Moving toward Microcredit
Friendship Bridge began its work in Vietnam with programs in medical education and shipping of medical supplies to impoverished populations in war-ravaged areas. While medical supplies were positively impacting the lives of recipients, Friendship Bridge was looking for a more sustainable solution to poverty reduction — the solution was Microcredit Plus. In 1994, we shifted our focus from medical supplies to microcredit and began offering small loans to impoverished women. Our clients, women who were deemed ‘unbankable,’ started or expanded small businesses and began creating their own sustainable solutions to poverty.
In 1998, Friendship Bridge expanded its work to Guatemala, another war-ravaged country suffering extreme poverty and offering limited opportunities to women. Friendship Bridge shifted out of Vietnam and began focusing solely on a Microcredit Plus program in Guatemala, aided by investment by American donors. By 2003, almost 3,000 clients were borrowing from Friendship Bridge. By 2006 the number tripled to 9,000 clients, and today we reach more than 22,000 women through our Microcredit Plus program. The program has expanded to offer a number of different loans products and services that include education, advanced training, mentoring, health care, and programs specifically for our agriculture and artisan clients. Our Social Performance Management team ensures that through all these endeavors, we stay true to our mission.