Friendship, for a good cause |

Friendship, for a good cause

Carolyn Pope
Cindy PetrehnNina Ettawil and Amanda Jensen.

Women helping women. The phrase has been around for some time, and it’s alive and well in the Vail Valley.

Recently, Bonnie Vesey, vice president of the Vail Valley Business Women’s Association, hosted a get-together for her extended contact list. More than 60 women showed up at Bonnie’s house for wine and appetizers and a little education on an organization called “Friendship Bridge.” Cynthia Blancke sold jewelry that she made herself and donated all of the money raised to Emila D’Cuire, a school for handicapped children in Honduras.

“I wanted to have it in my house because I’m well connected with so many groups of women, whether it’s my PTA mom friends from Battle Mountain and Berry Creek or from business,” Bonnie said. “Everyone knows if you come to my house you’ll never run out of wine.”

Jack, her husband, donated all the wine through his company,

“I learned about Friendship Bridge when they did a micro-credits presentation for the Vail Valley Business Women,” she added. “It’s our second fundraiser through our organization.”

Friendship Bridge was founded in 1988 by Connie and Ted Ning after visiting Vietnam. They were appalled to find the health care system bravely struggling with ancient equipment, little or no medicines, and an overwhelming number of people suffering from highly preventable diseases.

As a result, Friendship Bridge began its grassroots medical relief project in 1989. With a minimal budget and using only volunteers, the group managed to send several more shipments, totaling more than 140 tons. They branched out to provide “micro loans” to women in Vietnam, and, with over 5,000 loans successfully in place in Vietnam, a new loan project was begun in Guatemala. There are now around 4,000 loan participants and more than 3,000 educational scholarship recipients in Guatemala. Loans range from $50 to $1,000.

“It’s women helping women start up businesses,” Bonnie said. “When you give women tools to start a business, they actually do it. They are able to lift their entire family out of poverty.”

The statistics are impressive: The loan repayment rate is around 97 percent. The organization keeps its expense ratio (the amount spent to run the organization versus the money that actually goes to the women) at 85 percent. Loans are co-guaranteed by groups of women that form into trust banks. Each trust bank has a governing body, elected from among the clients themselves, that monitors loan performance of each individual, collects payments at the meetings, ensures compliance with the rules governing the group and monitors the general functioning of the group.

Thanks to the generosity of the ladies in the valley, we can help many people.

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