MayaWorks believes, to overcome poverty, it is vital to educate girls which is why we provide daughters of artisans scholarships to help defray the cost of school attendance. Although education in Guatemala is free, parents must pay a registration fee, purchase school supplies and cover transportation expenses to get their children back and forth to school. In many of the communities where MayaWorks operates, children cannot attend school beyond the sixth grade because there are no junior high or high school facilities. The scholarship that MayaWorks helps overcome these barriers.
MayaWorks also works with local schools to set-up tutoring centers in the village so children have access to much needed academic support services within their communities. Children attend one of five tutoring centers where they get help with their homework, receive extra support in their weak subject areas and have a safe place to meet up with like-minded students who want to excel in school.
MayaWorks has set goals for its scholarship recipients. They must maintain a C average in their classes and attend tutoring sessions regularly. It is our hope that MayaWorks scholarship recipients will continuously surpass Guatemala's high school graduation rate of 17%. Currently, MayaWorks scholarship recipients are graduating from high school at a rate of 36%.
A group of 13 Jewish weavers and others from the U.S. who are interested in Fair Trade and women's economic development just returned from a trip to Guatemala to meet with artisan partners who craft Judaica products. This trip was sponsored by MayaWorks and two other organizations involved in Fair Trade, Fair Trade Judaica and Mayan Hands. The purpose of the journey was to create an awareness within the Jewish community that Jewish values directly align with the principles of Fair Trade. For 10 days tourists visited our artisan partners in the central highlands of Guatemala. They met with kippot crocheters, tallitot weavers and mezzuzot beaders. This interchange was a great experience for our partners because they were afforded the opportunity to meet the people who buy the products they craft. The artisans received their guests with open arms and shared with them how crafting Judaica products has improved their lives and that of their families. We hope that the Fair Trade Judaica journey will be an annual trip to raise awareness of fair trade within the Jewish community.
MayaWorks works with over 125 low income indigenous women in the central highlands of Guatemala. 70% are from extremely poor and remote hamlets of the Chimaltenango and Sololá areas.
Artisans tend to marry very young and, on average, have six children. Many are single mothers working to support large families on their own. Most have not completed their primary education. 40% are illiterate.
Our artisan partners are not organized by cooperatives but rather by local weaving groups. They share leadership and, together, decide who will be a part of their group and what products they will make. MayaWorks has worked with the same 8 weaving groups for over 16 years.
MayaWorks’ Guatemala operation is completely managed by indigenous women since its inception. These administrators understand the complexities of doing business in Guatemala, speak the artisans’ native language and live in the same communities as the artisans. More importantly, they are driven by their desire to see indigenous women progress in a country where they are often regarded as less than second class citizens.
MayaWorks believes community development happens through the economic development of women who otherwise have limited ways to contribute to the development and economic stability of their families. Giving women an opportunity to earn an income from their skills gives them self-confidence and hope for themselves, their children, their family and their village.
Vicenta Jutzutz Tetzaguic is 57 years old. She was born in the village of Panabajal, Xetonox, deep in the valley of Tecpán, Guatemala. Vicenta is a warm and loving woman. She’s always smiling and has beautiful brown eyes that sparkle. You would never know Vicenta’s life hasn’t been easy.
Viventa's parents were poor farmers who could not afford to send her to school past the third grade. Vicenta learned to read and write a little. She is the mother of eight children, three boys and five girls, and the “abuelita” of many! Vicenta and her husband, Jorge, are farmers at heart. They grow potatoes, green beans and a variety of berries. With MayaWorks microcredit loans, they have purchased plots of land and seed to expand their farming income. Last year, the cultivation of potato crops went very well. With the earnings, the family was able to buy a used car that they use to transport their supplies and tools to the field and their produce to the Tecpán market.
Fifteen years ago, her daughter Marcela met MayaWorks founder, Patricia Krause. Pat ordered products from Marcela and Vicenta and sold them to her friends in Connecticut. Vicenta became a regular weaver with MayaWorks. Soon after, she formed the Xetonox weaving group with other women from the village.
The opportunity to weave for MayaWorks helped Vicenta tremendously. She no longer had to leave her children alone to go work in the fields. Since the time she met Pat, weaving products has been Vicenta’s main source of revenue. Her weaving income covers the family’s primary necessities and allows her children to continue studying. Vicenta says the trainings MayaWorks provides artisans have helped her improve her skills and the quality of her products. Now, she can operate a treadle foot loom, weave ikat fabric and sew, three skills she did not have before becoming a MayaWorks artisan.
Vicenta is satisfied with her achievements and is grateful for the benefits she has received from MayaWorks. They have helped not only her, but also her family, her weaving group and her community.
María Teresa Chipix was born in 1965 in San Juan Comalapa in the highlands of Chimaltenango, Guatemala. She is the second oldest daughter of eight children. When she was a child, it was rare to educate a daughter so María Teresa never knew what it was like to attend school. She grew up not knowing how to read or write.
At an early age she left her parents to work as a domestic in the homes of wealthy people. She cleaned their homes and cared for their children. This work did not provide much income so María Teresa began creating handicrafts to sell to the tourist market. She learned to weave very quickly on a treadle foot loom and also learned to sew. With her earnings, María Teresa bought a more sophisticated sewing machine which allowed her to make more complicated products.
When she was 25 years old, María Teresa realized it was important to know how to read and write so she enrolled in literacy classes in Comalapa and, within one year, she was reading at a sixth grade level. At the same time she was looking for opportunities to expand her handicraft work so that she could make more money to support herself and her parents.
María Teresa joined MayaWorks’ Chixot group. Chixot makes very high quality finished products such as the MayaWorks yoga mat bag and the Florecita baby booties. With her income from MayaWorks, she’s been able to build a small home on a plot of land given to her by her parents. As a single woman, she is grateful to have an income that allows her to support herself and her parents. It makes her happy that she has been able to do this by herself and to secure her future on her own. Her goal for this year is to purchase a gas stove!
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