Research Trip to Guatemala

By Jake Sadilek, BA Psychology, 2019
By Scott Lyman, BA Finance and Social Relations & Policy, 2018

As a by-product of Spartan Global’s microfinance initiatives, we the students often feel distant from the loan recipients and their entrepreneurial endeavors. We understand our impact, yet, it can be difficult to see the tangible results of our loans. From thousands of miles away, recipients update us with news of their successes - this connection gives SGDF students insight on the impact of our work. To better understand how a microloan changes lives, however, direct engagement with our past loan recipients is best.

From December 27th, 2017 through January 5th, 2018, ten members of SGDF are headed to Guatemala to spend time with our field partner, As Green As It Gets. The overarching purpose is to provide an opportunity for Spartan Global students to interact face-to-face with past microloan recipients and gain on-the-ground exposure to microfinance. The stay will afford SGDF members a full-circle understanding of the microloan process. Participating students will benefit from a first-hand experience of the lives positively affected from our efforts. This is especially important considering Spartan Global’s increased presence in the Guatemalan community we plan on visiting. In the last year alone, we have extended $4,300 worth in interest-free microloans to various entrepreneurs in need of capital to grow their businesses.

We will spend each day with a different microloan recipients to better understand their respective businesses and circumstances. Our first stop will be at the coffee farm of Alberto and Jonny Hernandez; the father and son pair who required funds to help them recover from an infection that decimated their annual coffee crop. The day will be spent orienting ourselves with coffee production, hiking to and assisting with work in the fields. On the following day, we’ll learn about the sorting and processing that takes place before coffee is ready to drink from Victor Catavi. With a $1,500 loan used to purchase a coffee roaster and other equipment last October, Sr. Catavi’s coffee processing business has taken off; in one year, he has seen a 240% growth in profits. During our visit, we will learn of his business model and the factors contributing to his success.

In addition to connecting with supported coffee producers, we will have the chance to spend time with artisans we have supported with microloans. For example, we extended a $1,100 microloan in June of 2017 to Carlos Diaz, a metalworker who transforms wrought iron into decorative art pieces. Not only will we be able to gauge the progress Carlos has been able to make since receiving his loan, we will also be able to try our hands at forging metal.

Additionally, participants on the research trip will spend a day in Antigua touring textile markets and meeting with weavers, textile producers, and exporters to gain an intimate perspective on one of Guatemala’s oldest and largest industries. A day trip to Lake Atitlan is also in order for students to network with established Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and social enterprises to learn how other organizations are engaging communities in the area. The last few days of our trip will be spent touring Tecojate, a small town on the Pacific coast. While our itinerary is still evolving, the trip is sure to leave an impression on both SGDF members and AGAIG entrepreneurs.

We will be filming our experiences and engagements throughout our stay in Guatemala. Upon our return, we will be collaborating with Broad College of Business videographer, Zach Hall, to produce a documentary. In doing do, we will share our experiences with the Michigan State community and our donors. The documentary will show the international scope of learning at Michigan State and how the work of Spartan Global is positively changing lives through microfinance.

SGDF’s trip to Guatemala will provide members with a holistic picture of the microloan process and strengthen ties with our field partner, As Green As It Gets. This new perspective will undoubtedly inspire us to continue advocating for entrepreneurs from underserved regions. We would appreciate any contribution you could afford, whether large or small. You may donate to our research trip here