When Guatemala City and the town of Totonicapan both wound up our itinerary, several Guatemalans we spoke to wondered aloud: “Now why exactly are you going there again?“
Usual suspects on the Guatemalan tourist trail these places are not. The primary reason for our visit: cooperation with Kiva, an American organization that raises capital for small loans from online lenders. It then disburses the funds to borrowers in the developing world via its partnerships with local microfinance institutions. Individuals lend small amounts (e.g., $25) over the internet, and collectively they help to impact the lives of many. Innovative, and — as Kiva describes it — “person-to-person.”
Our contribution was to photograph Kiva borrowers (i.e., individuals who had received small loans). Working with volunteer Kiva Fellows, Andrea and Lori, we got to see first-hand the effect of loans distributed through Kiva's partner microfinance institutions (FAPE and ASDIR in Guatemala City and Totonicapan respectively).
The project took us to villages outside of Totonicapan and a host of areas outside of Guatemala City, including a slum in Villa Nueva. We met a select group of women – and one man – using small loans ($1,000 or less) to build or expand their small businesses. They weaved, sewed, crafted shoes, baked goods, made candles and ran stores. In their homes and workshops, they shared their stories, their lives, and their goals.
While the photo sets linked below don't offer traditional snapshots of travel in Guatemala, they do provide a glimpse of how people live in small towns and villages. Ultimately, these people hope to support their families, improve their lives, and provide an education for their children.
And after all, isn't that what we're all trying to do?