Empower women. Eliminate poverty.

Recent Posts

Cada Mes Club – A Monthly Journey of Support

by Kyra Coates

Maria Pu is 41 years old and has 7 children. She is a tomato farmer in rural Guatemala, and lives surrounded by steep terrain and green hills. In 2014 she wanted to increase her crops, yet had no capital to do it.

“There are not many organizations that give loans to farmers because of the risk in agriculture due to bad farming practices or the weather,” said Maria. “Also being a woman, they do not take us as seriously.”

So she came to Friendship Bridge, and is now a member of a Trust Bank, and part of our Women’s Agriculture Credit and Training Program. Every month she meets with her fellow Trust Bank members for further training on modern farming techniques. Now after three years she is successfully watching her farm grow. Through all seasons, turmoil, successes, she has had Friendship Bridge Trust members and facilitators supporting her step-by-step along the way, and they aren’t the only ones.

Thousands of miles away in Colorado there is a family of four that month-by-month is supporting Maria and her training as well as other Friendship Bridge clients, though Maria has never heard their names before. They are Matthew and Angie Brand, parents to Sara, 2, and Ava, 1. The Brands are members of Friendship Bridge’s monthly giving program, called the Cada Mes Club. Their monthly donations support programs like the one Maria is a part of. They also volunteer their time with staff members at the Lakewood, CO office. Matthew helps with website and SEO optimization, and Angie takes on a variety of projects as needs arise. The Brands shared with us their thoughts on why they choose to support Friendship Bridge.

Friendship Bridge: “Why did you decide to join the Cada Mes Club?”

Brands: “We switched to the Cada Mes Club in 2017 in order to smooth out our donations throughout the year. Prior to that, we sporadically donated, but would often forget the schedule and then play catch up at the end of the each year in order to meet our personal donation goal. We have our donations scheduled with our bank to send a check monthly now and it’s better for our budget and hopefully helps Friendship Bridge with planning as well. “

FB: “What made you choose Friendship Bridge as an organization to support?”

Brands: “We found Friendship Bridge through Charity Navigator. It was important to us to give to a four star charity so that we knew our money would be used wisely. We identified with the mission of bringing people out of poverty because we feel that is how our money can have the biggest impact.”

FB: “Why do you volunteer your time?”

Brands: “We both started volunteering our time last fall. Angie has translated a Spanish document and Matthew is providing support and feedback on the website. Since Angie quit her job to stay at home with our children, we have less capacity to donate money, but like to offer our skills as somewhat of a substitute. Volunteering has also helped us learn more about the organization.”

FB: “What would you tell others who are thinking about joining Cada Mes or volunteering their time?”

Brands: “Anything that you can do, even if it doesn’t seem like much, will help others and make the world a better place.”

We here at Friendship Bridge want to thank the Brands for their generous support, as well as all our members of the Cada Mes Club, and all our volunteers. We wouldn’t be able to have the impact we do without you, so clients like Maria Pu can continue on her journey of having a thriving business to support her family and community.

Want to be a Cada Mes Club member and leave a lasting impact? Check out our Donate page here to sign up! Interested in volunteering with us? Fill out a volunteer form here and we will contact you!

Also, for our upcoming 2018 Building Bridges Stay-At-Home Gala all Cada Mes Club members get an exclusive ticket price of only $30! Don’t miss this opportunity to support an amazing event at an affordable price by becoming a member today!

Find out more about the Gala here.

Three Unique Ways To Fold Your Corte Napkins!

by Kyra Coates


Friendship Bridge’s 2018 Stay-At-Home Gala is right around the corner, and when you purchase a ticket you receive 5 handmade corte napkins made from up-cycled traditional skirts of the Mayan women of Guatemala. At the $125 VIP ticket level you also receive 5 matching napkin rings! So what better way to celebrate and prepare for the upcoming Gala then by creating some napkin-folding works of art! Here are three fabulous designs to get you started.


1. Ruffles


Using soft folds in this pleated design creates a delightful bloom on your table! Here are the simple steps:

Step 1:  Begin with an open napkin, starting at the bottom edge, accordion-pleat the napkin up to the top

Step 2:  Fold the napkin in half, bringing the right and left ends of the napkin together











Step 3: Slide the folded end of the napkin into your new matching handmade artisan napkin ring, almost halfway up. Spread the top edges down to the left and right, creating a circular blossom shape.

Step 4: Wow your guests with your completed “Ruffles” corte napkin design!













2.  Haori


For a more Asian-inspired looked go for the “Haori” design. In Japan, a Haori is a coat worn over a kimono. Though it looks complex this is a fairly simple fold to create.


Step 1:  Starting with an open napkin, fold in half bringing the top edge down to meet the bottom edge

Step 2: Roll the top edge behind creating a hem on the back of the napkin.









Step 3: While holding a finger in the center of the top edge of the napkin, fold the top right and top left corners to meet in the center at the bottom.

Step 4: Fold the bottom right corner up to the center and tuck the edge under the band formed by the hem. Repeat on the left side









Step 5: Break out the sushi and impress with your “Haori” corte napkin design!



3. Pointed Pocket


Who said pockets are just for pants?! This lovely design is tall and slender and can hold flowers, silverware, chopsticks, a thank you note to your guests for attending, or whatever goes with your table decor!


Step 1: Begin by folding the napkin into triangular quarters. Place so there are three free corners at the top. Bring the top corner of the first layer down to slightly above the bottom corner.

Step 2: Bring the second layer down so that the corner rests slightly above the first folded layer.











Step 3: Fold the side corners, overlapping behind the napkin.

Step 4: Enjoy your pointed pocket corte napkins!









Now that we’ve given you a few ideas to make your party fabulous with these handmade artisan up-cycled corte napkins and matching napkin ringswe invite you to purchase your tickets for the 2018 Stay-At-Home Gala here so you can receive these napkins to begin folding!

Feeling inspired to show these napkin designs off? Consider hosting a party for our Stay-At-Home Gala! Not only will you receive these napkins with your ticket purchase, you also will also receive a host kit with a party timeline, which includes a gift of  handmade kitchen towels, videos to watch the evening of the event, and a box of Tipica Market items to sell at your event!

Have an amazing time being the chic of the chic party host! We look forward to celebrating with you.

Resource: “Folding Napkins” by Gay Merrill Gross. Check out this great book for more napkin folding ideas. It is for sale on Amazon here.

Kyra Coates is the new US Marketing Coordinator at Friendship Bridge. She is a passionate advocate for Women’s Empowerment and has worked for years to promote equality. Outside her Friendship Bridge working hours she is an artist and gallery owner, a mother of two fierce and fabulous daughters, and a typical Colorado outdoorsy athletic girl.  

The Success of our Health For Life Program Receives Publication


We are excited to announce that last month our health program partner, Wuqu’ Kawoq/ Maya Health Alliance, published a case study in Healthcare journal about the success of the first 22 months of our Health For Life program and their partnership with Friendship Bridge (FB). This study was co-written by Wuqu’ Kawoq/ Maya Health Alliance and Friendship Bridge staff, including Friendship Bridge CEO, Karen Larson, and Wuqu’ Kawoq/ Maya Health Alliance Chief Medical Officer, Peter Roloff who is also on faculty at Harvard Medical School. The study offers details of how the program has rolled out, their data from the first 22 months of the program, and future plans for continued growth. Here we will give you a brief summary of the highlights of this publication, which is planned to be the first of several.

In July of 2015 FB partnered with Wuqu’ Kawoq | Maya Health Alliance to offer health services to our clients who were members of our Microcredit Plus program through our new Health For Life program. Wuqu’ Kawoq is a primary healthcare system providing services in rural Guatemalan communities. This partnership was formed by a shared interest in offering health services to underserved populations.

The Health For Life program improves women’s access to healthcare by providing health education, direct healthcare services, and access to other healthcare institutions to clients of Friendship Bridge. Friendship Bridge provides the institutional structure; trust relationships with nearly 22,000 clients; and financing for the initiative, while Wuqu’ Kawoq provides clinical services; trains and supervises primary healthcare providers; and conducts general monitoring and evaluation.

Through May 2017, more than 3,700 clients received healthcare services through the program. Participation in primary care screening services was very high. This has been the case even for cervical cancer screening at 76%. The national statistic shows that less than 50% of eligible women in the entire country receive cervical cancer screening, with even lower rates in rural areas at 37%.

One major highlight of this partnership is that once the program reaches its full-scale, it will represent one of the largest and most geographically extensive primary care databases in rural Guatemala, allowing Wuqu’ Kawoq to report on factors like obesity, diabetes, and cervical cancer, all major public health issues in Guatemala. This was possible only through this partnership and Friendship Bridge opening up a large demographic of clients to health services that had not been accessible to Wuqu’ Kawoq before.

For future plans we are continuing to grow the program until all of our 7 administrative areas and 22,000 clients are covered in Guatemala.

You can read the case study in its entirety at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213076417301690.

Turning Promises Into Action: Why Our Work Matters

by Brittaney Lupo

The United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development pledges that no one will be left behind in the realization of human rights for all. Adopted in September 2015 the Agenda is a plan of action that contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals(SDG).  A report released February 14, Turning Promises Into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, reveals that without urgent action in regards to gender equality that pledge will not be able to be kept and many women will be left behind.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women, spoke to reporters at the launch of the report stating that the progress towards gender equality is moving too slow to achieve the SDGs by 2030. “Even where progress is made, it may not reach the women and girls who need it most and the ones that are being left furthest behind,” she explains.  

The women being left behind include the 330 million that live on less than $1.90 per day, a number that is 4.4 million more than men. Women in developing countries, like Guatemala, are more likely to not have access to clean water, sanitization and durable housing. Access to education is also more limited for with 15 million not ever getting a chance to read or write compared to 10 million boys.

At Friendship Bridge, we are dedicated to stepping up for these women and making sure they are not left behind. Over half of our clients fall into the criteria described above with a daily household income of $1.11 to $2.35, 0 to 2 years of education and living in homes with mud and dirt flooring. Through involvement in our Microcredit Plus program, our clients receive needed loans and education to grow their businesses and improve their incomes with 88% feeling that their incomes have increased or stabilized with 3% rising above the national poverty line. What we do is truly making a difference.

The Turning Promises into Action report shows that we cannot be content with what we are currently doing. It is not enough. We have more women to reach. We have more work to do in order to help achieve the global goal of human rights for all with no one left behind.

In order for us to keep reaching more women we need you. Here is a list of ways we need your help:


Without Firm Action on Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment, World May Miss Development Targets | Un News


2016 Annual Report | Friendship Bridge


Brittaney Lupo is currently studying Web Design and Development at Brigham Young University-Idaho. Through her course of studies her passion for social media as a means of promoting and raising awareness for websites has grown. Currently she is interning with Friendship Bridge as the Social Media Coordinator in Colorado. When she’s not on social media she is exploring beautiful Colorado with her husband and 3 children.


Entrepreneurship: Opportunity or Necessity?

Doña Maria Eugenia stands in her shoe shop in Mazatenango, Guatemala.  She and her six colleagues produce three dozen pair of shoes per day.

by Rachel Turner

I stood by the busy highway waiting for my bus, enjoying the warm sun, and breathing air heavy with humidity in Mazatenango, Guatemala.

A colorfully painted school bus slammed on breaks in front of me. My colleague stuck her head out the window and I jumped on. We chatted for an hour traveling to Doña Maria Eugenia’s shoe workshop. Doña Maria Eugenia had been a client with Friendship Bridge for years and had recently joined the Client Advisory Committee to the Board of Directors. I was excited to meet her.

“Welcome!” said Doña Maria Eugenia with a big smile, inviting us into her 12’x6’ shop. Two windows provided light, while sewing machines and shoe materials covered three tables. As we chatted several of her friends and colleagues arrived. These women supported each other and laughed together daily.

“Being a client with Friendship Bridge has helped me move ahead with our shoemaking business and in my personal life,” said Doña Maria Eugenia. “Through our Trust Bank loans, we receive monthly education, have access to advanced trainings, and mentorship. I want to be a leader that helps women have vision, take initiative, and make a difference.”

Energetic and always thinking ahead, it’s apparent that Doña Maria Eugenia enjoys being an entrepreneur and the president of her Trust Bank. “Most entrepreneurship stems from necessity,” said Doña Maria Eugenia. “When faced with great challenges, it would be easy to feel overwhelmed and miss open doors, but we must pay attention and walk through doors of opportunity to get ahead.”

Doña Maria Eugenia has three children who motivate her daily. As a single mom, she rises at 5:30 a.m. to prepare for the day and falls into bed at 11 p.m. On the weekends she sells fish and homemade snacks at the market.

“My dream is to see my children graduate. I think that’s the best inheritance that I could leave them,” said Doña Maria Eugenia. “Perhaps they can start their own business too. I tell them that it’s best not to depend on someone else to give them work – create your own work! Be an entrepreneur!”

I left inspired – as I often am – after spending time with Friendship Bridge clients. Doña Maria Eugenia reminded me of important lessons:

  1. Be a lifelong learner.
  2. Even when overwhelmed with life, look up for doors of opportunity and step through.
  3. Encourage and teach children about entrepreneurship.

Rachel Turner is the Global Communications Manager for Friendship Bridge. Having worked and lived throughout the world, she’s now enjoys calling Panajachel, Guatemala, home.  

Experiencing Magic and Friendship in Guatemala

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.

Living, Learning, and Storytelling in Guatemala

by Anne-Celine Jeffroy-Meynard 

As my first week interning at Friendship Bridge in Guatemala comes to a close, I am very humbled, thankful, and excited for the next eight weeks! Getting to meet women who are the heart and purpose of Friendship Bridge motivates me to lift their voices through storytelling.

Working in Sololá, there is always movement and a friendly face to meet in the office. I am often greeted with a kiss on the cheek and a, “mucho gusto” by employees. Being able to work in such a dynamic and energized office makes the workday go by quickly! I find myself staying past the end of the workday, often without realizing it, because I’ll be editing an interview or chatting with a coworker over tea or coffee.

During my first week in Guatemala, I visited a Trust Bank comprised of seven K’iche women in the Western Highlands. After walking, taking two buses, and one tuk-tuk, we arrived at their village and were welcomed by a group of kids eager to play with our notebooks and devices while practicing their Spanish (the primary language there is K’iche).

Right on time, the Facilitator started the meeting with an ice-breaker. Following this, the Facilitator described how Friendship Bridge’s Microcredit Plus program works and what they can expect during their monthly repayment meetings and Non-Formal Education sessions. Finally, while the Facilitator asked each woman specific questions for monitoring and evaluation purposes, my co-worker and I interviewed the president of the Trust Bank, Santos. Santos is an illiterate, 35-year-old woman with five children who runs her own sewing and weaving business of traditional Maya clothing including huipils (traditional blouses) and fajas (traditional belts).

Before leaving, we all sat down to snack on freshly made horchata (a rice drink) and sweet bread, a delicious and satisfying treat. This was my favorite moment – enjoying an extremely generous meal while talking with the women and the children, laughing and smiling. Soon after, we said our goodbyes and traveled back to Sololá by bus, tuk-tuk, and foot.

This first experience in the field got me very excited about my future work – meeting more incredible women to tell their story. The women I met are self-starters, motivated, and hardworking. I’m sure they will succeed. I am very excited as I embark on this journey with Friendship Bridge, and I know I will continue to grow through more time in the field.

Anne-Celine Jeffroy-Meynard is studying International Studies and Public Affairs with a focus on Public Health at Seattle University. She grew up bi-culturally, half in the San Rafael, CA, half in St. Malo, France. Anne-Celine has previously studied abroad in India, South Africa, and Brazil on a community health program where she did primary research and fieldwork on environmental health. She has also virtually interned with USAID through Virtual Student Foreign Service analyzing their HIV program in Namibia. Currently, she is interning with Friendship Bridge in Sololá, Guatemala where she is acting as a Field Blogger and Storyteller. In the future, she hopes to engage in the field of global health to empower the voices and experiences of those who have been silenced by unequitable healthcare systems.

Faces of Empowerment – Education Has No Age Limit

“I consider myself a dreamer. I was widowed nine years ago. I was left alone with two daughters and pregnant with my son when my husband died. I think that now, with my loans, I will have a better future. I have the goal to be educated as a professional too. With my loans, with my growing business, and after my children become professionals, they will help me. Even though I didn’t get my degree as a young person, there is no age limitation to becoming educated.  That’s what I believe, and that’s what I’m going to do.” -Doña Juana, Friendship Bridge Client



Faces of Empowerment – Entrepreneurs Create Change

“A woman entrepreneur is, for example in my case, a person who sets goals and objectives and who no matter what gets it done. Ever since I was young and single, I dreamed of having children that would finish high school and become professionals.  I wasn’t able to.

Thank God, Friendship Bridge gave me a hand up to reach my goals. Credit helps a lot as long as it’s invested. My goal for the future is to keep working hard so that my children can better our restaurant business.  Right now we’re also renting, but we’re working to buy our own place.” – Delfina, Friendship Bridge Client

Faces of Empowerment – You Reap What You Sow

“Not many organizations exist who will give financing to agriculture clients –especially not women – due to the high risk from bad practices or the weather. However Friendship Bridge not only gives us loans, they also give us technical support on best agriculture practices. Today, my husband and I are business partners. We make decisions together. He’s also thankful for what we’ve learned through Friendship Bridge. Since building a greenhouse, we grow tomatoes and peppers provide a weekly income.”
– Doña María, Friendship Bridge Agriculture Client

Click to learn more about the Women’s Agriculture & Credit program.

Faces of Empowerment – From Mom, to Wife, to Entrepreneur

Photo by Susan Ryan Kalina

“I was the oldest of 12 siblings, so I never went to school in order to help my mom at home. My mom and dad were merchants and traveled, so I kept the house. I met my husband at 14, and started my own home. Now I have four children and we all work at our tailor shop primarily making jean pants. I also started a small grocery store. I used the profit from the grocery store to send my children to school. When I found Friendship Bridge, I got the capital I needed to expand the grocery store as well as my tailor shop. Friendship Bridge has made a great impact on our family because the loan was not just for my benefit, but for the benefit of our family business.” – Doña Catarina

Faces of Empowerment – Thanksgiving: I have my health!

“I began my first business at 16 years old, selling food on the street. I married at 17 and had my first child at 18. I have a total of nine children, but three have died. I fought for their lives, but due to lack of access to health services, I couldn’t save them. After I found Friendship Bridge I gained access to preventive health services, and it saved my life. After my pap smear, they detected cervical cancer. Since I knew I was dying there was no reason to seek treatment. I felt extremely sad. My nurse, Rebecca, changed my mind. Rebecca is not my daughter, but she is my life-giving angel. I’m so grateful to Nurse Rebecca, my Facilitator Gloria, and the support they gave me. They always told me,‘We fight together, and we’ll win together.’ Now I’m here talking about my victory. I want other women to hear my story. It could save their lives. It’s our job to make the decision to defeat sickness; if I can do it, another woman can do it too.”
-Maria, Friendship Bridge Client