Posted by: Sanette | July 7, 2010


I arrived Monday at my fourth and final field site, Xela—the second largest city in Guatemala. Our eight-bedroom apartment is a five-minute walk from the central park and overlooks a view akin to a small-scale NYC.

I can’t even express how much I adore this place. The architecture is similar to that of Spain, and the restaurants and shops have an American flair and cater towards gringos. Still, Xela is very much Guatemalan. Unlike Antigua—where more westerners than locales walked the streets—Xela is a working, thriving, bustling city, with the people to match.

Yesterday, I got a taste of the professional side of Guatemala. Since most of our campaigns and field work take place in rural communities and startup businesses, my perspective of the country focused on its third world status.

That is, until I learned about the work of recent Duke graduate Rob Krieger and his organization Pajebal, Inc.

Rob joined the Peace Corps Small Business Development team soon after graduating. After working with small businesses in Guatemala for two years, he started Pajebal, a loaning company seeking to address issues like poverty from an economic standpoint. Pajebal works with other Guatemalan companies, analyzes people’s needs for loans and then grants loans with little interest to groups of two. To finance the loans, Pajebal’s website allows Americans to directly invest in different Guatemalan enterprises with the click of a mouse. Some options include Guatemalan coffee farmers, traditional Mayan weavers, street restaurants and carpenters. Investors can pick and choose the business they want to support.

Different from microfinancing, Pajebal not only seeks to develop small companies, it also aids entrepreneurs who have visions to create their own businesses that will in turn employ others in the community. Its motto is to go “beyond micro.”

After Rob’s presentation, we took a microbus to one of Pajebal’s main partners, Codicap, located in the rural town of Aldea Vásquez, Totonicapán, where Rob lived for two years while in the Peace Corps. The employees at Codicap gave us a tour of the office, and then Rob treated us to a traditional lunch of soup and tortillas.

Since he is returning to Duke in a few weeks to study at the Fuqua School of Business, one of Rob’s primary concerns is creating a sustainable organization that is run and staffed by Guatemalans. He already has two dedicated analyst/advisors, Milthon Escobar and Wanda Ponce, and he hopes to expand. The transfer of power is crucial in creating a lasting business, free from American help.

Although we did not directly offer our help or assistance yesterday, the presentation was incredibly valuable. Campaigns and small-scale work are helpful and necessary, but I find the larger developmental work more compelling. And if you feel compelled, like I said…the click of a button…



  1. This sounds fascinating, looking forward to learning more about it when you are back in the states.
    Aunt E

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