Empower women. Eliminate poverty.

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Highlights from Executive Director, Karen Larson

Ag_KarenWebsiteDear Friends,

As key stakeholders who have made a considerable impact on our organization, I want to ensure you are well-informed of our activities and progress.   Friendship Bridge has hit an important milestone this month and I am excited to share the details with you, along with other important initiatives. If you are looking for more in-depth information on any of these highlights, please contact the Friendship Bridge office via e-mail or 303.674.0717.


  • Portfolio reaches historic high while maintaining excellent quality
    Friendship Bridge grew our portfolio to 30 million quetzales ($3.85 million)!  This is an exciting milestone for Friendship Bridge and I am happy to report that this accomplishment was met while continuing to maintain our excellent portfolio quality and serving nearly 18,000 clients.
  • Reducing the burden of poverty
    Our impact and evaluation work shows a clear, positive association between the length of time a client is with Friendship Bridge and their level of poverty.  Our work in reducing the burden of poverty is two-fold: (1) Clients create a more consistent cash flow and protection against shocks such as unexpected illnesses or natural disasters; and, (2) clients are using valuable information they learn during our health education programs in their daily lives.
  • Social Performance Management principles garner industry attention
    Shon Morris, Friendship Bridge staff member, was invited to present at the Latin American Conference on Village Banking for our exemplarily work with Social Performance Management, affirming our position as a leader in the field.
  • Health initiatives
    Data shows that clients appreciate our health programs and are using what they learn.  In an effort to enhance our social impact commitment to our clients, we have partnered with HELPS International, the manufacturer of ONIL Stoves, to facilitate our clients’ transition to safer and healthier stoves that minimize smoke inhalation and burns.  In addition, these stoves reduce wood use by 70%, saving valuable time, money and natural resources.

Lastly, if anyone is interested in traveling to Guatemala to see first-hand the impact these programs have on our clients, consider our next Insight Trip scheduled for November 10-16, 2013.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at 303.674.0717.

All the best,

Karen Larson
Executive Director

Salida Circle Revisits Woodstock

Salida Circle was recently featured in The Mountain Mail newspaper.

by Ericka Kastner

Twelve years ago, a small gathering of Salida women with a heart for Guatemala banded together to make a big impact on the once war-torn country, thousands of miles away.  Kathie Younghans, the group’s ringleader, has had a “long-term love affair with the Guatemalan people” that began with volunteer service in the region in 1969.  Her fervor blossomed into the formation of the Salida Circle of Friendship Bridge in 2001.

Read the full article about Salida Circle’s history and efforts here.

Read the Woodstock Revisited event follow-up article here.

Summer Events Across the U.S.

Salida Circle presents Woodstock RevisitedThis summer is filled with wonderful events hosted across the United States to benefit Microcredit Plus at Friendship Bridge. Don’t miss the chance to support Friendship Bridge while purchasing a new piece of art, enjoying an organic farm or groovin’ it up at Woodstock!

Woodstock Revisited Hosted by Salida Circle, Colorado

Thursday, August 15
Suggest Donation $25 – proceeds benefit Friendship Bridge

Join us at the Community Center (corner of F and 5th) in Salida, Colorado to celebrate the anniversary of Woodstock and raise money to provide microloans and education to women in Guatemala.  The event will feature food, drinks, a live band and a showing of the movie, Woodstock.  In addition, we will have door prize drawings and time for socializing with old friends.  Dress as you please but feel free to wear your best Hippy Garb!

Annual Summer Tent Sale Hosted by Oconomowoc Circle, Wisconsin
Saturday, August 17 & Sunday, August 18
10a.m. – 5p.m.

Oconomowoc Circle of Friendship Bridge is please to host their annual tent sale once again benefiting Friendship Bridge.  This event takes place in the town of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin on Oakwood Avenue (next to Fowler Park).  Among the many other wonderful items offered at this sale, this year you will be able to find the infamous “swittens” with coordinating headbands for sale.  In addition, artistically painted wooden chairs, created by local high school artists, will be featured.  This is the same weekend as the Oconomowoc Festival of the Arts in Fowler Park so please mark your calendars to enjoy both activities!

Fiesta for Friendship Bridge Hosted by Central Coast Circle, California
Sunday, October 13

Central Coast Circle is pleased to announce Fiesta for Friendship Bridge at Branch Mill Organic Farm in Huasna, California on October 13th from 2-6.  The Fiesta will feature a silent auction with appetizers, drinks and music under the oaks at this lovely organic farm.  We are excited to announce that Delfina, a Friendship Bridge employee from the Quiché branch in Guatemala will be joining us for the festivities!  The silent auction will include a variety of local items including art, gift certificates, gift baskets and even plants! Proceeds will benefit Friendship Bridge’s Microcredit Plus program.

Dining for Women Awards Grant to Friendship Bridge

Dining For Women Presents Check to Friendship Bridge

We at Friendship Bridge always enjoy welcoming guests into our offices.  Today we received an extra special surprise at the Lakewood office when Betty, a volunteer from Dining for Women, stopped by with a $15,000 grant check to show DFW’s support for Friendship Bridge programs (Betty is pictured with Karen Larsen, Executive Director and Michael Allen, Development Director).  Thank you Dining for Women!  This grant will support many clients in our Microcredit Plus program where women receive both loans and education.

DFW is an educational giving circle whose members meet monthly, learn about featured and sustained programs, and donate to DFW.  All of this allows DFW to support grassroots international programs empowering women and girls living in extreme poverty. They fund programs that foster good health, education, and economic self-sufficiency in developing countries.  They are devoted to educating and inspiring individuals to make a difference and fight global poverty through the power of collective giving, so you can see why Friendship Bridge and DFW make a perfect pair!

Sweet Success with Microcredit Plus

Client teaches daughter chocolate skillsMarta Cristina Pérez Carrera lives in Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in Gutemala. Several years ago, Marta Cristina took her three young children and left an abusive marriage. She struggled in the beginning just to meet her and her children’s basic needs.

It wasn’t until Marta Cristina found Friendship Bridge, and took out her first loan of $192, that life started to change for the better. Marta Cristina invested her first loan in a chocolate-making business. She had learned the craft from her mother-in-law but was struggling to earn enough to buy the raw materials to make more product. Though Marta Cristina still has to travel to use her mother-in-law’s chocolate making machine once a week, the loan has allowed her to produce more chocolates. She now sells the chocolates in three different markets.

One of Marta Cristina’s goals is to buy her own chocolate machine so she doesn’t have to rely on her mother-in-law. While she is earning enough income now to keep her children in school, she hopes to return herself to school on the weekends and eventually earn a college degree.

Guatemala: Post-Conflict Microfinance – “From Swords to Plowshares”

Jeffrey Nelson, a Kiva Fellow who has been working with Friendship Bridge in Guatemala recently posted this wonderful article on the Kiva Fellows Blog.

Post-Conflict MicrofinanceThe following blog post will discuss why micro-finance is distinctly qualified as an holistic-development tool to affect lasting improvement in post-conflict zones. After establishing an understanding of the Guatemalan post-conflict context, I will discuss anecdotal and academic evidence of the economic and social benefits that micro-finance provides in post-conflict zones. This blog’s content will be drawing heavily from the report, “Microfinance and Social Impact in Post-Conflict Environments,” by Laura K. Messiner. Please consult her report HERE for a more in-depth analysis.

Get the whole story here.

Giving Women an Asset for Life

Education has and will always be a signature component of Friendship Bridge 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 families and their communities.  Keeping with this approach, in 2012 we inaugurated an advanced training program to help our more seasoned clients grow and diversify their businesses.

[do action=”image-right”]2013/06/CanningClass_Guatemala.jpg[/do]The trainings teach a variety of new business opportunities including advanced agricultural practices, pastry making, and canning.  Since its inception, nearly 400 women have participated in advanced training courses, learning to make new products and earning more income.

“This is learning for life.  I can now teach my family and neighbors these lessons and everyone benefits,” explains Angelica Zaput, a Friendship Bridge client.  Another client, Josefa Torres, is amazed at her own progress, “I began applying what I learned immediately.  I’m a vegetable vendor, and normally what I can’t sell goes bad.  Now, I pickle whatever I have left over to sell.  In just two weeks, I’ve earned an extra 300 quetzals ($38).”

Gardening for a Good Cause – Foothills Circle

[do action=”image-right”]2013/06/FoothillsCircleDayofGardeningWalsh.jpeg[/do]Each year the Foothills Circle donates three hours of garden labor to the silent auction at the Building Bridges Gala.  Over the years, this has become one of the most popular items at the Gala and we appreciate all the time donated by the green thumbs in Foothills Circle.

There was no rest for them this spring as they have already completed three days with three lucky auction winners.  Last weekend they had a lovely, cool, shady time planting containers, moving perennials, planting new perennials after adding LOTS of natural soil amendments. Now if they could just work some magic to keep the elk and rodents at bay!

This is just one fun, unique way our circles give back to Friendship Bridge.  Keep this beautiful garden picture in mind when bidding at 2014 Building Bridges Gala!

Growing With Our Clients

Clients Progress Out of Poverty

Agustina Quisquina Mendoza

[do action=”image-right”]2013/06/Agustina_BeansLR-150×150.jpg[/do]

Agustina Quisquina Mendoza, 51 years old, applied for Microcredit Plus through Friendship Bridge three years ago.  A weaver by trade, she used her loan to buy yarn and a more functional loom.  This small but crucial investment allowed her to produce more textiles, build a base of customers and earn more for her family.  She is now in her third loan cycle with Friendship Bridge and recently attended an Advanced Education course.  Learn about Agustina’s experience in Advanced Education in the 2013 Newsletter.

2013 Newsletter

“Fear is what stops people from doing things.  My fear is gone because of trainings with Friendship Bridge,” explains Vicenta Zaput Palaz.  Read more about Vicenta, learn about 2013 initiatives and meet other clients in our latest newsletter!

MicroCredit + Education = MicroCredit Plus, A Winning Combination

MicroCredit + Education = MicroCredit Plus, A Winning Combination

Our Microcredit Plus program combines small loans with non-formal participatory education. Women form groups of 7-25 members called Trust Banks. Each elects its own officers, creates business plans together, co-guarantees individual member’s loans, and participates in education sessions that are included in monthly loan repayment meetings.

Microcredit Plus Facts:

  • Friendship Bridge’s average loan size is $250 and loan terms are 4-12 months.
  • Friendship Bridge clients expand small businesses such as weaving, embroidery, pastry making, raising livestock or poultry, basket weaving, roadside vending, or growing fruits and vegetables for sale at the local markets.
  • Profits from the women’s businesses boost overall household income, as well as self-esteem.
  • As loans are repaid, they are re-loaned.
  • A Friendship Bridge client, on average, has 2.6 years of formal education, is unable to read and write and is unlikely to speak Spanish
  • Friendship Bridge has created non-formal, participatory education lessons such as business, money management, self-esteem, women’s rights, health and children’s education.

The benefits of microcredit include:

  • A greater ability to weather economic shocks, such as illness or natural disaster
  • Decreased malnutrition
  • Decreased spousal abuse
  • Improved hygiene and health care
  • Increased number of children attending school, especially girls
  • Increased support, camaraderie, and self-esteem among borrowers
  • Increased level of family planning (borrowers are 50% more likely to have fewer children)

Our Microcredit Plus programs are available to Guatemalan women thanks to the impact from generous donors like you. Please donate now to help us continue to provide loans, education, training and empowerment to women like Otilia.

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“Water spinach dulse potato bok choy bamboo shoot wakame napa cabbage summer purslane nori tomatillo kohlrabi groundnut melon corn endive broccoli rabe asparagus.” — Sandra