Friendship Bridge Client for ten years.
San Jorge La Laguna is one of the smallest villages in the department of Sololá. This is the home of Antonia, age 55, married, and mother of eight children between the ages of 13 and 35. Antonia shares with us that her childhood was very sad, as her father left her mother when Antonia was just three months old. Antonia's mother was very upset, and at that point she made the decision to leave Antonia with her grandmother while she went to live with another man. Antonia's grandparents raised her. They were poor, which meant that they could only send Antonia to school for three years.
Antonia's grandparents always treated her with affection, but also instilled in her early on a sense of discipline for helping with household chores - she learned the importance of working hard. To this day, Antonia feels thankful to her grandmother for teaching her how to weave sashes, huipiles, and traditional textiles. By the time she was ten, Antonia already knew how to weave, and she was able to use this skill to make her own income. Everyday Antonia and her grandmother went out to the courtyard of their house and started to weave with their waist looms. As soon as they completed a product, her grandmother immediately took it to the market of Sololá to sell. With the profit, she was able to buy food for the whole week.
Antonia has always lived with the pain and sadness of not growing up with her parents. She always wondered why her mother abandoned her when she was a baby, as she was not at fault for what had gone on between her parents before she was born. At the age of 18, Antonia decided to get married, and at 19 she had her first child. She felt joyful to be raising a family and starting her own life. Her husband, she says, is a great man because he supports her in everything she sets out to do. Angelina feels thankful for this support, and she is proud of her eight children and her 13 grandchildren who show her great love and affection.
Antonia has a brother and five other sisters. She is the oldest sister and gets along very well with her stepbrothers - they support one another. With sadness in her voice, Antonia shares that her mother died in 2005 in the middle of a strong tropical storm.
Antonia reflects on her decision to become an entrepreneur. She had the talent: the traditional textiles and jewelry designs that she creates so well have proven popular amongst customers near and far, and she can now generate her own income and support her husband with the household economy. Antonia's husband is a day laborer. By combining their incomes, they are able to meet the needs of their eight children. Antonia's seven children completed six years of formal education, while her youngest child is still in school.
Ten years ago, Antonia needed more capital for her jewelry business, so she joined six neighboring women from her community to start a Trust Bank of Friendship Bridge by the name of Mujeres Lago San Jorge (Women of the Lake at San Jorge). Since then, Antonia has had access to sufficient capital with which she has been able to scale her business and, as a result, improve her living conditions. In 2018, she joined Handmade by Friendship Bridge, and to this date, she feels immense gratitude for all that Handmade has taught her and done for her. Thanks to the trainings she has received, Antonia is able to successfully export her products - not only in Guatemala but in foreign markets, as well. She thanks Friendship Bridge for adding value to her business while providing her with educational training on finance, health, women’s rights, and family matters.
Antonia now knows the tremendous value of effectively managing her business. She also understands that, to meet customer demand and to continue growing her business, she needs to diversify her offerings. For that reason, about two years ago she started elaborating bracelets, necklaces and earrings; using both yarn and beads. The considerable growth of Antonia's business has prompted her to seek assistance to be able to fulfill all orders on time - currently, she has the support of two of her daughters.
Antonia shares that the sense of empowerment she has acquired is thanks to Friendship Bridge and its Microcredit Plus programs, and of course, Handmade by Friendship Bridge. She also is thankful that she was taught how to add and subtract, as well as how and when to save in order to make a profit from her business.
Children: Antonia has eight children (five daughters and three sons).
Employees: Antonia is currently supported in her business by two of her daughters.