Contributed by International Committee Chair Gene Medina from the road...


Hola Kingston Rotarians

This is the second update from Guatemala. On Sunday (2/2) our group of Rotarians (8 US and 6 Canadians) headed northwest to Retalhuleu and a visit to several microfinance projects.

As a brief background, microfinance(aka microcredit) provides low interest loans (typically 3%) to small groups of women entrepreneurs (N=15). The Retalhuleu program has 14 small groups and is coordinated by local Guatemalans (1.5 staff). These groups of women borrow 2500Q ($325) to 4000Q ($520) for periods of 3 to 6 months. These funds are used to buy chickens, baby pigs, cosmetics, beads, and other materials at low cost and sell or resell them (eggs, chickens, bracelets, cosmetics, etc) at local markets. This income provide money for their children’s education, food for the family and other things they choose. On the average, they earn $75-$100 per month for families income. Additionally, these groups provide support for the members who are dealing with issues of machismo and abuse and alcoholism from their husbands/partners. They are also a source of support for women’s rights in Guatemala. Built into the program are required savings for the education of their children and family savings (minimum of 10% of the amount borrowed). Program has been operating for the past 5 years and is extremely successful in providing a source of income for the members and new skills entrepreneurship skills.

In the next segment, we head to San Lucas Toliman on Lake Atitlan for a visit to our "eco-toilets" projects. More to come in next week’s bulletin