Friendship Bridge client for 16 years
Access to inclusive social programs helps women in Guatemala - especially those in rural areas - improve their living conditions and those of their families. This is the story of Francisca.
Francisca, currently 52 years old, is originally from a rural area known as Sacsiguan (translates to "where the white ravine is" in the Mayan language of Kakchiquel). She, her parents and her two siblings lived in a rented house for several years, as they were not able to afford their own place. Her father was a farmer and her mother a weaver. Instead of going to school early on, Francisca did not go to school early on, as the family did not have enough money to support her education, and also because she had to help her mom with her weaving - she learned this skill at age seven. She finally was able to go to school when she was ten years old, but unfortunately she was made fun of by her younger classmates for her age; and this bullying caused her to leave.
From a very young age, Francisca always imagined improving her living conditions and those of her family - she especially wanted to be an example for her sister, who was two years younger. First, Francisa knew she would have to make her own income. Around that time, a new school was being built a few miles from their home, and Francisca and her sister, ages 12 and 10, respectively, felt that the construction represented the perfect opportunity to start their own business - they would surely have customers! They sold corn and güisquiles (a type of squash) - products which their family harvested - to the workers of that school. They were even able to reinvest some of their income and expand their product offerings to fulfill the requests of their customers - additional breakfast and lunch orders.
When the sisters realized that the business was profitable, Francisca suggested a plan to their parents. Tired of living in a rented house, she suggested taking out a loan and buying land so that the family could build their own home. The agreement was that her father and her older brother would repay the debt and that they would support the family with their income. This dream soon became a reality, and Francisca's family was finally able to have their own home. After the construction of the school was complete and the workers left, Francisca and her sister - despite having lost their main customers - did not lose hope of continuing with the business. When the school opened, they were granted permission to sell snacks to the students. They continued selling there for about 25 years, until Francisca joined Friendship Bridge.
When Francisca was 18, she decided to get married, not knowing that this man was already in a marriage. During her relationship she suffered a lot of emotional and psychological abuse. She had her first child at 19, and a week after her child was born, she gathered the courage to leave her husband. She returned to her family's home and focused once again on her business.
At 24, Francisca rebuilt her life with a new partner, who agreed to take care of her first child. In this relationship, she had six more children; one unfortunately has since passed away of asthma. Always envisioning and pursuing a better future, Francisca continued selling snacks with her sister. Francisca also decided to resume her artisan work in her spare time.
With the goal of starting a new business 16 years ago, Francisca joined Friendship Bridge for the first time. She found out about the organization through a cousin who was already a client. Her cousin told her about the programs and benefits of being a client of this organization. Francisca, excited and eager to join; applied for her first loan. She invested this first loan in the purchase of high quality yarns of various colors, as she knew this would improve the value of - and her ability to market - her handmade products. That was the point in which Francisca's business went from being the mere selling of textiles to the production of handicrafts. Over time, the business grew and Francisca was able to acquire larger loans.
In 2017, Francisca decided to join Handmade by Friendship Bridge. She had a strong desire to grow and acquire new skills through the training sessions, which quickly made her realize just how much she had left to learn. Understanding how the practical knowledge could be applied to further develop her talents and improve her sales inspired Francisca. Through Handmade by Friendship Bridge, she has had specific training on handicrafts, budgeting, new designs, colors, quality control, exportation, and more. It has not always been easy, she says, but she has especially appreciated discovering and working on new designs.
Francisca is currently in her 18th loan cycle. She feels very supported through the loans she has received and through the benefits of the Microcredit Plus programs. She has received visits from nurses from the Health for Life program and is very grateful for their support.
Francisca has four daughters and two sons.
Francisa does not currently have employees.