María Paula is a fierce woman who has participated as a Friendship Bridge client for 15 years, and she is in her 16 loan cycle. She lives in the rural community called Caserío Santa María el Tablón of the Department of Sololá. Maria Paula recalls that she was forced to leave school after only completing the sixth grade. She immediately began working with her father and brothers in the development of sewing products and handcrafts, where she enjoyed working. Currently, María Paula's father left her a place where they offer a variety of textiles and crafts to customers and pedestrians on Calle Santander in Panajachel, Sololá. María Paula is a natural-born craftswoman.
There is much admiration for the countless creative and incredibly talented artisan Mayan women in Guatemala. 39-year-old artisan and entrepreneur Olga feels thankful that she can put her talents to good use, making and selling beautiful handmade necklaces and earrings; in order to pave a more prosperous future for her two children, ages 15 and 20.
Lidia is a strong and brave woman who wakes up every day with optimism and always strives to create opportunities for her two daughters. She is from a rural community called Cipresales in the western highlands of Guatemala and grew up in a family of 11 children (she was the second born). Lidia, who unfortunately had to miss more than a day of school each week to help at home, eventually was forced to drop out of school - this was right after she completed the fourth grade. Her father and older brother worked together selling handicrafts in two other departments in Guatemala. She often worked with them and helped earn income so that the family could have food on the table.
San Jorge La Laguna is one of the smallest villages in the department of Sololá. This is the home of Antonia, age 55, married, and mother of eight children between the ages of 13 and 35. Antonia shares with us that her childhood was very sad, as her father left her mother when Antonia was just three months old. Antonia's mother was very upset, and that point she made the decision to leave Antonia with her grandmother while she went to live with another man. Antonia's grandparents raised her. They were poor, which meant that they could only send Antonia to school for three years.
Women are drivers of development - locally, nationally, and internationally; today and in the future. They work hard to find ways to support their families in any way they can. However, in order to scale their small businesses, they need financing and training to build the necessary skills. That is what Angelina, a 36-year-old Maya Kakchiquel woman, needed. Angelina lives in a rural community in the department of Sololá.