Microloans Help Guatemalan Women Reach Their Goals

by MayaWorks
Marta and her husband with their green bean plants
Marta and her husband with their green bean plants

Marta does not have an easy life.  She is in her early 30s and has seven children. She lives in a small rural village where opportunities are few and far between.  Yet, inspite of these obstacles, Marta is creating a happy life for her family.

Marta has ongoing work weaving products for MayaWorks.  She supplements her income with microcredit loans that she uses to plant crops.  Marta just paid off her most recent loan which she used to grow green beans.  No doubt she will request another loan for her next farming project.

When Marta first requested a microcredit loan, her husband wasn't sure it was the right thing to do.  He worried about getting behind in payments and about accruing interest.  But Marta assured him she could manage a successful project. Since that first loan, there have been many other microcredit loans.  Marta has paid each one of them off on time and has seen her profits grow from one project to the next.

The income she earns from her projects allows her to provide good nutrition for her family and send all of school-aged children to school.


The artisans of Agua Caliente
The artisans of Agua Caliente

The artisans from Agua Caliente are really excited.  They're excited because their new looms have been installed which they purchased in part using microcredit loans.  MayaWorks also provided some grant funds to help the women with their purchase of the looms. These looms are going to allow them to create a new product that promises to be a great seller -- a tallit, which is a prayer shawl used by Jewish people when they pray or attend services at the synagogue. They will also be able to use the loom to create many other products at their discretion that they will sell in their local market.

The woman have been hard at work perfecting the shawl.  While the artisans are adept at creating shawls, this one has been particularly challenging because it requires significant sewing which is not something that comes second nature to them.  They perservered and preliminary market tests show this is going to be a good seller. This is good news for the artisans.  They will earn more income weaving this special product and they will be able to pay off their loan in a shorter time.

Microloans are an important part of the way we can suppot artisans as they work toward lifting themselves out of poverty.

The new tallit on the loom.
The new tallit on the loom.


It's not a complete day if Lila doesn't weave.

Lila recently requested a microcredit loan to expand her weaving workshop so she can give work to more women.  Lila is a master weaver who's business has expanded because of her highly sought after skills.  To keep up with demand, Lila has employed more women so she can turn in projects in a more timely fashion.  Customers appreciate that, not only does she create impressive tapestries and huipiles, she also turns in her commissions within a reasonable time frame. Lila's work is so impressive, she is receiving commissions from customers in the United States!

With the income she and her fellow weavers earn, they are able to send their children to school, purchase land for the family's corn plot, and create additions on to their homes.  Within the past year, Lila has expanded her home to include a second floor.  This is her special oasis where she goes to weave in the mornings.  Weaving, for Lila, is like breathing air. It's something she cannot live without.

Thank you to all those who support microcredit projects for women who cannot get tradtional loans from banks.  It truly makes a differnce in their daily lives.

Weaving makes Lila happy.
Weaving makes Lila happy.


Marta in her potato field with loan supervisors.
Marta in her potato field with loan supervisors.

If you want to know how to run a successful microcredit project, go see Marta.  Marta always runs a solid project. She choses her activities wisely. She clearly understands her expenses and outlines her goals and is always eager to learn more.

She grows crops for the export market where she can earn more money. Vegetables such as potatos, green beans and strawberries yield good profits.  Marta consistently produces results and pays her loans back on time.  

Her success can largely be attibuted to the support she receives from the moment she applies for a loan.  Marta went through a series of trainings to increase the likelihood her projects will be fruitful. In addition, she receives periodic visits by loan supervisors who are available to help her work through challenges and make recommendations to improve project outcomes.

She is a terrific role model for other women who want to coordinate a successful microcredit project.


Micro-loans are used to expand weaving businesses.
Micro-loans are used to expand weaving businesses.

MayaWorks microcredit program exists to help women who have limited access to traditional economic outlets become successful small community entrepreneurs through the management of income generating projects.

With the help of MayaWorks staff members, artisans complete a  loan application that includes a simple business plan. If the project promises to generate income beyond the artisans' expenses, the loan will be approved and funds are disbursed within a few days after an initial training session.  During the course of their project, artisans receive periodic site visits by the Program Coordinator to evaluate how the project is progressing. If an artisan is experiencing difficulty with the project, she will receive technical support from staff members and will be visited more often. Artisans also attend periodic trainings to expand their skills and improve their projects.

Artisans have used microloans to purchase nutritional supplements to sell in their community, build a small lumber mill, and purchase dairy cows to provide milk for their village.  By far, though, the most popular income generating projects are weaving and planting cash crops. Currently, there are 14 micro-loan projects being mananged by MayaWorks artisan partners.


Micro-loans are used to plant cash crops.
Micro-loans are used to plant cash crops.



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Organization Information


Location: Berwyn, IL - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.mayaworks.org
Project Leader:
Jeannie Balanda
Executive Director
Chicago, Illinois United States

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