Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Guatemala’

The World Turns South

As the world prepares for the Brazilian World Cup, attention is turning to South America. However, we hope you’ll see more than soccer – we hope you’ll see the individuals who live there.

Think about the people of Central and South America – individuals in countries like Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala. Despite the fact that you are a continent away, you can be the one who changes a person’s life forever.

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The region is made up of people just like you – people with dreams of growing a business, of creating something of their own. They dream of sending their children to school, and of giving them a brighter future. And yet, for too many, poverty is holding them back – and sometimes these dreams seem impossible.

When you give a FINCA client a microloan, you can help make her dreams come true. You give her the tools to succeed, to feed her family, and to achieve her independence. Maria Lucia Potosi Ramirez, just one of our many clients from Ecuador, had this to say about her FINCA experience: “I’m so grateful because FINCA trusted me. Now I can improve my life and the life of my family.”

Today, turn your eyes South – and see more than soccer. Support a microentrepreneur today.

Thank you for your generosity.

Sincerely,

Soledad Gompf
Vice President
FINCA

Stealing the Land

The Truth About Land Grabs
From Oxfam America

We all rely on the land—our common ground—and farms to put food on the table. But the world’s farmland is at risk. Here in the US, we have been losing more than an acre of farmland every minute. In developing countries, the rush for land is even more intense.

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What’s a land grab?

Imagine waking up one day to be told you’re about to be evicted from your home. Being told that you no longer have the right to remain on land that you’ve lived on for years. And then, if you refuse to leave, being forcibly removed. For many communities in developing countries, this is a familiar story.

In the past decade, more than 81 million acres of land worldwide—an area the size of Portugal–has been sold off to foreign investors. Some of these deals are what’s known as land grabs: land deals that happen without the free, prior, and informed consent of communities that often result in farmers being forced from their homes and families left hungry. The term “land grabs” was defined in the Tirana Declaration (2011) by the International Land Coalition, consisting of 116 organizations from community groups to the World Bank.

The global rush for land is leaving people hungry

The 2008 spike in food prices triggered a rush in land deals. While these large-scale land deals are supposedly being struck to grow food, the crops grown on the land rarely feed local people. Instead, the land is used to grow profitable crops—like sugar cane, palm oil, and soy—often for export. In fact, more than 60 percent of crops grown on land bought by foreign investors in developing countries are intended for export, instead of feeding local communities. Worse still, two-thirds of these agricultural land deals are in countries with serious hunger problems.

Righting the wrong of land grabs

With your help, Oxfam has been campaigning on land grabs as part of our GROW campaign for food justice.

People like you successfully pushed the World Bank to commit itself to a new UN standard on how land is governed. This means they’ll work to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable people have their land rights respected.

In 2011, 769 families were forced out of their homes and off thier land in Polochic Valley. Their crops and homes were burned. And three people died. Over 100,000 people signed to get the Guatemala Government to declare support for the Polochic communities and, to date, 140 families have had their land returned. The campaign continues.

To send a global message about land grabs, thousands of Oxfam supporters and Coldplay fans sent photos and videos of ordinary things out of place, echoing the displacement of land grabs. These clips were edited together into a music video that helped raise the profile of land grabs during the campaign targeting the World Bank.

What’s next?

Communities are already standing up and demanding their rights. And because big food companies rely on your continued support to stay in business, you have a rare opportunity to stand with local farmers as they struggle to retain their farmland. Visit BehindtheBrands.org and see how the 10 biggest food and beverage companies score on their land policies.

– See more at: Oxfam America.

Real Life Superwomen

Dear Gabriel,

This summer, we will ooh and aah over comic book heroes in the movies – supermen and superwomen who use their fantastical powers to affect the lives of others, for good or for evil.

While we know these superheroes are fictional characters, there are, in fact, heroes walking among us. Meet FINCA’s Superwomen, the next generation of superheroes.

Catarina Yolanda Yac de Leon (Guatemala) – Born without a right arm, Catarina was taunted by other children who called her “good for nothing.” As she grew older, Catarina began making beaded belts to help earn additional income for her family. With a FINCA loan, Catarina has learned from other entrepreneurs, been able to buy more materials, and has sold almost all the belts she has made to date!

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Berna Naiga (Uganda) – Berna has been a rock of support for her family. Living with HIV/AIDS has not kept her from supporting 10 orphaned nieces and nephews, children of siblings who have died of AIDS. Thanks to a FINCA loan, Berna has maximized her many entrepreneurial talents, from raising cattle, to running small businesses, to managing rental properties. All while caring for her children!

While these women may argue that they’re “normal,” their strength of character and wills of iron in the face of adversity prove otherwise. FINCA is proud to stand with the next generation of superheroes – women around the world who are lifting themselves out of poverty.

However, no superhero is an island – everyone needs someone in his or her corner. Root for superwomen like Catarina and Berna today. Give a FINCA loan, and fly high with modern-day heroes.

Sincerely,

Soledad Gompf
Vice President
FINCA

Women Not Intimidated

Dear Gabriel,

How easily do you scare? We all have a sense of the lines we won’t let bullies cross, and rightly so. For poor women in Guatemala, fighting for their dignity can be a daily struggle. But fight they do.

Poor women in Central America have often been refused service at “traditional” banks and even been manhandled out the door for having the audacity to enter the premises and apply for small loans.

Treating poor women this way is designed to humiliate and intimidate. It reinforces a poverty trap and reminds Central America’s most excluded women of “their place” at the bottom of a hierarchical society.

But, today, these women refuse to be intimidated; they will not accept second class status. And they take their business elsewhere. They come to FINCA.

Growing numbers of mothers and sisters and neighbors are finding FINCA’s doors open. We want their business, trust their financial management and believe in supporting small enterprises, morally and as reliable sustainable micro-businesses.

Ironically, we know that the average repayment rates for microfinance loans are better than those for “regular loans” in Guatemala, the US and most everywhere else.

More importantly, FINCA’s work is not just about financial services, it’s about empowering women to shatter the poverty trap and beat the bullies who would happily see them permanently excluded from access to financial services. We are proving, woman by woman, loan by loan. that people can fight their way out of poverty.

We believe in the poorest women from Central America and we’re asking you to believe in them too. Many of these women face poverty, the backdrop of a particularly violent society and gender-based exclusion day and daily. And they face it down, again and again. Please stand with them today.

Your support is more than symbolic. Your donation will help find and fund another microfinance client, potentially a women who’s been mistreated, but who will not accept exclusion.

Don’t accept second class citizenship. Take a stand. Support FINCA’s One In A Million campaign to find client one million and help her prove what women can achieve with access to small loans.

Please give generously,

Soledad Gompf
Vice President,
New Business Development
FINCA

Weaving a Better Life

Weaving a Better Life for Her Family
from FINCA

The business of weaving is a family affair for Catarina Castro Cac de Lux and her husband. The 30-year-old and her husband have earned their living over the past seven years by weaving beautiful scarves, blankets and fabric for skirts, which they sell in their village of Aldea Pachaj, Patzite, Quiché Guatemala.

While the business has provided the family with a meager income over the years, there was never enough to ensure that their five children—ages 15, 12, 10, 8 and two-and-a-half—had more than small amounts of food with which to nourish their growing bodies. Sending the children to school was also a luxury the family couldn’t afford.

Catarina and her husband knew that if they could purchase another loom, they could increase their production, so Catarina joined the Pachaj Flowers Village Bank group and took out a loan, which she used to purchase a second loom. She was also able to use a portion of her loan to buy thread in bulk, which was not only a wise choice with regard to increasing production, but also a necessity, considering where the Cac de Lux family lives. Once the rainy season sets in, it’s very difficult for the villagers to travel to larger markets to access materials, so Catarina made sure she had adequate supplies on hand to continue production during this particularly challenging time of year.

Catarina is proud to report that, as a result of taking out her Village Bank loan, she and her husband have increased their production two-fold, making it possible for them to continue to work to expand their weaving business. She also says that the increase in income has allowed her to buy a greater variety of foods for her growing family and, best of all, her children are now able to go to the local village school.
Catarina and her husband are very grateful to FINCA for helping them to create a better life for themselves and their children.

You can support Catarina and people like her here >>

Death Threats In Guatemala

From Oxfam – 9/2/11

Dear Gabriel,

Oxfam partners in Guatemala have recently received death threats – and we need your voice, now, to ensure that these threats don’t come to fruition.

As an Oxfam supporter, you already know that the work we do affects people’s lives daily – but the work is often dangerous, and sometimes when our partners speak up in defense of poor communities, they are putting their lives on the line.

Two of Oxfam’s outspoken partners at CALAS (Centre for Environmental, Social and Legal Action) who work daily on mining and oil issues, received death threats three days ago – and we need to get the public eye on this case immediately, so that they have a level of protection.

Please send a message to the President of Guatemala – we must do everything we can, NOW, to protect our Oxfam partners.

Violence and tensions in Guatemala have intensified in the run-up to the country’s presidential elections on September 11. Our partners at CALAS have been working to protect the rights of indigenous peoples and to expose corruption in a natural gas project.

The Executive Director of CALAS, Yuri Melini, was seriously wounded in 2008 during an assassination attempt.

Large-scale mining operations have been the source of protest, violence, and human rights violations since the early 2000s. Oxfam partner CALAS has sought to promote informed debate about the costs and benefits of oil and mining in the country and to promote greater respect for the rights of indigenous communities – and now they are under threat for their stand.

Get these threats in the public eye and protect Yuri Melini and Rafael Maldonado.

Here at Oxfam, we are in awe of the strong and steadfast stand taken by these human rights activists – but now, more than ever, they need our support. “I won’t be intimidated by these threats,” Melini said in a statement. “I will continue the struggle to defend human rights and protect Guatemala’s environment.”

Please don’t let their work be in vain.

Tell the President of Guatemala, we will not stand by while our partners are threatened.

We can save lives. Please don’t stay silent.

Judy Beals, Campaigns Director
Oxfam America

A Novel Novel

A few quotes, by some celebrated writers, about the remarkable new novel by Deena Metzger titled La Negra y Blanca: Fugue and Commentary.

Many meetings weave in and out of this splendid, heartbreaking novel. Meetings of multiple Americas, meetings between the living and the dead, meetings where dreams and reality, history and pain, deception and hope, intersect. But above all, what we meet in La Negra y Blanca is a ravishing wager that words can still birth us into the puzzle of existence, that we can all be mothers to one another as the storm approaches. Perhaps her best (and strangest) novel.

Ariel Dorfman, author of Death and the Maiden

This brave and heartrending novel reaches out to the soul, leads us through the traumas of history and weaves together in its characters the dialectic of past and present that marks us all. Metzger illuminates the heritage each of us bears of the sorrows of Conquest and the poignancy of survival. La Negra y Blanca movingly depicts the price we pay for our too-large footprint on this earth and invites us to awaken and reach for a harmony with one another and a universe that has given us life. A splendid journey!!

Nancy Caro Hollander, author of Uprooted Minds: Surviving the Politics of Terror in the Americas

Deena Metzger has written a novel of great beauty, power and wisdom. It is a bordererasing, culture-leaping, time-and-space shattering inquiry into the re-visioned lives of Guatemalan-American writer Victor Perera, novelist and once Vice President of Guatemala Mario Monteforte Toledo and his daughter Morena, whose mother was a Tz’utujil Indian. Told from the perspective of the American writer Blanca (who the reader assumes is a fictional incarnation of the author), the novel follows the ripple effects of indigenous Latin America’s conquest by Spain into contemporary reconquests of the region by dictatorship and imperial power, and on into the inter-woven lives of its protagonists living in both the US and Guatemala. It is a meditation on memory — historical and personal — part vision quest, part detective novel. It bears witness to great historical and personal tragedy, to fraught relationships conditioned by politics, ethnicity and gender, to courageous resistance of spirit and creative genius in the face of injustice. It summons past and future into a shimmering invention of a present that is an act of love.

Robert David Cohen

This is a narrative of conquest and hope, domination and flight, surrender and transcendence. Wisdom leaks through misty realms between memory and imagination. Each character embodies the whole of the world. Divided by bloodlines, class, history and politics, all unite in a pilgrimage of hope. If ever I am headed to the afterworld and allowed to bring just one book, La Negra y Blanca would be the one.

Terry Marks-Tarlow, author of Psyche’s Veil: Psychotherapy, Fractals and Complexity

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