From Struggle to Success: How FINCA is Empowering Families in Guatemala

This article was originally published on Global Heroes.

Poverty is an all-too-common reality for families in Guatemala, where even basic necessities like food can be hard to come by. But FINCA.org, an international microfinance organization, is working to change that. For over 30 years, they have been empowering people in Guatemala to pursue and achieve their dreams through sustainable approaches to poverty alleviation.

FINCA’s microfinance initiatives have provided working capital to Guatemala’s lowest-income families since 1989. Through their 12 branches in urban and rural areas throughout the country, they offer innovative financial services, such as Village Banking, individual and local currency loans, micro-insurance, and money transfer services.

But FINCA’s impact in Guatemala goes far beyond just providing financial services. They strongly focus on women’s empowerment, knowing that raising women’s incomes is a proven strategy for improving children’s nutrition and creating a better life for families. And it’s working—through access to FINCA’s financial services, 74 percent of women in their program have become the primary breadwinners for their families.

FINCA’s work is making real changes in people’s lives, empowering them to pursue and achieve their dreams. From putting food on the table to enrolling children in school and providing a safe home for their families, FINCA’s clients are breaking the cycle of poverty and creating a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

Nicolasa Sacay, San Antonio Palopó, Guatemala

When Nicolasa was four years old, her mother passed away, and her family thought their age-old weaving tradition died with her. But an opportunity appeared when an aunt taught Nicolasa’s sister to weave. Nicolasa learned from her sister, and later apprenticed with a highly skilled weaver in Quetzaltenango to perfect her technique.

After her apprenticeship, Nicolasa returned to her village and married her husband, Josué, with whom she had a daughter, Tatiana. Determined to build a better life, Nicolasa applied for a FINCA loan to purchase her loom. She has since used successive loans to buy additional looms and thread for her handwoven textiles and make improvements to her home.

Nicolasa hires out one of her looms to other women in the village who cannot afford to buy their own.

Nicolasa and her family live in a small house accessible only by climbing several dozen flights of steep, concrete stairs up the mountainside. Nicolasa’s weaving studio is located on the top floor, with a commanding view of Lake Atitlán and the surrounding volcanoes. Nicolasa knows she is still poor by global standards, but she appreciates her progress and the “million-dollar view” from her workshop.

Nicolasa plans to continue working with FINCA to grow her business and invest in her daughter’s education. She expects Tatiana to complete high school and attend university, giving her more opportunities than Nicolasa ever had. Nicolasa’s story is a testament to the power of determination and hard work to overcome adversity and build a better future.

Emanuel Solis Yaqui, Patzun, Guatemala

On top of a mountain in the beautiful town of Patzun, Emanuel and his family live and grow vegetables on their family farm. Since 2019, Emanuel has been taking a yearly agricultural loan of $2,000 from the FINCA Guatemala office in the nearby town of Chimaltenango.

Using the financing program, they expanded the number of plots of land on their farm from four to 19 and now employ three seasonal workers to help grow, harvest, and sell their produce in town. These seasonal workers have freed up his talented wife to focus on her traditional textile weaving of huipil (blouses) and corte (skirts), which she sells at the market for profit. Although each piece takes over a week to create, her talent is in demand by both tourists and local Guatemalans.

FINCA Guatemala loans also include health insurance, which means Emanuel’s family can receive medical care. The financial stability provided by FINCA’s loans and health insurance, along with their hard work and ingenuity, have made it possible for Emanuel’s children to attend high school and focus on their passions. Emanuel’s oldest daughter also plays competitive soccer—she is an excellent athlete and has won many medals with her team, including an MVP award.

In addition to farming his own 19 plots, Emanuel is no stranger to Canada. He has traveled to Québec as a temporary farm laborer with his brother-in-law to pick apples and plans to do it again this fall.

Emanuel and his wife are incredibly resourceful, hardworking, and talented. With FINCA products, they have found solutions to minimize the impact of poverty on their lives and improve their children’s lives.

Stories like Nicolasa’s and Emanuel’s are not uncommon in FINCA’s client base. There is hope for a better tomorrow thanks to FINCA’s commitment to empowering people in Guatemala and their sustainable approach to poverty alleviation.