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Traveling with purpose: Witnessing impact in Guatemala

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by Peter Solar, former donor relations officer, Global Partnerships

Donor travel has become a valuable and compelling way for nonprofit organizations working on international initiatives to engage their supporters and bring them closer to our work. Understanding the value of firsthand interaction, Global Partnerships offers its donors and investors an opportunity to travel on one of our “Impact Journeys” and deepen their appreciation and understanding of programs, communities and people to whom they commit their resources.

Our Impact Journeys are designed to allow our supporters to meet and interact with our partners and their clients in their homes and businesses and learn about their successes, challenges and dreams. In addition, our travelers get a better sense of the cultural, socio-economic and political climate of the host country through interactions with our staff, partner representatives and foreign affairs specialists.

In late November, we took a group of donors and investors on a visit to Guatemala. Less than three hours by air from Houston, Guatemala is a captivating country with rich culture, history and people full of hope and entrepreneurial spirit. Although the country is troubled by a wide array of problems, the partners we work with in Guatemala offer a unique glimpse into market-sustained solutions that have the potential to empower communities living in poverty.

In the western highlands of Guatemala, we met with our partner Friendship Bridge, a nonprofit microfinance institution dedicated to improving the lives of impoverished women in rural Guatemala through credit and education. We traveled to two village bank meetings that enabled us to see the effectiveness of the village bank methodology in action.

In each of the meetings, we saw small groups of Maya women discussing topics such as managing earnings or borrowing funds responsibly, all in their native language Kakchiquel. Elevating the experience was the opportunity to listen to their conversations, witness the atmosphere and share the laughter with these courageous, inspiring and warmhearted women.

We also got the opportunity to get our shoes dirty and visit one of the local farms with FUNDEA, our partner organization that primarily empowers farmers through loans and technical assistance. Here, we had an opportunity to witness the importance of technical assistance and the positive outcomes of agricultural practices such as drip irrigation, crop diversification, or organic practices implemented thanks to FUNDEA’s program. 

Recognizing the importance of investing in women, FUNDEA also works with women's groups. We met with some of the groups that participate in their pilot program known as Credimujer, which provides their clients with credit and essential services such as preventive care, vaccinations and pediatric care for their children. Although FUNDEA’s product differs from that of the Friendship Bridge, our interactions with their clients have been equally inspiring and empowering and offered a comprehensive insight into the breadth of business models we support. 

On our visit to Guatemala, we traveled in boats, ventured across rough roads, made our way through cornfields and even rode in the back of a pickup truck to witness the impact of Global Partnerships’ investments. At the end of the day, our group appreciated the opportunity to catch our breath and reflect on our experiences over a delightful and unhurried meal that much more.

The GP Impact Journey program leaves lasting impression on people who travel. Humbling. Eye-opening. Life-changing. Amazing. These are just some of the words that repeatedly come up when our travelers look back on the meetings, conversations and adventures from the trip and realize the sheer power of their friendship and support.

We hope to share our travelers’ insights from our visit to Guatemala with you soon. In the meantime, we invite you to look at some of the photographs we took along the way and learn more about our upcoming journey to Peru!

Blog Tags: Friendship Bridge   FUNDEA   Guatemala   impact journeys   Latin America   travel   

Friendship Bridge, village bank mtg., Guatemala
Women entrepreneurs attending a village bank meeting in the western highlands of Guatemala. Photo © John Backus

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