Monday, January 2, 2012

Kiva Welcomes Friendship Bridge!

Written by Casey Cline, Kiva Fellow

Kiva is extremely excited to welcome Friendship Bridge (FB) as its newest field partner in Guatemala. FB was established in 1990, having first worked in Vietnam and then shifting its focus to Guatemala in 1998. Their mission is to provide not only microcredit, but also education, to women so that they can create their own solutions to poverty for themselves, their families, and their communities. Headquartered in Lakewood, CO, FB has a staff of six in the U.S. and a team of 80 in its six branches, two satellite offices, and headquarters office in Guatemala. Intentionally employing staff that represent the demographics of its clients, FB’s employees are 68% women and 67% indigenous. In addition, 10% of the staff is former clients.

FB targets impoverished women living in rural areas in of Guatemala that are characterized by extreme poverty and high levels of illiteracy. On average, a FB client is 38 years old, earns $1.74 per day, has 2.6 years of formal education, has a household size of 6.15 and is likely to speak only their indigenous language. FB employs a unique approach called Microcredit Plus that, aside from providing small, short-term loans, focuses on education in a variety of areas including business, money management, self-esteem, and health and children’s education.
FB is thrilled to partner with Kiva, not only for the exposure to a new audience of socially minded investors, but also because of Kiva’s low [zero] cost of financing will allow FB to offer more wide-ranging and complete products and services to its clients. Friendship Bridge was a Kiva partner in the past, and has now returned to the website after a hiatus.
Friendship Bridge Clients - Photo Credit: Friendship Bridge

One of the alternative products that FB launched just weeks before initiating its relationship with Kiva is an organic agriculture loan. While the product is still in a trial phase with one small family farm, the technical assistance that is provided through FB’s relationship with AGTEC (a joint project through the Borlaug Institute and Texan A&M) and the encouraging early results have the FB staff extremely excited about its potential for a positive impact not only on the lives of the families involved, but also on the local environment as more sustainable farming practices are utilized.

Special thanks to Cynthia McMurry, Portfolio Manager for Central America, for her hard work getting FB on board, and to Casey Cline, Kiva Fellow, for helping FB to get up and running!

To learn more about Friendship Bridge, please visit their website, their partner page, or their first borrower profile.
A Friendship Bridge Entrepreneur - Photo Credit: Friendship Bridge