship Bridge and my last message to all of you. You should also be very proud of the critical role you played in empowering the 33,895 clients who were served by Friendship Bridge throughout the year.

With the conclusion of 2022, and as Friendship Bridge begins to focus on our work for 2023, we have completed the second year of our strategic plan, Impact2, and we are on target to meet our plan objectives. It’s an exciting plan with much more to accomplish over the next 3 years, to continue creating opportunities that empower Guatemalan women to build a better life.

Credit

  • Ended the year with 25,148 clients in the portfolio while serving 33,895 during the year.
  • Reached $13 million in the loan portfolio, a 25% increase over 2021 and the largest portfolio in the history of Friendship Bridge.
  • Portfolio quality results continued to be best in class in the country and industry-wide, achieving full year write-offs of less than one half of one percent – a new record for Friendship Bridge!

Operations

  • Expanded our geographic coverage to the Alta Verapaz department by opening up a new branch in Cobán. Friendship Bridge now has 11 branches and 2 satellite offices across 13 departments within Guatemala.
  • The Client Advisory Committee, consisting of 162 clients across 10 branches, met three times during the year and provided valuable feedback on our programs and marketing tools.  They were provided new skills with special training aimed at these leaders.
  • Our call center made 16 thousand effective outbound calls to collect feedback and maintain relationships with clients in Spanish as well as 3 Mayan languages: K’iche, Kaqchikel, and Mam. 100% of 244 client complaint cases received were closed successfully within an average of 7 days.

Staff + Team

  • Certified as a Great Place to Work® and #1 Best Place to Work® for Women in Central America and the Caribbean 2022-2023.
  • Continued our commitment to gender equality with 55% of internal promotions going to women.
  • Women made up 54% of management positions and 57% of all staff positions across the organization.
  • Friendship Bridge values employees’ continuing education by offering a tuition reimbursement program; 38 employees took advantage of this benefit, with two employees achieving their bachelor’s degree.
  • Friendship University, our internal training program, offered 24,516 total hours of training with 143 training topics, including classroom and virtual training.
  • Raised $1 million from generous donors to build a best-in-class corporate university that will be called UAmistad, to both train employees and recruit young adults in the rural areas where Friendship Bridge works.

Social Performance

  • Earned a 4-star rating, the highest rating possible, on Charity Navigator for our third consecutive year.
  • Earned Candid’s (formerly Guidestar’s) Platinum Transparency 2022 award.
  • 60 Decibels published the first Microfinance Benchmark for social impact, and Friendship Bridge was among the top three in Latin America. (View the Report: English / Spanish)
  • Cerise SPI, a social performance audit conducted annually, resulted in an outstanding score for 2022 of 82 points, significantly better than the prior year (67 points) and above industry average (69).
  • Implemented the Poverty Stoplight, a tool to evaluate clients’ living conditions and their ambitions. This tool confirmed we are reaching our target market of women living in poverty and provided insight as to how clients specifically want to improve their living conditions. This information will support the programs and training we develop over the next few years.

Institutional Achievements

  • Raised $1.7 million in new investor funding and loans rolled over to support the growth of the portfolio by 23% in 2022.
  • Completed another record-breaking year with our partner Kiva raising $2.9 million.
  • $1.8 million was raised in donations, fundraising events, and grants thanks to over 800 supporters.
  • Friendship Bridge Circles raised nearly $200 thousand, and our Board of Directors helped raise over $300 thousand with their participation in various campaigns throughout the year.
  • Guests came together for the first in-person Building Bridges Gala in 7 years and the event raised $240 thousand.
  • Implemented commercial campaigns throughout the year to support brand positioning and product awareness, creating more than 30 video commercials and client testimonials in Spanish, K’iche, Kaqchikel, and Q’eqchi’ Mayan languages. (Watch a Guatemalan Bridge to Success commercial here)
  • Improved brand awareness by highlighting our Microcredit Plus services, including clients’ success stories, through appearances in 96 magazine and web articles, four national radio segments, and five segments on Guatemala’s national TV news. (Watch a Guatemalan Friendship Bridge news segment here)

Women’s Agriculture Credit & Training

  • Expanded our Women’s Agriculture Credit & Training program to Huehuetenango.
  • 16 field schools were implemented, offering training to 571 clients and three client promoters.
  • Rolled out an animal husbandry pilot, supporting an additional 618 clients.

Health for Life

  • Expanded our Health for Life program to two more branches for a total of six branches, serving a total of 4,658 clients and 37 complex cases.
  • In addition, 35% of our clients in the health program have chosen a family planning method, an outstanding result.

Bridge to Success

  • Ended the year with 177 clients participating in the new Bridge to Success program, with a portfolio of over $503 thousand in its first full year of the program.
  • Clients with more than 4 months in the program increased their income by 24%, profits by 31%, and number of employees by 29% on average.
  • Hosted the second annual Women’s Entrepreneur Awards with 179 women participating – a 220% increase compared to the previous year. Awards were given in three categories: Successful Entrepreneur, Exemplary Client, and Remarkable Woman.
  • Hosted the first Networking Event, attended by 74 women entrepreneurs who had the opportunity to connect with each other to generate new business ideas and opportunities.

Non-Formal Education

  • In order to strengthen our Non-Formal Education (NFE) program, the B-learning program was implemented in two branches in Nebaj and Huehuetenango.
    • Clients have the opportunity to interact with “Doña Chila” through WhatsApp both individually and in their groups, reaching 4,669 clients.
    • This program will be expanded using WhatsApp in 2023.

Handmade by Friendship Bridge®

  • 43 artisans participated in Handmade by Friendship Bridge®, providing work opportunities to an average of 127 employees.
  • Over 16 thousand products were exported and sold across our six online stores for wholesale and retail buyers, reaching sales of over $140 thousand for the year.
  • Launched our Master Weavers Collection and celebrated the 15 talented artisans who created it with an Exhibition Opening in Denver, Colorado.

Thank you ALL very much for your hard work and commitment to ensuring Friendship Bridge is a success and our clients and their families have a better life. I will be watching as you continue to grow, build new programs, and empower many, many more women in the years to come.

With much gratitude from me, Tracie, and all of us at Friendship Bridge,

Karen Larson, Retiring President & CEO
Tracie Cordeiro, Incoming President & CEO

 

View Previous Years’ Achievements

2021 Achievements 2020 Achievements

Results of Poverty Stoplight 2022

Friendship Bridge partners with Poverty Stoplight to improve clients’ lives

In 2022, Friendship Bridge implemented the Poverty Stoplight, with the poverty elimination methodology of Fundación Paraguaya. It’s designed to help our clients holistically assess their living conditions and quality of life in order for them to identify concrete actions for improvement.

The Stoplight comprises 31 indicators from the Multidimensional Poverty Index developed by the UNDP and Oxford University, which are organized into six different dimensions (below). Using illustrations and the colors of a traffic light to indicate an acceptable situation (non-poverty) in green, one that needs improvement (poverty) in yellow, and an unacceptable one (extreme poverty) in red, Friendship Bridge clients selected the color that best reflected their situation. 759 Friendship Bridge clients (a representative, randomly selected sample) participated in the Poverty Stoplight process. After completing a survey, clients were provided a Life Map—a tool that allows them to see their current condition and establish priorities for areas on which they want to work.

Income & Employment; Health & Environment; Housing & Infrastructure; Education & Culture; Self-Reflection & Motivation; Organization & Participation

One Facilitator from Quetzaltenango shared the following about one of her clients participating in Poverty Stoplight:

Despite knowing the client for several years…I did not know her emotional state. The survey allowed me to know her better and value all the sacrifices she has made, and above all, to know that [Friendship Bridge] has been a primary pillar for her. [My client] was able to externalize her emotions [and] needed space to be heard. As facilitators, we do not really get to know the emotional situations that the clients are going through. We can see them smiling in the meetings, but we do not know their reality. With the survey, she understood and reflected that she needs to improve in some areas.

Results

The overall results reflect that 62% of the client indicators are in green, 28% in yellow, and 10% in red. Longer-term clients (four or more loan cycles with Friendship Bridge) were 4% points less poor than newer clients (in cycles one, two, and three) and had better conditions than new clients for every indicator.

The dimension with the highest extreme poverty rate is Organization & Participation (20%). In this dimension, the indicator with the highest number of reds is the Group indicator (participation in a community group). On the other hand, the dimension with the highest green rate (without poverty) is that of Self-Reflection & Motivation (77%), with the indicators of Autonomy over Health and Business being the highest number of greens.

Results by dimension

“Greens [our clients received] are related to self-motivation and empowerment, and we focus on self-esteem, health, and business in our Non-Formal Education, so it’s a good sign to see these are areas of strength in our clients,” said Caitlin Scott, Chief Strategy Officer of Friendship Bridge.

“We also saw that the results in nutrition are better than the national average, which is consistent with what we have seen over the years,” Scott continued. “One of the first improvements we see [when clients join us] is in the way that they feed their families.”

The top five of the indicators most prioritized by clients (only those in yellow and red were prioritized) to improve are the following: Savings, Waste Management, Unforeseen Events, Income, and Assets. Clients created plans focused on taking direct action toward these indicators.

“The results show that the clients we are reaching with our products and services are a more poor demographic [relative to Guatemala’s national poverty rate], and their poverty rates tend to be in the areas of assets, education, infrastructure, and health,” Scott said.

Clients’ Achievements

Each client had the opportunity to select, from the indicators she had in green, which of them she wanted to recognize and celebrate as an achievement for her. The achievements that were most frequently celebrated were income (10%), water (8%), self-esteem (7%), savings (6%) and credit (6%). One client reflected on her achievements after completing the survey and Life Map:

I feel happy; I have never seen everything I have achieved before. Seeing so many ‘greens’ fills me with joy and pride, and I am full of emotion. The truth is that with my earnings I have managed to turn on the electricity, and the water, and now I have my little things. It makes me proud to have my own house.

I have been fighting. I am a single mother of two children. The neighbors tell me that I am energetic because I have managed to do my things. I have received courses in making baskets, I have plans to be able to have a small business with the baskets, and with another loan I will make more baskets. In addition, education is important for my children.

I dedicate myself to agriculture and I know that sometimes I can lose the harvest. For that reason I [look for] other sources of income and maybe the baskets will help me. I always look for ways to have more income little by little.

— Valeriana, client

Client Priorities for Improvement

The indicators most prioritized by clients for improvement are: savings (20%), waste management (12%), unforeseen events (8%), income (6%) and assets (6%).

With the technical support of Fundación Paraguaya, Friendship Bridge held sessions to determine which priorities the organization could address to support clients in those efforts. The indicators prioritized by Friendship Bridge are Savings and Waste Management, for which an action plan has been developed for implementation in 2023.

Friendship Bridge will also follow up with and encourage clients to progress in their personal action plans over the course of the year and will conduct another survey with them in 2023 to measure progress.

Businesses That Supported Us in 2022 / link

See Who Featured Handmade by Friendship Bridge® Products This Year

More and more companies, organizations, and blogs are showing that they care about gifts that give back to the community—and are featuring Handmade by Friendship Bridge® products!  Handmade by Friendship Bridge® was featured in the following holiday gift guides, small business directories, and blogs for 2022. Take a look and support/follow them in return.

 

32 Inexpensive Christmas Gifts to Celebrate the Holidays

The company well-known and well-loved for stunning fresh-fruit and other edible bouquets, Edible Arrangements, included Handmade By Friendship Bridge‘s own Multipurpose Fabric Tray, handcrafted by Micaela, in their holiday list of 32 Inexpensive Christmas Gifts to Celebrate the Holidays. 

2022 Small Business Holiday Gift Guide

Carol Roth, weekly media commentator, author, speaker, and former investment banker put together a 2022 Small Business Holiday Gift Guide which includes Handmade By Friendship Bridge’s luggage tags (scroll down to #118). We’re honored to be a part of a list that features so many other great products from small businesses!

Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Adults

Emily Reviews, a women’s lifestyle blog founded in 2009 by Emily Evert, added Handmade By Friendship Bridge’s oval cosmetic bag, made by Jacinta in Chimaltenango, to their list of Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Adults. We agree it makes a great gift, and ties in to Emily Reviews’ goal of spending money wisely.

 

 

Famadillo.com Product Review

Famadillo.com, an online family magazine of tips, travel, and great products, recently reviewed Handmade By Friendship Bridge’s oval cosmetic bag, boho earrings, and luggage tag! Check them out for these and a wide range of other product reviews and gift ideas for the holidays.

 

Christmas Gift Ideas for Parents

For quality, affordable gifts for the parents in your life, check out My Four and More‘s Christmas Gift Ideas for Parents, featuring Handmade By Friendship Bridge’s beaded coin purses, made by Maria.

Best Environmentally Friendly Christmas Gifts and Baby Gifts

Pretty Progressive, a news site covering politics, feminism, environmental issues, and shopping featured two Handmade by Friendship Bridge® products, Martina’s Huipil Patchwork Bag and Jacinta’s Huipil Cube Ornaments in different lists on environmentally friendly products, given that both are made from repurposed Guatemalan textiles.

We All Grow Latina Small Business Directory

Handmade By Friendship Bridge is now listed in the We All Grow Latina Small Business Directory! Find a wide range of products and services from Latine-owned businesses. It’s just one of many services offered by the We All Grow Latina community, designed to connect Latina creators and entrepreneurs from all walks of life. 

Lacooquette 

Fun, bright, Latina mom of three instagram influencer, lacooquette, with a focus on fun family food, featured our Plaid Corte Apron in her stories earlier this year. Follow Maria for fun ways to jazz up lunches for kids, as well as recipes, travel, and great family kitchen hacks.

Lasting Impact

Friendship Bridge. Lasting Impact. Karen Larson with clients.

A lot has happened in the world since 2009—both in the U.S. and Guatemala—but one thing has remained the same: Friendship Bridge’s mission to create opportunities that empower Guatemalan women to build a better life. With your help, we are changing how women in Guatemala see, respond to, and overcome the issues of poverty for themselves, their families, and their communities.

2009 is also when our CEO, Karen Larson, joined the organization. At a time of transition, Karen focused on three specific areas in her early years to ensure the successes of the past could continue: building a sustainable foundation for our clients and organization, improving operations, and investing in employees. Your support has been an essential part of her journey. Back then, we served 11,000 women with microloans, with 75 employees—now, with your help, we empower over 26,000 women and employ 260 staff members across 15 offices throughout Guatemala.

As we close 2022 and Karen prepares to retire from her role as CEO, she is most proud of the lasting impact Friendship Bridge has had on both our clients and our staff during her tenure. She feels incredibly grateful for the trust and commitment she has received from each of you who have contributed to the future of Friendship Bridge. With the solid foundation we have built together, the organization has been able to focus on making a meaningful impact.

Our impact is clear through the recognition we have received, including:

Thanks to your support of Friendship Bridge, you are reducing poverty rates among Guatemalan women and their families, improving their quality of life, and thus changing the trajectory for the next generation. This is lasting impact!

Double your gift:

If you are considering an end-of-year donation, now is the time to double your impact: every donation made before Dec. 31 will be matched dollar-for-dollar (up to $50,000) by a generous group of donors. That means your gift will DOUBLE in value if we can reach our $50,000 goal. Together we can reach even more clients, connecting them with health services, non-formal education, and microcredit to empower themselves and their communities. Your donation today creates a lasting impact for generations.

How your gift will make a lasting impact:

  • $100 pays for six Advanced Training classes for clients seeking additional income-generating work
  • $500 connects a woman entrepreneur with business mentoring services for five months
  • $1,000 provides preventive health services to 17 clients for one month
  • $2,500 funds training for 72 clients with a professional agronomist for one month
  • $5,000 helps expand our Health for Life program to reach more women in rural areas of Guatemala

Give this year-end and receive tax savings next year:

During the final weeks of 2022, make time to discuss your charitable plans with your family and financial advisors. Everyone’s circumstances are different, making it important to structure gifts in ways that are most beneficial for you.

By completing charitable gifts by Dec. 31, you can be eligible for additional tax savings next April. Please note: We do not provide tax advice and recommend that Friendship Bridge donors consult with their tax advisors for details.

Please consider donating today, and your gift will make the impact of a lifetime.

Donate Now

Tracie Cordeiro named President and CEO of Friendship Bridge

After a thorough global search, the Board of Directors is pleased to announce the selection of Tracie Cordeiro, CFO, as the new President and CEO of Friendship Bridge. Cordeiro will officially assume the position on January 23, 2023, working closely with the current President and CEO, Karen Larson, until that time to ensure a smooth transition.

Cordeiro joined Friendship Bridge more than four years ago and has become a trusted advisor to Larson and the leadership team ever since. Throughout these years, she has had the opportunity to work in Guatemala and travel around the country visiting staff and clients.

“We are very excited to welcome Tracie Cordeiro on as our new CEO!  Karen Larson has brought Friendship Bridge to a level of excellence over the past 13 years that is reflected in all aspects of our organization and Tracie’s combination of experience with her knowledge of Friendship Bridge and the passion and dedication she brings to her work make her an ideal CEO for the next stages of growth.”
– Susie Miller, Friendship Bridge Board of Directors Chair

Cordeiro is a CPA, fluent in English and Spanish and brings 25 years of valuable finance and managerial experience to the CEO role.  Before joining Friendship Bridge, for 11 years she helped lead the finance and procurement area of Opera Australia, a 100 million dollar nonprofit organization. This experience exposed her to many key dynamics such as leadership, fundraising and strategic planning. Prior to that, she worked in finance and leadership positions for Honeywell and KPMG in the U.S., Europe and Asia Pacific, where she gained deep, technical experience in finance, accounting and audit, working in both English and Spanish across a diverse portfolio of industries and organizations. These qualifications, paired with her ability to motivate and inspire trust and confidence in those around her, made her an excellent choice for the role.

A Wisconsin native and current Colorado resident, Cordeiro is a summa cum laude graduate of Arizona State University with a BA in accounting and a minor in Spanish. As a mother of two girls, Cordeiro is excited to take on the new position that will allow her to have greater influence in empowering Guatemalan women.

“I am thrilled with the selection of Tracie as my successor, and I know Tracie is passionate about our mission. As the CFO, Tracie has been intimately involved in building our strategic plan with me and the leadership team and is familiar with every financial detail of our organization.”
– Karen Larson, President and CEO

The Board of Directors elected the Executive Search and Transition Committee, composed of four board members. The committee engaged an external recruitment search firm specializing in nonprofit executive placement to guide us through the search and transition process. A very robust, transparent, and inclusive process was implemented and followed for the past several months to ensure we selected the best candidate.

Friendship Bridge Ranked as the #1 Best Place to Work® for Women 2022 in Central America and the Caribbean

Great Place To Work® Recognizes Friendship Bridge’s Gender Inclusive Culture

 

Friendship Bridge ranks as the #1 Best Place to Work® for Women 2022 in Central America and the Caribbean, (multinationals category) as identified by Great Place to Work®, by surveying hundreds of employees of multinational companies in the Caribbean and Central America region. The organization asks employees about key factors that they believe create “excellent workplaces,” and analyzes the programs that allow for the development and growth of women. 

Organizations participating in the ranking process must have a female workforce that represents more than 30% of the total organization. At Friendship Bridge, 55% of the organization is made up of women and more than 50% of the leadership positions are occupied by women. Last year, 55% of internal promotions were granted to women. 

 “Friendship Bridge is characterized by empowering Guatemalan women and is proud to mention that it does so internally and externally, ensuring their welfare [and] growth, and impacting both their lives and that of their families,” said Victor Contreras, Director of Human Resources. “We are 100% committed to the well-being of everyone.”

In addition, Friendship Bridge’s has adopted institutional values, including: 

Respect, which promotes equal and fair treatment for all its employees, regardless of race, economic status, gender, religion or ethnicity 

Transparency, by committing to promote communication and honesty

Empowerment, by encouraging the participation of all employees in decision making and the creation of solutions for the benefit of their clients and the organization itself. Friendship Bridge shows interest and concern for the inclusion of women when hiring and promoting. 

The organization supports women in work/life balance, fully complying with their legal benefits, as well as making them participants in enjoying the benefits of the Labor Welfare Program—a set of practices whose objective is to improve the quality of life of its employees. Development Programs and Career Plans are also important practices within the organization that foster professional and personal growth for all. 

There are also inclusive policies, practices, and procedures to ensure equal rights and obligations for all employees, through the Internal Work Regulations and the Code of Ethics and Conduct. This aims to ensure that all employees, regardless of their position, promote an organizational culture based on institutional values, good practices, excellence in internal and external customer service, encouraging teamwork, honesty, professionalism, and quality in interpersonal relations.

“I feel empowered and appreciated! 55% of the organization is represented by women!”

–Ingrid Ibaté, Panajachel office