rfay's blog

Women We've Met Recently

Tagged:  •    •  
Clara Ajsoc
Clara Ajsoc (View on flickr)
We've met a wide variety of women in the last couple of weeks, from Mayan women who speak no Spanish at all and who try to scrape together a living with some weaving and a pig, to fairly ordinary poor urban women who remind us a little more of home, except that to them $15 is what you have to come up with every month for the kid's school payment.

Last week Nancy met Clara Ajsoc in the highland village of Santa Clara La Laguna. Clara used her Friendship Bridge loan to buy a calf, which she raised, only to lose it to a sudden illness, leaving a young calf behind. But she bottlefed that one and raised it up successfully, and she now sells milk and cheese, where she had no livelihood before. And she wants to get another calf.

Catarina Cox Perez
Catarina Cox Perez (View on flickr)
In San Antonio La Laguna, Nancy met Catarina Cox Perez, who lost her house to Hurricane Stan in October, 2005. She has been patching it back together bit by bit, but she lives in a really bad piece of broken house with no real windows, and she has to pile rocks up in the broken windowframes for a little privacy. But Catarina's big goal with her next loan is to buy and raise 24 chicks. More power to her. There's the great power of microfinance.

What is Microfinance Anyway?

Tagged:  •    •    •  
Our new friends
Our new friends (View on flickr)
We should probably say something about what this "Microfinance" or "Microcredit" thing is that we're working in with Friendship Bridge and Kiva.org.

The amazing man who won last year's (2006) Nobel Peace Prize pioneered the use of tiny loans without a requirement for collateral or security to poor people. Mohammed Yunus maintains with great success that if you just give poor people access to capital, they can make their own way in the world with their own businesses. His book, Banker to the Poor, is worth every minute of the time you take to read it - it's in every library and every bookstore and here on Amazon.com. It's the most hopeful book about poverty in the world that you will ever read. Yunus, with 25 years of experience in this, maintains that poor people pay off their loans at a much higher rate than the rich ones, and that simply providing capital in amounts like $100-$500 can transform the life of the poor by enabling them to start their own tiny businesses.

What we're doing in our daily work

Tagged:  •    •  
Dolores Lopez
Dolores Lopez (View on flickr)
As you know, we're spending some time in Guatemala as "Kiva Fellows", working with the excellent Microcredit organization Friendship Bridge. Here's what we've been doing so far.

During the week, we go to a village every morning and meet with one of the women who are the workhorses of Friendship Bridge, the "facilitators". These are the women who form the credit groups and know all of FB's clients. The facilitator will take us to one of more of the clients' homes and may stay with us or may deliver us over to the women. We then sit down and chat with as many as six or seven families, one at a time, about their business, their life, and what they're doing with their loan.

Donde Estamos, Julio de 2007


Where We Are - July 2007
Hoy estamos en Panajachel, Guatemala, uno de los mas bonitos lugares del viaje -- y hemos visitado muchos lugares muy bonitos. Está ubicado al lado de un lago muy tranquilo, con grandes volcanes sobre todo. Aquí vamos a pasar unos meses trabajando como voluntarios con la organización Friendship Bridge (Puente de Amistad). Intentamos andar in bici a las varias oficinas de Puente y visitar a los pueblos para conocer los clientes y poner sus fotos y perfiles en el website de Kiva.org

En este mes pasado andamos desde el sur de Oaxaca en la costa unos días, y entonces tuvimos una subida muy grande hasta las montañas de Chiapas. A Nancy le gustó tanto el clima, que nos quedamos allí dos semanas para estudiar español. Después de eso, pasamos en pocos días hasta Guatemala y una semana bonita de las montañas de su oeste.

Nuevas Fotos

Hay muchas fotos nuevas:

Where We Are - Early July 2007

Where We Are - July 2007
Today we're in Panajachel, Guatemala, one of the most beautiful places we've ever been. And we've been a to a lot of beautiful places on this trip! It's right on a glorious calm blue mountain lake presided over by towering volcanoes. As you can read elsewhere, we're going to be here in Guatemala for a month or two or more helping Friendship Bridge post profiles to Kiva.org. We plan to be riding our bikes all over western Guatemala to the various Friendship Bridge branches and meeting people in the villages.

In the past month we rode from the southern part of Oaxaca, Mexico along the Pacific coast for a few days, then up a huge climb into the mountains of Chiapas. Nancy liked the climate so much when we got up into the mountains that we stayed for two weeks and she studied Spanish. When we got going again, it was just a few days into Guatemala and then a glorious week or so exploring the green, mountainous western highlands of Guatemala.

New Pictures

Volunteering for Kiva.org - A Major Change of Pace!

Tagged:  •    •  
Arriving at the Friendship Bridge Office in Panajachel
Arriving at the Friendship Bridge Office in Panajachel (View on flickr)
One of the goals of our trip (and one reason we are taking 3 years instead of the more normal 18 months) is that we want to be able to volunteer and study along the way. Well, now is the time for our first volunteer stint! We are so excited to be able to volunteer for Kiva.org here in Guatemala.

As we were riding through Mexico, we were really impacted by the poverty we saw, and became tremendously interested in the concept of microfinance, the practice of offering small loans ($100-$1000, usually), without requiring collateral, to tiny businesses. It turns out that last year's Nobel Peace Price winner, Mohammed Yunus, is the originator of the concept, and his book "Banker to the Poor" is tremendously inspiring. What they did with tiny, collateral-free loans in Bangladesh is the most hopeful story about alleviating poverty that I've ever heard in my life.

Riding the Guatemala Highlands

Is this really this steep-Yes
Is this really this steep-Yes (View on flickr)

We didn't really know what we were getting into when we heard about the beautiful new road that runs east from Huehuetenango (Way-Way-tenango) - everybody said it had just opened and was a great new road. But it sounded like low traffic and a good road, so we took it. It was probably some of the best riding we've had on the trip. Almost no traffic, beautiful road surface, and sometimes even and shoulder!

It's all huge, brutal, beautiful green mountains. We've never seen so much green. The landscape looks like a quilt because of the efficient agricultural use of this land. In every village and along every road we meet colorful indigenous people who smile and say hi or call out to us, impressed by our trip. Often we hear someone yelling out "bye-bye" in English or the young children come running out of their house, waving and in unison cryout "Gringo Gringo". Nancy usually responds with Ninos! Ninos! (children, children) and gives a hearthy wave back.

In every village the people have a different "tipica" outfit, and the women's outfits are just absolutely gorgeous. I don't know what it would be like to live in a village where all the women wore the same dress every day, but the dresses they wear are beautiful. And each one tells a specific story; the women weave their own "huipiles", and it often requires three months of near-full-time effort to weave one.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »


Entering Guatemala

We rode into Guatemala yesterday, after four and a half months and 2800 miles in our beloved Mexico. We had no border problems, no corrupt border officials, no cheating money changers, and not even any kids swarming around us asking for gifts.

Some things have changed - people seem even more friendly. Lots of people cry out "Gringo" or "Bye Bye", or just give us the thumbs up or honk at us. Today in a huge climb back up into the highlands we actually had a shoulder for many, many miles. Bananas have a different name in Guatemala, and we have to get used to Quetzals instead of Pesos. And the speed bumps are called tumulos instead of topes.

So far the riding has been absolutely beautiful, with green mountains soaring up on both sides of us. A bit too much traffic, but a little bit of shoulder makes up for some of that.

So far, so good! Our fourth country in the Americas.

Syndicate content