The Benefits of Village Banking: Q&A with Guatemalan Village Banking Officer

For families in Guatemala, poverty is an all-too-common reality where even basic essentials like food can be difficult to obtain. Since 1989, FINCA has provided Guatemala’s lowest-income families with working capital through its 12 bank locations, which are spread across the country’s urban and rural areas. FINCA Guatemala offers innovative financial services, such as Village Banking, individual and local currency loans, micro-insurance, and money transfer services.

Drew Boshell, Executive Director of FINCA Canada, recently had a chance to sit down with Brenda Elizabeth Chiyal, a Village Banking Officer working in the Southwestern Highlands of Guatemala.

How did you first learn about FINCA?

Brenda: It was almost nine years ago, and I had just graduated from high school. I was uncertain about my future. But then I saw an ad posted on the wall for the position of Village Banking Officer with FINCA Guatemala. This motivated me to submit my CV on a Saturday, and I was so happy to be asked to come for an interview on Monday. I was even happier when I was offered the role. Later, I went to the FINCA Head Office in Guatemala City for 15 days of training and was later paired with a mentor I worked alongside for a month. At first, I was worried due to my age and working with people older than myself, but I soon gained confidence.

What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most?

Brenda: The best part of my job is meeting and working with the clients and helping them to achieve their goals. I get to hear about their accomplishments and the challenges they face. Many of our rural clients only speak indigenous languages, so I speak Quiché and Quetzaltenango really helps. We develop a great relationship and have a lot of fun working together. As a Village Banking Officer, I help support a group of mostly women who work together to secure loans to help grow or start their businesses. Everyone holds each other accountable and makes sure they fulfill their responsibilities. For instance, we have a group piggy bank that we all contribute to (including myself) if we are late for a meeting. And at the end of the loan cycle, the money in the piggy bank is used for a group lunch.

Do you have a particular memory you would like to share?

Brenda: I helped form a Village banking group meeting in a very small basic house once. The owner had just secured a loan to buy a loom to start a weaving business. It was amazing to see her succeed and increase the number of looms and her income over time. Now her house is much bigger and more comfortable for her family. With her increased income, she also helped ensure her children got a good education.

Why do you like working with FINCA?

Brenda: Being a woman myself, I am so happy that FINCA supports so many women. I have helped over 850 clients in rural villages all over the state, and 95 percent of them are women. This is really important as women often don’t get a chance to succeed, especially in rural areas that are male-dominated. FINCA helps them improve their economic welfare for themselves and their family. I am happy to have a job where I can help empower women and have a chance to travel all over the region. FINCA treats me well and has always been there for me, especially during difficult times like when my father passed away.

What do you do in your free time?

Brenda: I used to play basketball a lot, but now that I have a 5-month year old daughter, I spend most of my free time with her.

FINCA Guatemala was founded in 1997 and serves more than 18,000 clients, with 26 branches across the country.