One of the Association’s most popular projects is the microloan program. Also known as fondos revolventes (revolving funds), these small, interest-free loans offer powerful income-earning opportunities for the women who participate.
The Association of Mam Christian Women for Development has approximately 400 members. These women live across a large geographic area in the Western Highlands of Guatemala and organize themselves into groups of 15-25 women in each aldea, or village. Each group is encouraged to develop a business plan and apply to the Association Board for an interest-free microloan. Loans are only available to groups – not to individual women – and must be paid back collectively.
U.S. churches and individuals typically sponsor a group with a donation of several thousand dollars. The microloan group then divides this loan among its members who, in turn, launch their own self-sustaining business. Businesses vary from soap-making, chocolate-making, and roadside tortilla stands to the most common enterprise: purchasing livestock, such as chickens, pigs, goats, and cows. Women who choose to raise livestock receive critical training from our agricultural and farm animal expert, Carlos Hernandez. Carlos is an agro-ecologist from the local university who previously worked for Heifer International. He teaches women how to raise healthy livestock while maximizing profit.
Twice a year, each microloan group sends a representative to the Asamblea (Assembly meeting). Here, members gather to report on the successes and challenges of their projects, make payments on their original loans, and submit requests for new funds. Groups are allowed to reapply for a new loan each year, for up to five years. After that, they are expected to be self-sufficient, and the full principal of the original loan can then be given to a new group.
Women often double their money with successful projects, using their profits to put food on the table, send their children to school, and reinvest in their business. Currently, there are a number of microloan groups awaiting funding. To learn how you can sponsor a group, please contact us or donate online. This program is a wonderful example of sustainability and paying it forward!