Friendship Bridge client for 12 loan cycles
Women are drivers of development - locally, nationally, and internationally; today and in the future. They work hard to find ways to support their families in any way they can. However, in order to scale their small businesses, they need financing and training to build the necessary skills. That is what Angelina, a 36-year-old Maya Kakchiquel woman, needed. Angelina lives in a rural community in the department of Sololá.
Despite the difficulties and the limited opportunities for development she experienced early on, Angelina has a positive outlook, and she feels fortunate for the skills she has acquired which have empowered her to build a better future. Her mother, currently 51 years old, was a housewife, while Jerónimo, her father, worked for a long time in agriculture. Unfortunately, he had serious drinking problems, and both physically and verbally abused his family members. At the age of 54, he committed suicide; Angelina was just eight years old at the time, her brother Luis four. At the young ages of nine and five, respectively, Angelina and her brother began working. Because of the family's limited financial resources, Angelina only reached second grade, Luis sixth grade. Angelina also has seven step-siblings, four from her father's side of the family and three from her mother's side.
After the death of Jerónimo, Angelina's mother decided to move on with her life. She started a new family with another man, but unfortunately, this man was similar to her late husband; he, too, was violent and an alcoholic. In that relationship, Angelina's mother had three children, currently ages 9, 13 and 16.
At the age of nine, Angelina was working in agriculture, in an activity called tapisca, which is the collection of corn crops. She also helped with the harvesting of potatoes and carrots. She was happy to earn Q5 monthly through this work. With that money, Angelina was able to help cover food expenses for her mother and brother. When Angelina's brother turned 15, he decided he no longer wanted to continue school; instead, he would find work in Guatemala City. There, he worked in a grocery store. He was thankful for the safe environment in which he was able to work, the stable income as well as the ability to eat three meals a day (this was uncommon back home). With the little income he received, he was able to support his mother and Angelina.
Angelina worked for several years in agriculture, while in her free time she observed how other women were weaving textiles and making embroidery, jewelry, and other handicrafts. They made all kinds of bracelets, necklaces, rings, bead earrings... Angelina was fascinated.
She seemingly effortlessly acquired the skills just by observing the ladies as they worked on the products. When she was 14, she already knew how to make backpacks, necklaces, and bracelets. Angelina was a natural, undoubtedly a born craftswoman. With her in-demand skills, she started working for other people, delivering products weekly and monthly to various customers.
At 18, Angelina moved to Guatemala City and worked in a grocery store. In that job, she met Emilio, who would later become her husband. When they got married, they returned to Sololá and moved in with Angelina's in-laws, as is common. Emilio started working as a taxi driver and Angelina started selling handicrafts. She soon was pleasantly surprised to discover that her husband's family members were artisans themselves. They made straw baskets and embroidery for huipiles and skirts. Angelina observed very carefully, eager to learn from them. Four years later, she was ready to expand her business. Emilio's family was very happy to have another artisan in the family. They quickly incorporated Angelina into the business and taught her how to sell baskets in Panajachel, a very popular and touristy town frequented by locals and foreigners alike. Angelina was very happy to learn as well as earn an income. During that time, she also met a client who requested bracelets from her. This client continued placing direct delivery orders with Angelina. She acknowledges that basket-making isn't her strong skill, but she likes to make them.
Over the past 16 years, Angelina has had a stable marriage with Emilio, who has supported her. She is also happy to be a mother of three children - two girls ages 7 and 14 and a boy age nine. Her oldest daughter is in seventh grade, her son is in third grade, and the youngest is in pre-school. Twelve years ago, they moved out from their in-laws' house and decided to build their own home. Angelina and her husband make a good team, working together to accomplish their dreams; while she covers household expenses, he takes care of other expenses. Together, they dream of a better future for their family, as well as are determined to provide their children with the education they themselves never had.
Twelve years ago, Angelina heard about Friendship Bridge through a current client. The timing was perfect, as Angelina was hoping to scale her business but was not sure how to go about it. The client told her that, besides financing (and low interest rates), Friendship Bridge provided education on different subjects. Angelina decided to attend the pre-credit sessions to find out more about the different programs that the organization offered. She was accepted as a member of the “Tablon Central” Trust Bank, receiving her first loan of Q1,000.
After being part of Friendship Bridge for ten years, Angelina was invited to be part of Handmade by Friendship Bridge. Her products had great potential to sell successfully both in Guatemala and in other countries. Angelina did not want to miss out on this huge opportunity, so she agreed to join Handmade and quickly began making her first product samples. Six training sessions later and she was able to take quality photos that showcased her products in the best possible light as well as prepare invoices for her clients, among other things. When reflecting on her time with Handmade, Angelina says: "Thanks to God and to Handmade by Friendship Bridge, my business is making big progress. It is helping me show my designs [to the world]."
Angelina's favorite experience so far with Handmade was the Handmade Fair in Antigua Guatemala in December of 2019. She enjoyed spending time with the other artisans as well as learning more about the various products clients are particularly interested in for each season of the year. Through Handmade by Friendship Bridge, Angelina was introduced to Novica, a corporate client, and has since developed a direct relationship for orders. They are located in Antigua Guatemala and export Angelina's products worldwide.
Thanks to the financial support from Friendship Bridge, Angelina has been able to purchase beads, pearls, rhinestones, and threads in greater quantities; and she is able to afford the best quality of materials available. She delivers her products biweekly, monthly, and bi-monthly. In order to fulfill all orders on time, she employs two artisans. Angelina is happy to be able to support these employees' growth as well as their ability to support their families by giving them employment.
Angelina believes that the participation of women in society is critical. She has noticed that today - more so than in the past - women are taking on roles and responsibilities within different committees in their communities, and opportunities to take on higher level positions are increasing. She mentions that in her community, a woman has become the community mayor. Men and women have the same right to participate and have their voices and opinions heard. This equality has the potential to change the future of families and communities that have otherwise been excluded and marginalized for a long time.
Six months ago, Angelina's husband traveled to the United States. It was very difficult for her, seeing her husband leave, but she knows that with very few job opportunities in Guatemala, he had to take the risk to travel and find opportunities elsewhere.
Angelina gives thanks to Handmade by Friendship Bridge for promoting community development and for believing and giving indigenous women the opportunity to achieve success in Guatemala.
Angelina currently employs two women (a mother and a daughter; the daughter has three children whom she is able to support thanks to this job).