The Power of the Rotary Network – Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in Guatemala.

Guatemala Microfinance Recepients - 22 Mar 2021.jpgThe Power of the Rotary Network

Rotary Clubs are looking for ways to support their projects and partners through the challenges of the pandemic. Victoria Harbourside Rotary Club, together with many partners, has worked with the Antigua Rotary Club since 2007 to empower women entrepreneurs in Guatemala through the Fundacion Namaste Guatemaya (Namaste).

Namaste is an NGO that has successfully supported women entrepreneurs and their families in Guatemala since the 1980’s, providing business training and microloans.  Namaste’s success in moving women away from poverty and improving the wellbeing of their communities is proven. Read more about Namaste in The Rotarian magazine, August 2020, or at

In September 2019, a Global Grant sponsored by Victoria Harbourside Rotary Club and the Antigua Rotary Club began to provide business training for 140 women entrepreneurs. By September 2020, 85 women were enrolled in the program, with 55 not yet started.

COVID-19 has had major impacts on Guatemala, and Namaste clients have suffered business and personal losses. In response, Namaste deferred repayments of loans for three months and provided emergency support to clients. They continued to provide training and business advice to clients by phone.

Guatemala Microfinance Fundraising Team - 22 Mar 2021.jpgIn September 2020, Victoria Harbourside Rotary Club asked what we could do to help. Namaste identified a need to rebuild their microloan capacity. Victoria Harbourside agreed to lead a project to raise $21,725 USD to provide microloans averaging $395 USD each to support the 55 women waiting to be enrolled in the program under the Global Grant.

Through the goodwill of Rotary Clubs around the globe, we reached our goal! Victoria Harbourside kicked off the fundraising and was joined by four other clubs from District 5020 (Port Hardy, Campbell River, Nanaimo Daybreak and Sooke). The Project Unity Committee, representing the International Service Committees of nine clubs in Greater Victoria, also contributed. As did our long-time partner the Portland Rotary Club. 

Our project was promoted widely by the Rotary Action Group for Community Economic Development (RAGCED). Through RAGCED connections, Rotary Berlin Germany heard about the project and made a substantial contribution.

As the economy resumes and women are able to rebuild their businesses, they will repay their loans to Namaste. Those funds will continue to be used by Namaste to support entrepreneurship through microfinance to clients well into the future.

Victoria Harbourside Rotary Club would like to thank all those who contributed to the success of this project. Together we have made a life-changing difference to the women of Guatemala.

Please contact Mary Coward (, Chris Dysart (  or Michele Parkin ( for further information.Mary Coward Picture.png

Mary is retired. Her professional life was primarily with provincial governments in Western Canada, in economic development and energy. Mary also has international training and consulting experience in oil and gas regulation and the environment. She has a B.A. in Geography from University of Toronto and an MBA from University of Alberta.

Coward, Mary, Conferences & Volunteers Director - RAGCED

526 Selkirk Ave
Victoria British Columbia Canada
Tel. 250-383-8181


January 2020 site visit with Victoria Harbourside and Antigua Rotary Club members, and Namaste staff. Following are some client pictures

 Guatemala Microfinance Recepients D - 22 Mar 2021.jpg


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