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    Friendship Bridge Evening: Empowering Guatemalan Women

    Empowering Guatemalan woman so that they can create their own solutions to poverty.

    You are invited to a special evening at the historical Unitarian Universalist Church on 740 East Main in Santa Paula on Monday, September 16th at 7 p.m. to learn about the successful “Microcredit Plus” program of Friendship Bridge ( in Guatemala. Our Communication’s Coordinator, Marta Julia Ixtuc Cuc, will be with us from the Friendship Bridge Guatemala office.

    The “Microcredit Plus” program of Friendship Bridge combines coral loans, monthly educational trainings and basic healthcare services to over 30,000 underserved Guatemalan ladies. It enables them to create their own solutions to poverty, care for and educate their children and empower themselves. The program is especially relevant in the current political climate when so many desperate and hungry people are fleeing the effects of poverty and climate change and heading to the United States as undocumented people.

    Our Evening will include a “tipica” table of colorful and beautiful handicrafts and textiles made by our artisan clients. All proceeds go to Friendship Bridge. Donations gratefully accepted! Light refreshments served.

    More Information about Friendship Bridge

    Friendship Bridge (, with its “Microcredit Plus” program in Guatemala, serves over 30,000 underserved women in rural areas where the rate of poverty is the highest. While illiteracy and poverty rates are very high in these regions, the women Friendship Bridge works with are determined to empower themselves, grow their businesses, educate their children and create their own pathways out of poverty.

    Our “Microcredit Plus” program of loans, educational trainings, healthcare services & other “Plus” services gives our ladies the tools they need to move ahead into a brighter future. On average, our clients have 3 years of formal education, cannot read or write, & are unlikely to speak Spanish, the official language of the country. They earn between $1.11 & $4.49 per day that is simply not enough to support their families. They are unable to secure a loan in a regular financial institution. An NGO (non governmental organization) like Friendship Bridge is like a lifeline to them, enabling them to stay in their own country & not to become so desperate that they & their families make the dangerous trip to the United States as undocumented people.

    The ladies meet once monthly in groups of 7-20 called Trust Banks. They co-guarantee each other’s loans, a concept called “social collateral”. After making loan payments, the women participate in educational trainings that cover an aspect of 4 topics: health, family, women, business. These trainings are designed by Facilitators who speak the indigenous language of the women & use pictures, diagrams, role playing & games to share the information. Every other month, the ladies have access to basic healthcare services.

    Our Friendship Bridge Communications Coordinator in Guatemala, Marta Julia Ixtuc

    Marta is traveling to the United States in September for 2 weeks. She has worked in the Guatemalan office for over 11 years and is the ambassador of the organization. With her ability to converse comfortably in five languages (English, Spanish, her native Maya Kaqchikel, 2 additional Maya languages), Marta Julia is a natural to be Communications Coordinator.

    Constance Leshin (Constancia) first traveled to Guatemala in the early 1970’s and fell in love with the colorful traditional textiles. She ceased her yearly trips because of the horrific civil war when 250,000 mostly indigenous people were murdered. After a wake-up call in 2006, she realized that she needed to return to Guatemala with a purpose and found Friendship Bridge on the internet one night..

    Constancia has returned almost every year since then as a translator for Friendship Bridge “Insight Trips”. She helped to form 2 Support Circles in California. She also translates and rewrites narratives about Friendship Bridge clients that are posted on a worldwide micro-finance website called KIVA. Last year, because of the efforts of her 3 member team, $1.9 million was raised for loans from KIVA investors!

    For more information, please contact Constancia at 661-478-3213.

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