Friendship Bridge client for 21 years.
52-year-old Marcela, who today is an empowered woman who has overcome much adversity, remembers the extreme poverty of her youth. At the age of 10, she was sent to school, but due to being in a large family (she was the fifth born of ten children), Marcela was only able to complete two years of studies. One of her brothers sadly died of measles when he was five years old; the remaining siblings are close-knit and support one another. Back then and still today, Marcela's father earns his livelihood by selling traditional Guatemalan clothes in the market of Sololá. In his spare time, he grows and/or harvests vegetables and basic grains. Marcela's mother takes care of the housework and also produces traditional Guatemalan weavings such as huipiles.
As a child, Marcela lived in a village called El Tablón, in Sololá. The home in which she grew up had three rooms total for the parents and nine children. The walls were adobe, with a bare soil floor and reed roof. Over the years, the four younger siblings were able to graduate from high school, while Marcela and her other siblings only completed between two to six years of formal education. With a lot of hard work and sacrifice, Marcela's parents have improved their living conditions since those early days.
Marcela's wish as a child was to have new clothes, or at least clothes in good condition, as she only wore used clothes, often patched and in poor condition. Her situation of poverty prompted her to get married at the young age of 15. However, to the surprise of Marcela, her husband, who was ten years older than her, was never able to provide for her in the way she had thought or hoped; he could not even buy her the traditional clothes which she dreamed of owning. Instead, she wove her own clothes. Marcela’s married life proved very difficult, as her in-laws neither liked her nor wanted her in their lives. She recalls her mother-in-law's indifference toward her for the duration of eight years. Over the years, Marcela's husband began turning to alcohol; he passed more than 18 years ago. That was a turning point for Marcela; she became independent and took the reins of her life.
Marcela has five children; she had her first child at the age of 16. In order to support her children, Marcela sought work in her community. Her first job was washing clothes at various homes. She also did domestic work in the homes of neighbors and acquaintances. Still, she realized she needed additional support if she wanted to be able to provide her children with all of the basic necessities. In 2006, Marcela sought out advice from one of her sisters, who told her about Friendship Bridge and the loans they offered to help women, help themselves. Marcela joined the organization, acquired her first loan, and was soon able to start her own traditional textile business. Thanks to the profits she has been able to generate from the business, Marcela has been able to put three of her children through high school; they have graduated, and this makes Marcela feel proud and grateful. Unfortunately her fourth child suffers from epilepsy, and therefore could not complete her studies.
Among other things, Marcela weaves napkins, tablecloths, sheets and huipiles. Over the years, she was employing women in her community to support her - she had a total of six employees. Unfortunately the onset of the COVID-19 led to a decrease in demand for Marcela's products, and she is therefore only able to employ one person (one of her sisters) at this time. One of Marcela's daughters also supports her with orders.
Marcela applauds and appreciates the financial support of Friendship Bridge, because it is this financing that has enabled her to sustain and grow her business over the years. She also values the training Handmade by Friendship Bridge® has provided her for more than three years; she has learned to plan, invest, budget, and save in her business. Thanks to the training, she has also learned to set the right prices for her products, as well as to use a measuring tape to ensure accurate and consistent measurements.
Marcela thanks Friendship Bridge for adding value to Guatemalan women's abilities and motivating them to empower themselves through loans, Non-Formal Education, and Microcredit Plus programs including health services (Health for Life).
Marcela has three daughters and two sons.
Marcela provides employment to two female artisan weavers.