Friendship Bridge client for 13 years.
Originally from the second-largest department in Guatemala known as Quetzaltenango and Friendship Bridge client in her 15th loan cycle, 51-year-old Blanca is an empowered and talented woman who has overcome a lot.
Blanca had a sad and difficult childhood. Her mother died when she was only seven years old. Blanca and her two younger sisters moved in with her aunt, who raised them as if they were her own. The aunt treated Blanca and her sisters just as she treated her own six children. Blanca is very grateful to her late aunt for giving her the opportunity to go to school until third grade and for everything she taught Blanca over the years. After his wife's passing, Blanca's father went back to his family from his first marriage, which had been before he married Blanca's mother. He passed away when Blanca was 15, because of alcohol-related problems.
At 18, Blanca married Aníbal, and together they have eight children. Ever since, her husband has worked as a truck driver transporting construction materials. Blanca has always looked for opportunities to advance and provide for herself and her family. When she was a new mother of two, an opportunity presented itself for her to join a program which sponsored children and the elderly. This program not only provided children with food, but it also provided mothers with various trainings. In that program, Blanca, along with 40 other women, had the opportunity to participate in a course on tailoring. At that point she was already fortunate to own her own sewing machine, and the training opened her eyes to new possibilities; she learned how to make bags and several other products. Unfortunately, the size of the group dwindled and the course was discontinued, leaving Blanca feeling disappointed, as she was eager to keep learning and improving her skills.
Time went by, and eventually Blanca and the other women who wanted to finish the tailoring course were called back. The organization wanted to give the participants a modern sewing machine and provide them with training on how to use it, the different stitching methods, etc. In order to receive the sewing machine, Blanca needed to pay half of the machine's cost; the other half would be financed by a donation. At that time, Blanca did not have the sufficient funds; despite already making and selling some of her own profits, she was not generating enough profits. Fortunately, one of her friends provided her with the right advice at the right time: to join an organization called Friendship Bridge. Blanca joined without hesitation, and she still recalls receiving her first loan of Q1,500 those 13 years ago. In her words, “Friendship Bridge has been a blessing in my life. Since that day I joined until today, Friendship Bridge has always supported me. It has trusted me, and it has been supporting my projects.”
With a new sewing machine, the opportunity to acquire many new skills, access to capital for her business and trainings to empower herself, Blanca began to change her life with the help of Friendship Bridge. She soon saw increases in her income and was able to afford the raw materials necessary to make traditional clothing. A product range which initially consisted of about two to three traditional clothing pieces has expanded greatly: today Blanca makes other pieces of clothing and accessories as well as bedspreads, sheets, bed covers, tablecloths, and more.
In 2017, Blanca joined Handmade By Friendship Bridge®. Her Facilitator encouraged her to join that program, still new then, so she could further improve her abilities. Blanca reflects on that decision: “When I found out that I was going to meet other artisans, I asked myself, 'What if they have better products than me? I won't be able to compete with them.' Over time I realized that it was not a competition; instead, it was joint learning to improve each other’s business." Fear of the unknown almost prevented Blanca from taking the leap to join, but the Production Coordinator of Handmade by Friendship Bridge® was able to persuade Blanca to join the program and leave her feeling motivated and welcome. On a personal level, the training has helped her a lot in that it has increased her sense of empowerment; on a professional level, it has helped her to be more successful and produce higher-quality products. She greatly appreciates the trainings on measurements, costs, raw material procurement, sales, and quality control. With this knowledge, Blanca is now able to place fair prices on her products as opposed to arbitrary ones (which she utilized in the past prior to receiving the training).
In response to the COVID-19 crisis in Guatemala in 2020, Blanca developed quality face-masks made out of traditional clothing fabrics. This popular new product helped her to continue generating income.
Receiving medical checkups from the Health for Life program from Friendship Bridge is another benefit of being a part of the organization which Blanca is very thankful for. She understands the importance of medical checkups in order to confirm whether one is in good health or if there is something that needs to be addressed.
- Blanca has six daughters and two sons. All of Blanca’s children finished high school.
- When she receives big orders, Blanca engages her sister in-laws and her niece to help her.