Friendship Bridge’s history began with its work in Vietnam providing medical education and shipping medical supplies to impoverished populations in war-ravaged areas. While medical supplies were positively impacting the lives of recipients, Friendship Bridge was looking for a more sustainable solution to poverty reduction — the solution was microcredit. In 1994, we shifted our focus from medical supplies to microcredit and began offering small loans to impoverished women. Our clients, indigenous women who were deemed ‘unbankable,’ started or expanded small businesses and began creating their own sustainable solutions to poverty.
In 1998, Friendship Bridge expanded its work to Guatemala, another war-ravaged country suffering extreme poverty and offering limited opportunities to women. Friendship Bridge shifted out of Vietnam as operations in Vietnam became unsustainable due to an unfavorable political climate. Focusing solely on Guatemala, and aided by investment from American donors, the seeds of the Microcredit Plus program we know today were planted.
By 2003, almost 3,000 clients were borrowing from Friendship Bridge. By 2006 the number tripled to 9,000 clients, and today we reach more than 22,000 women through our Microcredit Plus program.
Create opportunities that empower Guatemalan women to build a better life.
Empowered women choosing their own path.
We support artisans to sell their products through the online store: https://www.handmadebyfriendshipbridge.org/
We offer group credits with education and health.
We believe that microfinance should be combined with other services to comprehensively support our clients in building resilience to take advantage of opportunities. We offer the following programs:
- Non-formal education: monthly visits to clients.
- Health for life: preventive health program with mobile and physical clinics and telephone assistance.
- Technical trainings in agricultural and handicraft programs.
- Advanced trainings and business developer visits.
Puente de Amistad is a non-profit social organization that focuses on creating opportunities to empower Guatemalan women who live in rural areas and who live below the national poverty line to create a better life.
Our main tools, as a comprehensive model to achieve impact objectives, are: Microcredits / Group Credits, Education, Health, Crafts and Agriculture.
Puente de Amistad currently has operations in 10 departments in the south and north-western region of Guatemala, serving above all the population of indigenous women who live in rural areas and are in poverty conditions. Through a comprehensive work model, it is contributing to the creation of opportunities to alleviate poverty and the construction of a better future for women and their families.
At the end of 2020, more than 25,000 women were served. A summary of the main results at the end of 2019:
- 32,000 women were attended $ 18.7MM in loans disbursed during the year, with a final portfolio of $ 9.3MM at the end of the year
- 5.9 thousand hours of training for personnel through the Universidad Puente de Amistad
- 104 thousand hours of training provided by Friendship Bridge to clients, in health, agriculture, crafts, business development, and advanced skills training 53% of female staff, of which 62% are in leadership and management positions
- 40% of staff self-identify as indigenous Mayan
- 8.8 thousand clients have received health services through our "Health for Life" program since the program began in 2015.
- During 2019, 4.6 thousand clients accessed services, three thousand of them for the first time.
- 963 women participated in the Agricultural Training and Credit program
- 1500 agricultural training sessions were directed to clients by our agronomists
- 10 demonstration plots were implemented, as a practical learning space for the clients
- $65,000 was generated as income for artisans through the Crafts Program, especially through online sales
- 227 people have been employed by 35 clients who are part of the Crafts Program
- 15 new trade associations created
- 167 clients participated in the Advanced Skills Training Program, increasing their income by $52 per month as a result of this intervention
- 3 international conferences on social performance methods / results: "Latin American Impact Investment Forum Mérida, ANDE Metrics Conference and ANDE Central America Metrics Learning Lab
COVID RESPONSE 2020:
Operations in the field were transferred in their entirety during the months of confinement by COVID-19 towards a modality of remote work, changing the modality of face-to-face attention to a virtual model and especially calls to maintain service and communication with clients, attending in the different Mayan languages of the service regions.
Aware that the pandemic will last for a longer time, we have clearly defined that our operations will focus on developing aspects such as: Digital transformation, responsible growth, and the integration of the new entrepreneurial program. These will be the main goals for 2021.
In 2012, Puente de Amistad integrated the Social Performance Management area and defined its social objectives, in order to collect first-hand information (in the field), monitoring and evaluating the social impact of the programs.
During the years 2012 to 2018, he focused on collecting key information using tools such as the Poverty Probability Index (PPI) from Innovations for Poverty Actions. Implementation of Client Protection Principles of Universal Standards for Social Performance Management (Social Performance Task Force).
We carry out several surveys:
- Customer Satisfaction Surveys
- Surveys of reasons for dropping out
- Monitoring surveys specific to programs and products.
From 2019 to date, we are focusing on developing more specifically the implementation of technology that supports and makes more efficient our communication and management of relationships with our clients, while developing greater identity and brand positioning.
Size and/or structure
Puente de Amistad has grown over the years, which has required modifying its processes and structure to make its processes more efficient and continue serving more Guatemalan women.
A gradual expansion program has been established to reach more communities in the rural area with the opening of 1 to 2 agencies per year.
We have adapted the products and services, starting from our basic modality which are "group credits and training", diversifying the products and services we offer, now having as a result the programs "Health for Life, Training and Agricultural Credit, Program of Crafts, Advanced Skills Development and Education Program, Business Development, and soon, the new "Entrepreneurs" program.
How you collaborate or work with others
It has become necessary to adapt the processes over the years to maintain close, timely and transparent communication with allies and collaborators. In 2020 we had the opportunity to innovate in many processes, making greater use of technological and digital platforms, systems and tools to continue in close contact with our clients and collaborators despite the confinement and complications of the pandemic.
Growth in clients, portfolio and locations.
Implement new platforms to make processes more efficient and multichannel service.
Contrast monitoring and evaluation to measure the impact of products and programs.
Controlled and responsible growth.
Digital transformation and process efficiency through the use of technological tools.
Monitoring, evaluation and measurement of impact results through the relevant indicators, objectives and established tools that allow us to have a social and financial balance.