Community Finance Guatemala
The mission of Community Finance Guatemala is to support indigenous Guatemalan women with the necessary knowledge and tools to empower themselves to organize their own financial systems. These systems improve social cohesion and enable members to live lives of greater opportunity and security.
Our vision is that the women of Guatemala and the families they support live healthy and happy lives free from financial uncertainty and instability.
Thousands of indigenous Maya households throughout Guatemala live in perpetual financial uncertainty and instability. Low levels of education, high rates of illiteracy, low wages, and inconsistent cashflows make financial planning a daunting challenge. Instead, a day-to-day mentality permeates life, with most people focused on having enough food and basic resources to make it to tomorrow. This situation has far-ranging implications in all areas of life.
Community Finance Guatemala provides financial education workshops designed to meet participants where they are at regarding literacy level, education level and financial situation. Interested participants can also decide to receive savings group trainings to learn how to create and manage their own informal community bank. These community banks are comprised of friends and family members, are based on a solid foundation of trust, and provide easy access to financial services such as savings and lending on their own terms.
The Project’s History
Program founder and director Andrew Becker arrived in Guatemala in 2013 to consult for a local social business, Soluciones Comunitarias (SolCom), which is dedicated to offering innovative services to alleviate many of the challenges faced by the indigenous populations throughout the country. By working with their local team and leveraging pre-existing relationships, Andrew was able to gain a deep understanding of the aforementioned financial situations of many rural indigenous Maya families. After countless individual and group discussions with constituents, Andrew designed the Community Finance Program.
While Andrew was able to support and train a few savings groups on his own, the Community Finance Program really didn’t take off until he struck gold, finding two incredible local heroes of Comalapa, Doña Maria Sotz and her son Wilfred Son. Since they are Kakchiquel Maya themselves, they possess a much better understanding of the intricacies of the daily life of their community. That insider knowledge and experience having worked to support their fellow community members in various ways for more than a decade allowed them to hit the ground running after receiving training to become SolCom Community Finance Advisors.
Since finishing their training in June 2016, Doña Maria and Wilfred have gone on to provide financial education to over 200 community members and have facilitated the creation of 12 savings groups that have collectively saved over $9,000 and have distributed over $12,000 in total loans, earning the group members collectively over $1,200 in interest! The women who form these groups are empowering themselves to meet a diversity of life challenges—from providing medication for special needs children, to growing small textile businesses, to purchasing land for cultivating their family’s food supply — these women are investing in a more secure future for their children and communities.