Friendship Bridge client for four years.
The municipality of Cantel is located within the department of Quetzaltenango in the Guatemalan highlands. The main form of livelihood of the residents there is agriculture. They grow basic grains such as corn, beans, broad beans, and vegetables (e.g., cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, beets, potatoes, squash, radish, chard). The production is extensive and harvests are on an annual basis. Many women there also engage in informal trade as well as weaving.
Erika, currently 33 years old, married, and a mother of four children is from this place. When reflecting on her childhood and growing up as the only girl among five boys, she remembers the great affection from her parents. Erika's father has always been engaged in tailoring, making shirts, pants, jackets, among other products. Erika's mother, in addition to being a housewife, sews and weaves aprons, huipiles, and other cut pieces. Thanks to the sacrifices and enormous effort by Erika's parents, all their children were able to receive a formal education up to the high school level. Outside of school, Erika learned a lot about her parents' crafts and about entrepreneurship in general. She enjoyed supporting them in their business in any way she could.
After finishing high school, in which she received training to be an elementary school teacher diploma, Erika took a year off to think about her college career. However, a surprise pregnancy prompted her to set aside the idea of college for now, and instead she got married at the age of 20. Soon after, Erika suffered a tragedy - the loss of her first child, who lived for only five months before dying of fever. Her husband is also a high school graduate, but he has been a shoemaker since he was very young. After they got married, the two combined their skills to start their own textile business. Erika's mother-in-law, Micaela, another one of Friendship Bridge's hardworking and talented artisan clients, is happy to involve Erika in their family textile business.
As the years went by, Erika began to dedicate more time to helping her children, spending the majority of time fulfilling her duties as a mother. Once her children were grown, she was able to go out to sell the handmade products and shoes. She sold both via direct delivery to wholesale customers, as well as in nearby markets as a street vendor. The shoes which Erika's in-laws make are unique is that they combine leather products with pieces of traditional textiles - this unusual combination has made them very popular in the markets.
Erika's decision to get involved with Friendship Bridge can be traced back to a time four years ago when Erika and her husband received an order for shoes which they could not fill as they did not have sufficient funds. Her mother-in-law, Micaela, already a Friendship Bridge client, told Erika about Friendship Bridge and their Microcredit Plus Program, which would provide her with the capital she needed.
Determined, Erika joined a Trust Bank and got her first loan of Q1,500. A few months later, America, Handmade by Friendship Bridge coordinator, visited Micaela's home to personally invite her to join the program. Erika was present, too, as they live in the same house. Inspired by the prospect of all that she would learn if she were to join Handmade by Friendship Bridge, Erika decided to ask if she could participate, as well. America was very happy to see how eager to learn and motivated both women were; she accepted their applications.
Since then, Erika has been part of Handmade by Friendship Bridge. She feels glad to have joined, as the training on costing, quality control, measurement precision, creativity, color combinations, and more have helped her to better gauge the true value of her work and put a fair price on her products. After each training, she and the other participants are asked to provide samples, and Erika is always excited to implement her new skills and demonstrate her creativity!
Thanks to Friendship Bridge, Erika is building a better life for herself. She has taken advantage of the programs offered by the organization to strengthen and empower herself. She is also taking training with AWE sponsored by the American Embassy. Handmade by Friendship Bridge supported her with the application.
Erika has two daughters and two sons.
Employees (only when there are orders):
- Two individuals for the artisanal textiles business (one male, one female)
- Two individuals for the shoes business (males)