Meet Juana Gloria
Friendship Bridge client for eight years.
Chichicastenango is one of the most important villages in Guatemala. Home to the Quiche Maya civilization, one of the largest ethnic groups in the country, this place epitomizes the Mayan culture, history, and traditions of Guatemala.
Every Thursday and Sunday, the locals flock to what has been deemed the largest market in Central America. Here they sell their products - ranging from traditional crafts, table runners, bags and purses, paintings, and Mayan masks to fruits, vegetables, and other foods to the sale of animals such as chickens, goats, and pigs, among others.
98% of the population of Chichi (as the village is endearingly labeled in Guatemala) is indigenous and speaks the Kiché language. Juana Gloria, a young woman of 33 years old, single, with great expectations for the future, is from there. She is the youngest of six siblings (three male, three female). Among her siblings is one brother that needs special care - a condition which resulted from an illness he had when he was young which was not treated in time. Their father was a day laborer, and their mother was a housewife and weaver. In many rural communities in Guatemala, girls' education is still considered a waste of time, as there is a belief that the girls would not make use of the knowledge, anyway, as they would get married early and be provided for by their husband. Juana Gloria only received formal education until the sixth grade.
Juana Gloria remembers her childhood and preadolescence spent helping her father cultivate corn and beans as well as learning to weave from her mother. At age 15, she traveled to Guatemala City to work in a food store business that was owned by her cousin. She worked in the city for seven years. During those years, her siblings were getting married and moving out, leaving their mom alone to take care of their special-needs brother. Eventually, Gloria's mom got very sick too, which prompted her to return to her community to care for her mother.
Upon returning, Juana Gloria continued developing her weaving skills while also taking care of her mother and brother. She soon realized, however, that she needed a stable job that would allow her to generate income and support her family. Thus, Juana Gloria started working in a convenience store owned by her sister, where she has been working for 11 years. Although the young women in her community typically marry very young, Juana Gloria prefers to work and continue to help her family in any way she can.
Juana Gloria joined Friendship Bridge eight years ago because she and another friend needed financial capital to start their own businesses. She wanted to create and sell traditional Guatemalan textiles, while her friend was into the breeding of animals. Juana Gloria is still with Friendship Bridge because she enjoys both the personal as well as the professional development she has experienced thanks to the trainings.
In 2018, Juana Gloria decided to join Handmade by Friendship Bridge®. She was confident back then that it would be greatly beneficial to her, and to this day she knows it was the right decision. Of the many trainings she has received, Juana Gloria greatly appreciates learning about budgeting, creativity, new product development, quality control, and color combination. Although sales decreased due to the 2020 COVID-19 crisis, she is hopeful that the situation will improve and that she will receive more orders in the future. Through Handmade by Friendship Bridge®, Juana Gloria also acquired some digital skills, including navigating such applications as WhatsApp. She uses these tools to further promote her products.
In addition to training on handicrafts, Juana Gloria has also received Non-Formal training in the topics of women, health, business administration, and family. These are pillars for the empowerment of women in Friendship Bridge. Furthermore, she has taken advantage of the preventive health services which the Health for Life program of Friendship Bridge offers. Juana Gloria feels proud of what she has accomplished and what she continues to strive towards. She is thankful and motivated to serve as an example to her family and to her young nephews and nieces, in particular.
Thanks to the growth that Juana Gloria's business has undergone, she has been able to help her family build a new house, one with two levels. They are thankful to be able to improve their standard of living in other ways, as well. In 2020, Handmade by Friendship Bridge®, along with Lona, presented Juana Gloria with a sewing machine, and she continues to work hard to develop her sewing skills.
Juana Gloria has no permanent employees; when there are large orders, she employs up to four women from her community.