Santa María Visitación is a small rural community located in the department/ state of Sololá. The Maya “K'iche” population is engaged in commerce with some having convenience stores, internet cafes, small restaurants, moto-taxi businesses while others have pharmacies, bookstores, corn grinding mills, shoe stores, poultry and livestock businesses. Traditional textile and handicraft fabrication are popular as well. The area is slowly developing and many are seeing their standard of living improve.
Manuela, a 41 year old Maya T'zutujil woman, is taking advantage of the expanding commerce of the area. She grew up in a poor family and had many limitations. Her father, now 71 years old, has worked as a day laborer and her 69-year-old mother was dedicated to domestic work and caring for her 4 children. She is the youngest of her siblings, and just like them, only had the opportunity to go to school up to the 4th grade. At 14 years of age, she started working as a domestic. With her income, she could pay for her own expenses, as well as many of those of her family.
At 18 years of age, Manuela got married and had 5 children who now range in age from 11-19. Four of her children are in primary and high schools. Along with her husband, who she has been married to for 21 years, Manuela works hard to provide her children with formal education because she wants them to reach college. During school vacations, the two boys help their father in the fields and the three girls help at home.
Fourteen years ago, Manuela started an embroidery business (cross stitch) and making pine baskets. As time passed, she developed two more businesses: raising poultry and selling vegetables.
Twelve years ago, Manuela joined the Friendship Bridge Trust Bank “Las Margaritas”. She was motivated by the Microcredit Plus program of small loans, monthly educational training and access to bi-monthly health care services. Because of her efforts, her working capital, and the training she has received, her businesses are developing nicely. She has been elected Treasurer of the Trust Bank.
Manuela shares, "My mother did not have the initiative to look for funds to develop herself as a small businesswoman. My goal has been to have a better and more prosperous life for myself and my children. I am achieving my goals because of my determination, my husband's support, and access to small loans. I am happy to have built a house made of blocks and metal sheeting. Our home has three rooms and a kitchen. I feel like a powerful woman who is closer to achieving her goals!”
Manuela joined the Handmade By Friendship Bridge® program last year. She is pleased to have made this decision because the program has strengthened her artistic talents. In addition, she has learned a lot about budgeting and customer service. Through the program, she sells her beautiful handmade pine baskets. Her children also help her in the business.
Manuela is happy to see women transformed by their participation in this program. This positive impact reaches their families and communities. Manuela believes that it is very important that women, who have not had formal education, have the opportunity to receive training about business administration, self-esteem, health, women's issues, family matters, empowerment, and more. Through their interactive participation with educational training, the women are better able to implement what they learn in their daily lives. In addition, Manuela shares that the positive experience she has had with the Health for Life program has given her access to exams, consults and more. She was pleased to find out that in her most recent exam, she has been pronounced “healthy!”
Manuela looks forward to a brighter future with all the tools that she has gathered. Her family and her community will also reap tremendous benefits!
Manuela has five children.