Clara in Santa Clara La Laguna

Hello to all of you from Mazatenango, Guatemala. We wanted to introduce ourselves – We’re Randy Fay and Nancy Lewis, and we’ve just started helping to post clients from Friendship Bridge. We’re in the middle of an epic bicycle trek from the north of Canada to the bottom of South America – you’re invited to follow us on our blog at hobobiker.com. But we’re thankful and excited to be able to spend a time here in Guatemala as Kiva Fellows helping to post new clients to the website.

We spent last week in the beautiful highland lake area near Panajachel and over the weekend rode our bikes down out of the mountains to the coastal regions near Mazatenango. On a typical day we get on a bus to some village and meet one of the Friendship Bridge loan workers there. They’re all women and they’re called “facilitadoras” (facilitators) or “asesoras” (loan assessors). Most are quite young, ambitious, on-the-ball, and exceptionally intelligent. They’ll take us out to the houses of the businesswomen who are receiving Friendship Bridge loans where we can ask them about their business, life, challenges, and dreams. When we’ve interviewed all the women we can handle for the day, we head back to the hotel and try to write them all up.

A few of the stories are pedestrian, but many, many of them are so compelling. These people are fighting a battle to make a living every day. Clara, the woman in the photo, bought a calf with her first loan, raised it to maturity, then it died suddenly leaving her with a 21-day-old calf to bottlefeed to maturity. BUT the cow in the picture is that calf, and Clara is selling cheese and milk successfully. Like most of the women in the highlands, Spanish is not her native language, but unlike most, she can speak it pretty well. Many of the highland women speak no Spanish at all and we have to rely on the facilitadora.

Today we met with Petrona, a 28-year-old widow, who has a market table loaded with clothing, trying to put her life together after her husband died several months ago. She says she has to fight the fight to make it for the kids, and she’s doing it. She used her first loan to buy some clothing to get started.

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