Friendship Bridge client for 15 years
Lidia is a strong and brave woman who wakes up every day with optimism and always strives to create opportunities for her two daughters. She is from a rural community called Cipresales in the western highlands of Guatemala and grew up in a family of 11 children (she was the second born). Lidia, who unfortunately had to miss more than a day of school each week to help at home, eventually was forced to drop out of school - this was right after she completed the fourth grade. Her father and older brother worked together selling handicrafts in two other departments in Guatemala. She often worked with them and helped earn income so that the family could have food on the table. Lidia shares that her parents had been engaged in handicraft production for as long as she can remember; they would make beaded jewelry and ornaments. By the time she was eight, Lidia was already making jewelry with her own designs - a skill she also attributes to having spent time watching her father, from whom she also learned sales techniques and business management skills.
At the age of 19, Lidia decided to get married. At that time, her husband was working in a convenience store in Guatemala City. After they got married, Lidia began teaching her husband how to make beaded products. Several months later, after he had acquired the necessary skills, the couple decided that they wanted to start a business. That business started as a small handicraft shop in Panajachel on Calle Santander, the main street of that town. Lidia drew on her previous experiences and knowledge to effectively manage the business and finances, as well as contribute to the production of the handmade products and guide her husband. The business grew considerably, and the couple was proud and happy to see their hard work paying off.
Because Lidia needed capital and additional resources, she joined Friendship Bridge. Her Trust bank was called Artesanas El Tablón (Spanish for Artisans of El Tablón - the municipality where they lived), and her first loan was Q2,000. Friendship Bridge has always played an important role in Lidia's life, she reflects; through her involvement with the organization, she has learned about empowerment, self-esteem, women’s rights and roles and business management skills - all of which can be applied to herself and to her business.
One particularly difficult time in Lidia's life occurred about five years ago, when thieves broke into her store in Panajachel and robbed her of everything, including materials and finished products for sale. She lost practically everything. The value of the loss amounted to Q300,000. At the time, Lidia was pregnant with her second daughter. When she remembers that event, Lidia is still very sad, as she had truly lost all her capital and so much hard work. Even today, she does not like to make certain products because they remind her of that painful stage of her life.
However, Friendship Bridge never left Lidia alone. Shortly before this tragedy, Lidia had joined Handmade by Friendship Bridge®. In this program, Lidia saw firsthand just how much she could still learn, how much she could continue to improve. She understood how this new practical knowledge could be applied to further develop her skills and increase her sales. As a member of Handmade by Friendship Bridge®, Lidia has participated in training sessions where she has learned about such topics as: new product designs, quality control, color combination, and budgeting in order to develop her business.
With renewed enthusiasm thanks to words of encouragement from the Production Coordinator of Handmade by Friendship Bridge® and also eager to build a better future for her daughters; Lidia started her business all over again. For the past two years, Lidia and her husband have traveled to approximately 15 communities to sell their products, and they especially prioritize visiting fairs in the communities, as these popular events almost always mean more sales.
Lidia also appreciates the bi-monthly visits she receives from a traveling nurse who offers all kinds of preventive health services and exams, checks blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and more.This Health for Life program is especially important, as without it, many of the women would not have access to healthcare. The public healthcare sector, which covers the majority of Guatemala's population, however, is highly underfunded and the hospitals and clinics often lack basic medicine and equipment.
Lidia is also grateful for the various monthly trainings she has received from Friendship Bridge - topics like health, nutrition, hygiene, and precautions to take during the time of the pandemic have been very beneficial and informative for her.
For all of these opportunities and more, Lidia is thankful to Friendship Bridge. She embraces the continuous learning and appreciates being able to participate in Handmade by Friendship Bridge®.
Lidia is truly an empowered woman, and she looks forward to a brighter future as she creates her own unique pathways as a successful entrepreneur.
Lidia has two daughters, ages five and 11.
Lidia currently employs four women (two of them have families of their own) and three men (one has a family of his own).