By Tori Labs-Barnett, Marketing & Communications Manager of Friendship Bridge
Earlier this summer long-time Friendship Bridge volunteer, Jill Brashear, organized the SAG volunteers for Team Evergreen’s Triple Bypass. The hard work of Jill and the volunteer team not only provides a valuable service for an amazing event, but will also result in a donation from Team Evergreen to Friendship Bridge. This donation will be used to provide microloans and education to women in Guatemala. Over the years, Team Evergreen has donated enough to fund nearly 200 loans!
Friendship Bridge works primarily with indigenous populations in rural areas where the rate of poverty in Guatemala is the highest. Our Microcredit Plus program combines microloans with basic education on everyday topics including budgeting, sales, nutrition, women’s rights and self-esteem. The average loan for a client is $350 for a 4-12 month cycle, and is used to expand an existing small business such as weaving, animal husbandry, or growing and selling vegetables. Microcredit is effective in developing countries where wage-paying jobs are scarce and people survive through microenterprises.
Each client is a part of a group of women who support each other and co-guarantee each other’s loans. This social collateral enhances accountability and promotes integrity and dignity within the loan groups. These groups foster an effective network of support. The women help each other overcome obstacles together, learn valuable life skills, and share what they learn.
On average, Friendship Bridge clients have 2.6 years of formal education and are unable to read or write, but they are determined, industrious and eager to learn. With support from donors like Team Evergreen, Friendship Bridge provides microloans and education to nearly 18,000 women.
Friendship Bridge was founded in Evergreen and is grateful to continue to receive strong support from the Evergreen community. This support includes Team Evergreen and a “Friendship Circle,” which is a group of citizens that share a desire to learn about and support issues Guatemalan women face. Like the women in Guatemala, they connect through creativity and communal sharing.