Empower women. Eliminate poverty.

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Non-Formal Education: Overindebtedness, Expense Analysis, and Budget Creation (Spring 2016)

A special thanks to our Cada Mes Club – Friendship Bridge’s monthly donors – for supporting our clients on their monthly journeys.

Each month the women in every Trust Bank travel, most likely by foot, to their designated meeting places to make payments on their loans. At the meetings, clients also receive a Non-Formal Education lesson in their native languages on one of four pillars – women, family, business, and health. January, February, and March lessons focused on finances within clients’ homes and businesses.

January – Preventing Overindebtedness

Overindebtedness is a growing problem in Guatemala, and Friendship Bridge has several measures in place to protect its current and potential clients from overindebtedness.* January’s Trust Bank meetings started off with a series of questions that asked the women to reflect on their current debts. The women then watched as one of their fellow Trust Bank members tried to catch one, two, and then three balls at once to demonstrate how demanding it is to juggle multiple loans. The final activity brought home the point that a loan is not income, but in fact a significant expense. The women had to decide which expenses to pay multiple loan payments, food, clothing, or home repairs in a scenario where they had insufficient income to cover them all.

February – Analyzing and Controlling Expenses

February found the women trying to decide which five of ten items (matches, a can of beans, milk, water, aIMG_4406-2 first aid kit, a radio, a TV, a phone, a stove, and a flashlight) they would take with them if they had to suddenly flee their homes in the event of an emergency. The exercise was meant to encourage the women to identify which expenses were most necessary in their own lives. Next the women categorized expenses as daily, future, and unexpected. The women learned that prioritizing expenses requires careful thought and diligence. The results are multiple: quick awareness of expense increases, a benchmark for business growth, and a path toward increased savings.

March – Creating a Budget

A budget allows for more rational decision-making when income and expenses change, sometimes suddenly. To create budgets of their own, the women worked in pairs with beans to represent expenses and corn to represent income. Using a grid pre-printed with income items on one side and expense items (including savings) on the other, the women placed the beans and corn in the corresponding squares. When they were done, they were asked to think back to the prior months’ activity regarding expense prioritization and report back to the group their ideas for reducing the beans (expenses) if there were more than corn (income).Here are a few client reactions:

  • 1. MARIA MARGARITA SOLIS
    “It is essential to develop a budget so I can have a good control over my costs. This way I can see my exact profits and keep myself marketable with the fair prices of my products.”
    - Maria Margarita, age 58

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    “I do my best to save some money. It is important to prioritize our expenses in order to have a balance in our households and our business. It is good that Friendship Bridge reminds us of this.” 

     

    - Candelaria, age 29 watching the Facilitator scramble the 10 items she might choose in the event of a flood

 

 

 

Our Non-Formal Education program is the backbone of our Microcredit Plus program, and one of the Plus services that we feel truly empowers our clients. Thanks again to our Cada Mes Club for helping support this program!

*Overindebtedness in Guatemala stems from many MFIs, moneylenders, and loan sharks who lend at extremely high interest rates. These types of lenders are generally only concerned with profit and do not have clients’ wellbeing in mind.

Ideas for Hosting a Building Bridges Stay-at-Home Gala Party

Our 2016 Building Bridges Stay-at-Home Gala is just around the corner, on Saturday, April 9th. Many of our friends across the US are hosting parties on April 9th to celebrate! Here are some ideas to help make your party a success:

Prior to your get-together, share the link to the online auction (www.biddingforgood.com/friendshipbridge) with your guests so they can start bidding in the auction prior to your party!

Ways to support Friendship Bridge during your party

  • Welcome your guests with a brief introduction to Friendship Bridge and talk to them about why you support the organization. (See our Friendship Bridge 101 web page for talking points and to rehearse your Friendship Bridge “elevator speech.”)
  • Share the link to the online auction (www.biddingforgood.com/friendshipbridge) with your guests.
  • Have your wifi password handy for guests so they can bring their iPads and phones to make their final bids on online auction items.
  • Make sure your computer or tablet is ready to watch the short online video premiere, which will be emailed to you at 7pm MDT.
  • Provide donation forms for your guests who are interested in supporting Friendship Bridge (Click here to download and print).

Ideas for activities

  • Friendship Bridge Video Premiere Bingo – We’ve created bingo cards with key words about Friendship Bridge’s work, to play during the short online video premiere at 7 PM MDT. Simply print out bingo cards for your guests, grab a pen, and you’re ready to play. Watch and listen to the video about Friendship Bridge’s work and mark key words and images you see in the video! See who can get BINGO first! (Click here to download and print cards)
  • Play marimba music (the marimba is the national instrument of Guatemala). Here is a link to some marimba music you can play in the background.
  • Wear or display any tipica you own (tipica is traditional Guatemalan hand-crafted items).
  • Display photos from your travels to Guatemala.

Menu Suggestions

Drinks and Cocktails

 

We hope you’ll join in the fun and host a party!

If you have any questions, please contact Laura at ljepsen@friendshipbridge.org. If you decide to host a party for the Stay-at-Home Gala, we’d love to hear about it!

A Reflection on International Women’s Day

By Jessica Kutz, Field Intern

International Women’s Day isn’t just about women; it’s about all those who benefit when women succeed.

March 8th is International Women’s Day – a day that honors the achievements of women around the world, but also a day to reflect on the work that still needs to be done to empower women and achieve global gender equality.

The last six weeks I have worked in Guatemala as a field intern for Friendship Bridge. Working directly with clients and hearing their stories has given me an opportunity to reflect on women in the world, and specifically here in Guatemala.

John Hendra, the UN Women Deputy Executive Director of Policy and Programme gave a speech titled “Feminization of Poverty in Rural Areas.” In this speech he describes rural poverty as disproportionately affecting women due to several key factors, including access to health and reproductive tools, and access to productive resources.

Due to limited health and reproductive tools, women not only face higher mortality rates during childbirth in rural areas, but they also bear the economic burden of raising more children than they can support. Friendship Bridge aims to provide tools for effective family planning as well a culturally sensitive training to its clients. In a recent interview conducted with Yolanda, one of our clients, she talked candidly about what this lack of family planning means for women in her community. “There is a woman who lives near to me who has six children. This woman suffers…she only buys corn and only drinks hot water with her tamale, she doesn’t have enough to eat. I tell her, “You need to stop having children so you can take better care of yourself fand the six children you have.'” 

Lacks of access to productive resources means women have less control of family finances. If a woman is withheld from contributing to the economic wellbeing of her family, exiting extreme poverty is very difficult. If more women have access to the resources that Friendship Bridge provides via microcredit and educational training, families as a whole would have a better chance at sustainable futures.

Many of Friendship Bridge’s clients work in the agriculture and artisan sectors. With access to loans they are able to produce more crops, livestock, and products and increase their earnings for their family. During the interviews I conduct, most women mention wanting to help their partner support their family or wanting to provide a better future for their children.

The majority of Friendship Bridge clients have little or no formal education. Yet in 100% of the interviews I have conducted, our clients have cited the education of their children as their main motivation for growing their businesses. If we can continue to minimize the barriers that our clients experience and empower them to succeed, we can help them prepare the next generation of women and men to create a more equal society.

Partner with Friendship Bridge and empower women TODAY

Friendship Bridge named as CO Impact Days and Initiative Finalist – One of 60 to Participate in First of its Kind $100 Million Marketplace for Impact Investing

CO Impact Days and Initiative announced last week the 60 social ventures that are invited to meet face to face with investors in order to seek millions of dollars of “impact investments” at CO Impact Days Social Venture Showcase on March 4, 2016. Friendship Bridge was one of just 60 finalists chosen from more than 280 applicants.

The 60 ventures will convene at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) for the first of its kind, statewide marketplace for impact investing.  The chosen social ventures will have the opportunity to showcase their work and their ability to provide both a financial and social return to more than 200 accredited impact investors.

“This is the first time in the U.S. that 200 accredited impact investors will come together for a statewide marketplace, where they can connect with each other, learn, and have intimate access to social ventures representing projects, for profits, nonprofits, and funds at any stage of growth,” said Dr. Stephanie Gripne, Founder of the Impact Finance Center and creator of CO Impact Days and Initiative. “This is a first for impact investors and social ventures.”

The goal of CO Impact Initiative is to catalyze $100 million in impact investments into Colorado social ventures in the next three years, and it is kicking off with CO Impact Days on March 2-4. CO Impact Days encourages a new breed of impact investors and community members to Learn. Connect. Invest.

“Colorado Impact Days is providing a perfect opportunity for Friendship Bridge to showcase our work to so many significant socially minded investors,” says CEO, Karen Larson, “We are excited to share our investment opportunity with local, like-minded investors and likewise, learn what is important to them. What a great community event!”

Among the more than 200 accredited impact investors, foundations, and family offices participating in CO Impact Days and Initiative are Gary Community Investments, Colorado Health Foundation, The Denver Foundation and Innovest Portfolio Solutions, along with Linda Appel Lipsius, Andrew C. Currie, Rich Hoops, Jim and Melanie Davidson, and Jenn Vervier.

“Impact investing allows me to support both for profit and nonprofit social ventures using my experience as an agency president, skills as an entrepreneur, and resources from my success,” says Melanie Davidson, President & COO of Fruition, a Denver based marketing agency. “Where else in the U.S. can I come to meet 200 other leading philanthropists and investors, learn from the best national and regional leaders in this space, and get the first look at Colorado’s top social ventures?”

CO Impact Days’ innovation is uniquely possible here because Colorado is home to a number of national leaders in impact investing and a thriving and collaborative community of social venture entrepreneurs in both the for profit and nonprofit sectors, philanthropists, and investors who are committed to growing Colorado’s economy and creating good jobs while ensuring our state remains one of the best places to work, live, and play in the U.S.

Zika Virus, a Reminder for Women’s Empowerment

by Jessica Kutz, Friendship Bridge field intern

As the magnitude of the Zika virus increases, we are left with a question: What do we do now? In the case of women in the United States that means visiting your local gynecologist, deciding on a contraception option, and being thankful you don’t live in Central America.Grupos de Chupol 053 (2)-4

Why thankful? Because many women in Central America face numerous obstacles to controlling their reproductive health. The two main barriers are a culture of discrimination toward women and lack of access to adequate healthcare and contraception. This means that battling Zika and taking the correct precautions isn’t necessarily an option for most women in Central America

With a strong patriarchal culture in countries like Guatemala, women have few choices in regard to their reproductive health. Husbands often feel that they should be in control of their family size, and therefore they restrict whether a woman is able to use contraception. There is also a widespread sentiment that women are being unfaithful if they feel the need to use contraception, and this can anger husbands. Unfortunately, anger usually translates into domestic violence. In fact, gender-related violence is at an all-time high in Guatemala, which ranks third in the world for femicide – defined as “the murder of a person based on the fact that she is female. ”

In addition to this inherent discrimination against women, healthcare access is also a major challenge that disproportionately affects women, particularly those in rural communities. Staff in health clinics do not generally speak the local Mayan languages, making health education and access to resources particularly difficult for Mayan women who speak one of Guatemala’s 24 indigenous languages. As a result of this lack of education and access to women’s healthcare, Guatemala also has the lowest contraception usage rate in all of Central America. Guatemala was one of five countries that actually ran out of contraception in 2015.

This is why Friendship Bridge believes so strongly in working solely with women, especially indigenous women in rural communities. Friendship Bridge aims to empower women through microcredit, education, and health services. In particular, our Salud para la Vida program for women’s preventive health is overcoming obstacles like those mentioned above through health education and access to culturally sensitive preventive health services for our clients. Salud para la Vida provides women with family planning options, which allows them to take control of their reproductive rights. We are ensuring our clients are empowered to remain in control of their health when health crises like Zika hit.

 

2015 Highlights

Happy 2016 from all of us at Friendship Bridge! We are excited for all that’s in store this year for Friendship Bridge and thankful for all that you helped us accomplish in 2015. With your support, last year we disbursed $14.1 million in small loans to nearly 30,000 clients! Here are a few other exciting achievements from 2015._MG_3443

  • Piloted new Salud para la Vida health program, serving 1,116 clients with preventive health services and providing health education to nearly 2,800 clients. An astounding 69% of eligible clients opted to access health services.
  • Opened a new branch office in San Marcos, creating employment opportunities for 9 new staff members and adding 1,152 clients.
  • Delivered 189,000 hours of Non-Formal Education, 848 hours of Advanced Education, and 100 hours of mentorship and leadership training.
  • Maintained industry-leading loan repayment rate of 98.4%.
  • Offered 2,170 CrediEscolar loans to help clients support their children’s education.
  • Launched new initiatives for our artisan and agriculture clients – we’ll share more about these initiatives this year!

Our Microcredit Plus program continues to grow as we add Plus services and additional products beyond standard microloans. Clients who access these Plus services and additional products are less vulnerable to poverty, and our survey data shows that the longer a woman is in our Microcredit Plus program, the more likely she is to exit extreme poverty. In fact, 95% of our clients feel their income has increased or stabilized, and feel that their income is providing them a sense of security from life’s uncertainties.

Thank you for being a part of this exciting work. Through our Microcredit Plus program women’s lives are truly being transformed as they are creating better futures for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Non-Formal Education: The Impact of Chronic Illness, Preventing Breast Cancer, and a Positive Community Identity (Winter 2015)

A special thanks to our Cada Mes Club – Friendship Bridge’s monthly donors – for supporting our clients on their monthly journeys.

Each month the members of every Trust Bank travel, most likely by foot, to their designated meeting places to make payments on their loans and receive a Non-Formal Education lesson in their native languages on one of the four pillars – women, family, business, and health.

October – The Impact of Chronic Illness

Dealing with chronic illness is not something a woman does on her own, despite how much she might want to. Chronic illness has consequences that ripple beyond the affected person. The sick person consumes resources, but can no longer contribute financially. She loses the ability to take care of others, and she feels anxiety and sadness that are shared by those who care about her. To illustrate this concept, one woman was asked to walk a crooked line by herself, and then again with the aid of one, and then another woman, as a demonstration of the need for support when making a tough journey, as illustrated in the photo below. This month’s lesson emphasized the importance of personal health and educated the women on the risk factors that contribute to diabetes and heart disease. Based on these risk factors, each woman was asked to rate her commitment to a healthy lifestyle and to determine changes she might make to improve it.

November – Preventing Breast Cancer

After learning the prior month how chronic illness impacts those you love, November’s lesson focused specifically on breast cancer, a disease often preventable if caught early. Because the first sign of breast cancer produces no symptoms that can be seen or felt, the women received instructions on self-breast-exams and were reminded that self-examination is a form of empowerment that allows a woman to take charge of her own health.

December – A Positive Community Identity

Socialization in our families, schools, communities, and government defines the way we think, feel, and act. Women naturally acquire a different identity than men. December’s lesson encouraged the women to identify the messages they have received in these spaces over the years and to challenge those that are negative. The women spent time reworking the negative messages so that they promote personal development instead. To celebrate Christmas, the lesson ended with the creation of an ornament made of felt.

 

  • IMG_1216
    Cada Mes member Kathie Younghans (center) attended the recent Insight Trip in October and participated in one of our Trust Bank meetings. In this photo, Kathie is demonstrating the need for support when making a “tough journey.” Of the experience, Kathie says, “Learning to accept help is one of life’s lessons and it is then followed by gratitude.”

    Empowering women leads to more children in school

    Women are changemakers. When women are empowered, the impact extends to their families, their communities, and even their entire regions and countries. Earlier this month we shared Ana’s story – how she was empowered through Friendship Bridge loans and education to create a better future. But not only is her own future more hopeful, but with her newfound confidence and resources, Ana is empowered and equipped to change her family’s future.

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    Ana’s success means better outcomes for her two children, Abner (age 15), and Nicolle (6 months). “I want my kids to live well. I want them to succeed and I want to be a good example to them,” Ana says.

    Ana’s son Abner (pictured at right) says his goal is to finish his education. He says he wants to follow the example his mother has set – of hard work and providing for her family. “I want her to feel proud of me, as I do of her,” Abner says.

    Friendship Bridge’s Non-Formal Education program emphasizes family care topics like keeping children in school. These trainings, along with Ana’s increased business income, have motivated and allowed her to keep Abner in school. He is currently in 8th grade, which is remarkable considering only 60% of children in Guatemala finish the 6th grade. With his education, Abner will be equipped to realize his own dreams for his future. As far as making his mother proud – well, Ana practically radiates pride when she talks about her son.

    Friendship Bridge recognizes that education is a critical component of breaking the cycle of poverty, especially for indigenous populations in rural areas. To empower our clients to keep their children in school, we offer a CrediEscolar loan to offset the costs associated with school enrollment – such as uniforms, school supplies, and other fees.

    Last year, more than 1,000 students were supported with Friendship Bridge CrediEscolar loans. Clients who took out the loans say they would have had to sacrifice in other areas if they had not received the loan. Remarkably, 26% of the clients who invested in education through a CrediEscolar loan had no education themselves, but through this loan are making a commitment to their children’s growth and education. From 2013 – 2014, school enrollment of our clients’ dependent children between ages 7 and 13 increased 17%. You can read more about the impact of CrediEscolar in our 2014 Impact Report.

    We invest in women because they reinvest 90% of their income back into their family – prioritizing things like health and education. Investing in women and providing them loan options that fit their individual objectives means children like Abner stay in school and entire families and communities enjoy better futures. Investing in women means investing in generational change.

     

    Support children like Abner in November and double your impact! A longtime supporter of Friendship Bridge believes so strongly in the power of our work that he has offered a challenge gift of $30,000 if Friendship Bridge can raise more than $30,000 in new or increased gifts through November 30th. Can you help us unlock this challenge gift by giving today?

    A letter from our CEO: With you on our team, women are being empowered

    Dear friends,

    Imagine you are with me in Guatemala, in Ana’s house. It is a simple home, and today it is brimming with activity. Ana is busy cooking at her stove with her 6-month old daughter bundled on her back. Her 8th grade son Abner is just getting home from school. If you were here, you would smell hints of garlic and onion wafting through the room as Ana prepares traditional Guatemalan tamales to sell during the busy holiday season ahead. “My stove will be working hard for the end of the year,” Ana says, smiling.

    Friendship Bridge client Ana invested in a clean burning, efficient stove. This stove has produced positive health outcomes for her family and her children, and it has also helped her grow her business.Like you, Ana dreams of a better future – education for her children, growing her business, and perhaps even going back to school herself. She says before she became a Friendship Bridge client those dreams seemed far-fetched, but with your support, she is now achieving them. “Four years ago I had less business, and I wanted to have more goals to improve myself. Friendship Bridge has taught me to be an entrepreneurial woman….They opened the door for me to improve my business. Friendship Bridge gave me confidence.”

    Ana and her family’s lives have changed dramatically since her first loan four years ago, and the investment in her clean stove through our CrediSalud program has led to even more positive change. Ana saves significantly on firewood and her family’s health has improved. This allows her to devote more time to her business and her son to dedicate more time to his schoolwork. Remarkably, this stove is making Ana’s dreams more attainable.

    I hope reading this story makes you as proud as I am. Stories like Ana’s always make me think about you, because as a supporter of Friendship Bridge, you are empowering women to find their own solutions to poverty – which can be as simple as a new stove! With you on our team, clients like Ana are positioned to learn, grow, and succeed.

    Will you make a special gift to Friendship Bridge today and stand in solidarity with these inspiring women? Your gift is critical as we expand to reach all of our 22,000 clients and equip them to become as empowered as Ana. Each gift will provide additional Plus services, like Ana’s stove loan, which have been measurably proven to empower our clients and decrease their vulnerability to poverty. You can read more about our impact and our Plus services in our recently published Impact Report.

    Thank you so very much for empowering women to create a better future for themselves, their families, and communities.

    Unidos en el empoderamiento de mujeres – United in empowering women,

    Karen Larson
    President & CEO

    P.S. Double your impact! A longtime supporter of Friendship Bridge believes so strongly in the power of our work that he has offered a challenge gift of $30,000 if Friendship Bridge can raise more than $30,000 in new or increased gifts through November 30th. Can you help us unlock this challenge gift by giving today?

     

    Our Leader Clients: Lorena

    Leaders: The highest stage of development on our Client Continuum.  Leaders are women who are not only experiencing empowerment, but are using it to inspire institutional change in their communities. These women have the business skills to innovate and run larger businesses, and may be searching for expanded markets. They dream big and believe that with the right training and financial products, they can achieve their goals. 

    At age 40, Lorena is an unstoppable force. As a Friendship Bridge client, Lorena quickly demonstrated leadership and business skills and was elected president of her Trust Bank. Her determination and grit come from a lifetime of fighting the odds stacked against her.

    Although her family was poor, Lorena fought to advance to the 9th grade. When her mother became ill, Lorena had to stop attending school and support her family. She married at age 19, but her husband was an alcoholic who avoided taking DSC06733responsibility for their five children.

    Summoning up her courage and determination, Lorena worked several jobs to support her children’s education. She took the advice of a neighbor and started a new business selling sausages. The business was immediately successful and demand for her products increased. Needing to expand her business, Lorena approached Friendship Bridge for a loan. With her loans she began to diversify her products and began to sell sausage, ham, cheese, and refacciones, or snacks. Thanks to her business success, all of her children remain in school. Her oldest is finishing a degree in law and the others are in high school.

    Because of her leadership abilities, Lorena was selected to participate in Friendship Bridge’s pilot mentor program, where she learned skills to build her business and have impact in the community. “After the training, I have increased self-confidence and a clearer vision for the future,” Lorena said.

    Lorena now has a better understanding of her business margins, how to increase customer service and satisfaction, and how to market to more customers. Lorena also feels more organized after working with the mentor and can better carry out her business plan.

    Lorena participates at a high level in her community. When a disease broke out in nearby communities, she was proactive and made arrangements with a Guatemalan congresswoman to have vaccinations given in the communities to cure and prevent the illness. Lorena is committed to being a change-maker in her community and her country. She is dreaming big and achieving her goals.

    Our Entrepreneur Clients: Otilia

    Otilia - Entrepreneur client. Otilia produces jams and jellies using her own award-winning recipe. She has been invited to present her products at fairs in Guatemala City and Los Angeles, California. The middle stage of development on our Client Continuum. Entrepreneurs are often women who are beginning to experience higher levels of social and economic empowerment and are creating a vision for what they want. They tend to invest their earnings into home improvements and are beginning to save so they can better weather economic and health related shocks. As entrepreneurs, they are growing their businesses, engaging the community, and may even have the ability to hire others.

    Otilia is a woman driven to overcome any obstacle. Born into a large family, Otilia was abused and neglected by her father, who didn’t allow her to attend school. Otilia was determined to build a better future for herself, so she moved to a more urban area in search of a job and a chance for an education.

    Otilia married and had five children, but her husband was financially irresponsible and struggled with alcoholism in the early years of their marriage. In order to provide for her children, Otilia started a business selling snack items. Unfortunately the profits were small. Through the support of her Friendship Bridge Trust Bank, Otilia attended Advanced Education and Technical Training and learned about canning vegetables and making jams. Inspired by what she learned, Otilia developed her own jam recipe, which she called “Canned Margarita.” Her first sales were extremely successful, and nearby shops and bakeries quickly began placing orders.

    Following her business success, Otilia hired two employees. She has attended several fairs for entrepreneurs in Guatemala City and has been invited to share her story and her products at a fair in Los Angeles, California. Otilia has received numerous honors and diplomas for her business success. To Otilia, though, the success she is most proud of is being able to send her children to school. Her oldest son is currently pursuing an engineering degree, and her other children are in secondary school.

    Otilia reflects often on her achievements and is thankful to Friendship Bridge for enabling her to grow as an entrepreneur. “My clients drive me to progress as a businesswoman. It is very satisfying to me when high profile people buy and enjoy my products. My children are also proud of me, and they are advancing their education. I have learned so much – to be organized with my time, to manage my budget, and to send my children to school. This is all thanks to the training I received from Friendship Bridge.”

    Otilia belongs to three community groups and is often invited to share her experiences at meetings. She is also serving as an example to her sister, who has recently exited an abusive relationship. Otilia is always looking for new opportunities and knocking on new doors. She is proud of the success she has achieved, but she is looking to grow even more. Otilia is on her way to becoming a Leader.

    Head to our YouTube channel to watch Otilia share her story.

    To learn about the first level of development on our Client Continuum, read last week’s blog about Cruz, a Dreamer client.  Next week we will be featuring a client at the highest level of development on our Continuum.

    2014 Impact Report – Expanding the Bridge: Opening Pathways of Empowerment

    IR coverThis month we published our second annual Impact Report, a document that shares a variety of results from our Microcredit Plus program – some suggestive, some positive, and some from which to learn. This document guides our strategy toward fulfilling our social mission of empowering impoverished Guatemalan women to create better future for themselves, their families, and their communities through microfinance and education.

    In 2014, our results show Microcredit Plus is increasing the agency of our clients. With increased agency our clients know what they want, believe they can achieve it, and are able to take action to realize it. Read our online report to learn more about outcomes related to our clients’ capacity over financial decisions, for economic change, and to aspire for a better future.

    A few highlights from the 2014 Impact Report:

    • 90% of clients report taking on a leadership role since becoming a Friendship Bridge client
    • Clients who invested in clean stoves through Friendship Bridge’s CrediSalud loan saved $37/month (72%) in fuel expenditures each month. These clients also saw several positive outcomes related to health and children’s school attendance.
    • More than 1,000 students were supported through CrediEscolar loans for education. From 2013 to 2014, clients’ enrollment of dependent children between ages 7 and 13 increased 17%.
    • Clients who utilize a Plus service such as Advanced Training, CrediSalud, or CrediEscolar experience more positive change in their poverty status.
    • 95% of our clients feel their income has increased or stabilized. Over half report they have either started saving or increased their savings.

    These outcomes from 2014 are shaping our strategy as we moves forward with our Social Performance Management goals. Our results are leading us to understand poverty with a wider lens – one that encompasses more than just financial outcomes. We are excited to see positive results as clients utilize our Plus services and participate in our program through multiple loan cycles. As we learn from our findings year-to-year we will be increasingly able to expand the bridge and open pathways of empowerment to even more women.

    Read the full report here.