by Laura Lambrecht
In February, I had the privilege of visiting Guatemala with a dozen other women who volunteer in the USA to help fundraise and get word out about Friendship Bridge, a nonprofit that focuses on creating opportunities that empower women through microcredit, education, and preventive health services.
We saw first hand how Friendship Bridge is profoundly impacting women (and their families) in Guatemala. We observed Trust Bank meetings and business training seminars. We visited villages near Lake Atitlan to meet and learn from local women artisans in Friendship Bridge’s program. Most of the artisans worked in their homes so we were welcomed into intimate settings, saw their humble dwellings, met their lively children, and saw the places where they create such intricate, colorful creations. I was awestruck to see such exceptional textiles being created by women kneeling on the floor working with their backstrap looms.
We had long bus rides, boat rides, and exciting rides in tuk-tuks (rickshaws). We also stood in the back of a pickup truck as we drove in the mountains along winding dirt roads, laughing with joy (and fear!) as we enjoyed glimpses of Lake Atitlan and the volcanoes that surround it.
However, my experience in Guatemala would not have been the same without Marta Julia. I was immediately drawn in by her caring nature, friendly demeanor, and the wealth of information she so freely gave. Every day she greeted us with her sweet smile. It was easy to tell that Marta has a deep love of her community and culture and wanted others to see the beauty in it too. There are many Maya languages spoken in Guatemala and Marta spoke several in addition to being fluent in both English and Spanish. She switched between multiple Maya languages and English without even taking a breath. Amazing.
Marta deepened my understanding of the culture. She was protective of our group and guided us through crowded markets, restaurant menus, uneven dirt paths, and social exchanges. She even shared challenges of her own about trying to balance the traditional Maya expectations of her family with her desire to seek college degrees and work in a career that was far from traditional for a Maya woman. At night when we would return to our hotel, dusty and tired from the long day’s journey, Marta would stay up late doing homework for her graduate degree. She is focused on her education and creating more opportunities for herself and her family.
Marta exemplifies Friendship Bridge’s mission to create opportunities that empower women. I have deep respect for her. There is no doubt in my mind that she will be successful at whatever path she chooses. I hope that I will get to walk with her again soon on those magical, dusty Guatemala roads.
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to our Friendship Circles who work hard to raise awareness about our critical work with women in Guatemala and who also fundraise for the organization while educating communities on global issues. If you would like more information on how to get involved or start a Friendship Circle, click HERE.
Laura Lambrecht lives in Louisville, CO, with her husband and two teenage boys. She grew up in Boulder. For the past six years, Laura has owned Bella Frida, a boutique that highlights hhandmade ethical fashion in Lafayette, CO. She is currently in the process of closing her retail store and creating a new path: consulting for artisan made lines. Laura is very passionate about empowering women around the world and supporting indigenous artisans. Laura has been carrying Friendship Bridge goods in her store for the last four years and is also a volunteer for the Boulder Friendship Circle. She traveled with Friendship Bridge on the Insight Trip to Guatemala in February of 2017, and was greatly moved by the wonderful experience.