MayaWorks believes the development of communities begins with the development of its girls which is why, in each of the communities where MayaWorks operates in Guatemala, we coordinate tutoring and academic services for the daughters of our artisan partners.
Sandra, a second grade student from MayaWorks Rosa Moya Center in Comalapa, is only a little bitty thing but is so full of life, her presence fills the room. Meet her in her own words:
"My name is Sandra and I am eight years old. I'm in second grade. My favorite subject is Spanish language because I love reading. When I grow up I want to be a botonist. I love to take care of plants.
"I'm an only child. I had a younger sister, but she died when she was little. My parents take good care of me because they do not want me to get sick like my little sister.
"When I'm not in school I like to help my mom clean the house and cook dinner but I have lots of homework so sometimes I can't help her. I do my homework right away when I come home from school.
"Every week I go to the Rosa Moya Center to get help with my homework, especially math. I have trouble adding three digits. I love going to the Center because I see my friends and my teacher and learn lots of things while having fun. My parents are happy I have a MayaWorks scholarship. With the money they buy my school supplies and uniform.
"I like when people from the U.S. visit us at the Rosa Moya Center. I like making new friends from far away places and teaching them the folklore dances of Guatemala. I'm very happy at the Rosa Moya Center. Please come and visit me and my friends."
The following is a postcard from Lydia Sorensen, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in Guatemala, about her recent visit to MayaWorks.
In the town of San Juan Comalapa (sometimes known here by its Mayan name “Chixot”) a group of Mayan women are using the skills they have known practically their whole lives to craft more opportunities for themselves and their children. Most of these women learned to weave and sew from a very young age, and without the opportunity to attend school and gain an education, have been trying to provide an income for their families by making and selling clothing like colorful fajas (belts) and huipiles (blouses) that are similar to the ones their grandmothers made decades ago. With the help of MayaWorks, and the scholarships, resources, and training they provide, these artists in San Juan Comalapa are able to send their children not only to primary school but to help them get all the way through high school.
María Teresa Chipix and her sister Angela are two of the artists in San Juan Comalapa. Not only do both the sisters weave, but Angela’s husband and two daughters are also gifted weavers. In the courtyard of their house, Angela shows the belt that she is making (it will take about two weeks to complete just one belt), while her daughter works diligently on a huipil across from her (the detailed work on the huipil will take months to finish). Inside, tucked in a corner next to bags of corn, Angela’s husband is weaving a scarf, the shuttle flying as he adds rows of colors. He works full-time in the field but earns extra income by weaving when he’s at home. Leaving Angela’s home (across the way is her oldest daughter, weaving a huipil in her front yard), silence reins, interrupted only by the steady thunk of the shuttle—the sound of a family working together for a better future.
The United States Agency for International Development reports that Guatemalan children on average attend only four years of schooling and only three out of ten students graduate from sixth grade. Less than 20% of all Guatemalans graduate from high school. If there is limited money to pay for schooling, parents will elect to send the male children to school leaving the girls at home to take care of domestic chores. MayaWorks provides 100 scholarships for the daughters of artisans in an effort to keep them in school for as long as possible.
This week MayaWorks disbursed scholarshiips checks to 100 girls as they began the new school year. MayaWorks provides partial scholarships. Parents are responsible for covering school expenses not covered by the scholarship. Mothers pay for the additional educational expenses from their earnings weaving MayaWorks products because they want their daughters to have more opportunities than they had. It is our hope that all the daughters of our artisan partners will complete high school and have the skills to enter the formal job sector.
With the money they earn from crafting MayaWorks products, mothers are able to send their daughters to school. Silvia works hard sewing MayaWorks baby bibs so Natalí can go to school. Natalí wants to be a teacher when she grows up. She works hard at her studies and attends extra tutoring classes at the Rosa Moya Center. Rosa Moya is a tutoring center funded by MayaWorks. At the center, Natalí receives extra support in her core subject areas as well as access to a small technology lab. Most families do not have access to technology within their homes so students must rely on centers such as Rosa Moya to help bridge the digital divide.
Silvia and Natalí exemplify what MayaWorks is all about: Women helping women. Mothers helping daughters. Present generations paying it forward for future generations. Silvia wants to assure that Natalí will have access to education to the very end. She hopes to see Natalí graduate college and become an independent woman, a woman who has many choices for the future: having a career that fills her with satisfaction, marrying someone who values her contributions as a woman and starting a family. And should Natalí have a daughter, she will make sure she receives an education too. This is how the cycle of poverty will end: a woman will help another woman.
MayaWorks continually works with its artisan partners in Guatemala so that have the tools to work independently. That is why we were thrilled when they approached us about opening a small store to carry their own inventory in Guatemala. Up until now most of the products the artisans craft were for the export market. We worked with them on design and ordered products to meet the demands of the North American market. Now MayaWorks artisans are creating their own designs and selling them to the local market which means they are crafting products for Guatemalan nationals as well as the tourist market. Selling their own designs within country allows artisans to expand their market reach and teaches them valuable lessons about the product development process, inventory management and marketing.
The MayaWorks store is very small and is located in Chimaltenango near our central offices. We also are very pleased that more and more stores within Guatemala are seeking out our lines to carry in their venues. We hope that many tourists will return home with a high quality handcrafted fair trade MayaWorks product!
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