Open to Grow Newsletter – December 2014
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Letter from our Founder

Another year has past. Our second Newsletter is on your screen. Thanks for taking the time to read it.

Three years ago we partnered with US charity NamasteDirect to jointly deliver a unique business development program to help poor women in Guatemala increase their business profits. The program is comprised of small loans, from Open to Grow; group training and one-on-one business mentoring, from Namaste; and a lot of hard work from our clients.

We focus on helping clients increase their business profits. With increased profits, they can through their own efforts improve the quality of their lives (and the lives of family members), and move from poverty towards self-sufficiency.

We operate in Guatemala, one of the poorest countries in Latin America. 75% of the population lives below the poverty line. 58% of the population cannot purchase a basic basket of food.

Why support Open to Grow? Take a look below at our achievements over the past three years. We do not do this alone. People are generous to a fault in giving of their time, talent and treasure to our cause. We are grateful to all of our donors, grantors, event supporters, auction item donors, and volunteers.

Thank you for your support. Help us continue this work by making a donation now.

Bob Brown, Founder

Why Support Open to Grow?

The education of women and girls is a top priority in international development. We believe that our program of microcredit (small loans) plus business training and mentoring is one of the best ways to help these women leave poverty behind.

Our program delivers measurable results. We can therefore say that for every nine months a client is in the program, her profits will rise on average by 30%. A client who completes the 27-month program will on average double her profits.

We have made over $500,000 in small loans to date. We have helped 2,000 women move towards sustainability. Increases in their incomes have significant side benefits to family members, including better food, clean water, better housing, and improved medical care.

Our clients are acquiring practical business skills that last a lifetime. When these skills are applied, their business profits increase. This encourages them to spend more time on their businesses and to keep financial journals to measure their improving results.

We have 450 women in the program and will move the number up to 500 in the coming year. We have recently increased the time clients spend in the program by 50% (from 18 to 27 months). Finally, we will increase the average loan amounts to the levels dictated by market demand.

Your donation will help many hundreds of poor Guatemalan businesswomen along the road from poverty to self-sufficiency.

Recent Events

In April, we visited our local partner Fundacion Nacional Guatemaya, in Antigua, Guatemala to work on accounting, reporting and future joint initiatives. We spent a full day in the field visiting clients, seeing their progress and hearing their wonderful stories. This was definitely the highlight of the trip.

In September, we completed our first two grants: an Alberta Communities Initiatives Program Grant, and a grant from the Fig Tree Foundation. We are very grateful for this support and will re-apply for further funding in the new year.

In October, we held our third major fund-raiser, the Studio 54 Gala & Disco Party, at Hotel Arts. The event was chaired by Board Member Carrie Lonardelli, who did an amazing job! Most attendees dressed up in disco garb and all had a wonderful time. The event had many moving parts, including Board Member Patrick McNaught biking all night long (100 miles) to raise funds for our Miles for Microcredit initiative. The event raised $58,000 and we are extremely grateful for the generosity of the attendees, and auction item donors.

Your donation will help many hundreds of poor Guatemalan businesswomen along the road from poverty to self-sufficiency.

Urda – One Woman’s Story

This video was produced in Guatemala by Diego Columbi. It tells one story of many – the story of Urda, a 39-year old single mother who joined the program a year ago. Like many of our clients, Urda has had a rough life, but has worked hard to support her children and to move forward in her life.

She is now in her second loan cycle (of three) and is doing very well. She has big plans for her future and so do we. All it has taken is donations from you; microloans, training and mentoring from Open to Grow and its partner; and hard work from Urda. We are very proud of her accomplishments.

I am sometimes asked why we work so hard at Open to Grow. We are all volunteers so it isn’t about making money. We now have over 2,000 reasons why we do what we do. This is one of them. Her name is Urda.

Board of Directors
Bob Brown
Karen Brown
Michael Flatters
Heather Gore-Hickman
David S. Kertland
Carrie Lonardelli
Patrick McNaught
Thomas Vukovich

Advisor to the Board
Dr. Francisco Barquerro
Guatemala Team
Eugenia Duran, General Manager
Denise Lorenz, Operations Manager
Domingo Reguan, Regional Coordinator
Hugo Lacan, Regional Coordinator
Armando Garcia, Chief Accountant
Oswaldo Vivar, Accountant
Sara Cojolon, Accounting Assistant
Gabriela Lopez, Data Entry
Jose Chay, Loan Officer
Cleofas Sarat, Loan Officer
Juan Carlos Hildago, Loan Officer
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