Friendship Bridge client for 18 loan cycles.
59-year-old Jacinta lives in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. She joined Friendship Bridge in 2009 and currently has participated in 18 loan cycles. Through her experience with the organization and, specifically, with Handmade by Friendship Bridge® (since 2015), Jacinta has become an empowered woman and an even more successful artisan. Jacinta's first loan was Q2,000 (approximately $259), and thanks to her dedication, perseverance, and discipline; her loan size has increased to an equivalent of about $970 in 2021.
During her childhood in Tecpán, Jacinta worked with her parents in agriculture. She was bright and was fortunate to be able to complete high school, earning a diploma in accounting. Then, at age 18, after graduating from high school, Jacinta decided to live with a young man named Eliseo. Their relationship lasted about two and a half years, at which point they separated. Then, five years later, they met again and decided to get back together. They decided to start their life together in Guatemala City. Eliseo worked in a clothing factory where he gained experience in creating fabric products and knowledge of the textile market. Over the five years during which they lived in Guatemala City, the cost of living increased significantly, and Jacinta also was often discriminated against, as she was indigenous; this was unfortunately a reality for many, and such discrimination continues to exist in Guatemala today. Jacinta and Eliseo did some research and discovered that Chimaltenango had opportunities for them to start a textile business. They were looking forward to getting the business started and also raising a family in a more peaceful environment. Once there, Jacinta started the business.
Jacinta originally grew up in Tecpán, but at age 29, she had to flee due to the civil war going on in Guatemala. (That was during the 1980s, but the civil war would continue until 1996.) Fearing for her life due to the massacres occurring in Tecpán, she moved to Chimaltenango, where she has been living for 29 years.
Starting their business was not easy, as they needed financial and human capital to respond to the needs of the wholesale buyers they were contacting. Thanks to her background and education in accounting, Jacinta took care of the related administrative tasks of the business. Their first products were bags and purses. It wasn't long before demand began to increase, so they established the business, naming it Ajkayinel Mayan Trade Promotion Center.
Not long after the establishment of their business, Jacinta and her husband were able to secure a partnership with a wholesale buyer that would prove propitious and fundamental to their continued growth. This wholesale buyer was located in Antigua Guatemala and was a global tourist center known for its colonial architecture as well as traditional artisan crafts. In Antigua, they began selling hammocks, which quickly became very popular, as such high-quality hammocks represented a niche in the artisan market at that time. In order to meet the demand, Jacinta and her husband hired other people in their community to assist them with filling orders. Not wanting the quality of their products to potentially be compromised through this delegation, they invested time in training and encouraging their new employees. Their business has continued to grow, and they now offer an even greater range of products - even products for pets! Jacinta is constantly innovating, ensuring that her products meet customer expectations and are aligned with trends in foreign markets, as well. She also always strives to include colorful traditional textiles in her products.
Jacinta gives thanks to Friendship Bridge for supporting her with both loans and technical training. She believes that it is incredibly beneficial to be a part of the organization, as additional Friendship Bridge services have allowed her to increase her income and improve her living conditions. Thanks to the income from her business, she has been able to support the education of her five children. She is currently committed to ensuring that her youngest daughter Nikté, age 19, finishes university.
In 2015, Jacinta began making products with leather, which have been in high demand. Currently, she produces cosmetic bags of various types, iPad and tablet pouches, dog collars, shopping bags, folder covers, luggage tags, leather handbags, reversible handbags, wine bags, and more. These products are being exported to the U.S. and Germany. Thanks to her family's support and her seven employees (two female, five male) Jacinta is able to fill her orders on time. Jacinta feels blessed to be able to give employment to others and thus help them support their own families.
Through Handmade by Friendship Bridge®, Jacinta has been able to participate in different trainings, learning about topics such as quality control, costing, designs, measurements and color combinations. These training sessions have allowed her to understand the process of exporting artisan products and all that is involved in that process - labeling, packaging, paperwork for shipments, etc. Jacinta, just like the other talented artisans in this program, is capable of improving her reality and building a better future, and her entrepreneurial spirit is manifest in all that she does. In 2020, Jacinta won second place in the prestigious Citi Bank awards for Entrepreneurs in Microcredit. With the award money, she purchased a leather cutting machine, an industrial iron, and additional sewing machines.
Jacinta is a strong and brave woman who experienced much adversity during the Guatemalan Civil War. Thanks to not only the loans, but also the education, healthcare, and business development support she has received through Friendship Bridge, Jacinta has been able to empower herself, build self-esteem, afford education for her children, and develop good health practices. She emphasizes her gratitude towards the nurses from Friendship Bridge's Health for Life program, as they have given her access to screenings for diabetes, cancer, and other potential diseases. Jacinta also expresses her gratitude to Handmade by Friendship Bridge® and all of its shoppers!
Jacinta has three daughters (all of whom support her with her business) and two sons.
Jacinta has seven employees (two females, five males), all who have families.