Apr 22, 2019

The Next Step

Since inception, Creamos has always approached financial freedom with a unique and family centered approach. The strong rapport that Creamos’ staff has fostered with participants is one of the reasons it is such a special organization. Creamos staff aims to work in the most transparent and honest way with participants, and we always try our best to meet our participants where they are financially and emotionally. We truly believe that our women have the power to change their own lives, families and communities if they are given the opportunity to do so. This is the story of a mother of five, whose determination is creating a more prosperous and fulfilling life for herself and her children.

Leslie has been with Creamos since 2008. She has lived in the community surrounding the Guatemala City garbage dump her entire life, and like many women, has experienced a great deal of challenges. Leslie has always demonstrated extraordinary resilience, overcoming personal and familial traumas evoked by the hostile environment in which she lives. In her studies, she exceeded Creamos’ requirements of graduating from middle school, and was one of few women to graduate high school in 2011.

Upon graduation, Leslie continued to work at Creamos and dedicated much of her time to being a present and involved parent. She is a dedicated mother and will never hesitate to put all of her children’s aspirations before her own.

In January 2018, Leslie approached the Creamos team, and stated she was ready to go to university. She wanted to be a psychologist to support others in the same way she has been emotionally supported throughout the years. Although the team was taken aback, as we rarely hear women declare such a bold and certain dream, we wanted to support her anyway we could while ensuring she understood the reality of going back to school and acquiring such demanding degrees.

Truth be told, Leslie was a few steps ahead of us and guided us throughout the process. She had already approached a counselor at the public university to gain a greater understanding of the exam requirements, paperwork and deadlines she would have to meet. She visited different universities to explore the various programs, and most importantly, which university she felt most comfortable attending. Further, she signed herself up for tutoring through Creamos, and spent a year in individual classes, studying science, English, and university prep courses.

In November 2018, after applying for multiple scholarships, Leslie secured funding for her University studies. She was finally ready to make her dream a reality by studying clinical psychology at Universidad Rural in Guatemala in the Saturday program.

Going back to school after a break is never easy, and there will undoubtedly be challenges along Leslie’s new path. She comes to Creamos to receive tutoring three times a week and works with her new friends at university to ensure she is staying on top of her schoolwork. Everyday she balances her responsibilities of being an active parent, working for Creamos, her studies, and being a leader in the community.

It is evident that Leslie’s studies have impacted all areas of her home in a positive way. Last year, her youngest son won the “Most Respectful Student Award” and her eldest daughter continued to be one of Creamos’ most dedicated and hard working workers. Her other two daughters are both high-achieving students and her son is raising a healthy family. In addition, her husband began attending a gentle masculinity workshop once a week.

Leslie’s journey has been a wake up call for Creamos. In the beginning of Creamos, we wanted our women to leave the dump and graduate from elementary school. Ten years later, we now have four women enrolled in university, 50 women earning an income with Creamos and we serve 151 women in total. Creamos will continue to evolve our own programming and foster partnerships with external organizations to meet the needs and dreams of our participants. We believe that supporting women through endeavors as complex as a university degree, or as light-hearted as a Zumba class has the power to change an individual, community and family.

 

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Jan 22, 2019

My Teacher Ana

Smiling Ana - Photo by Anna Watts
Smiling Ana - Photo by Anna Watts

In 2011, there was a woman who consistently occupied the back, right corner of the adult literacy classroom. She had a demure personality, and would rarely make eye contact when spoken too. Although timid, there was always a strong determination demonstrated by her diligence in completing schoolwork and her timeliness when handing in assignments. The woman’s name was Ana Rebecca.

Ana was one of 16 children. By the time she was 8, she was going to the Guatemala City Garbage Dump with her mother, scavenging for items to sell, to support her family. When Ana finally had a family of her own, she continued to go to the dump, as she knew this was the most secure income available to her. Ana states that from the moment she knew she was going to be a mom, she was determined to provide a different life for her children. She enrolled all of her four girls in school as soon as she could, and decided she was going to do whatever it took to ensure her children did not have to ever work in the dump.

Ana was 27 when she decided to go back to school. Her main motive was her desire to help her daughters complete their homework. She entered the Safe Passage’s Adult Literacy Program as a first grader. After a year of studying, she made the bold decision to enter Creamos as a jewelry maker. With assiduous attention to detail in her work, her skills became more refined and we were beginning to witness a transformation in Ana. When we spoke with her, her eye contact was improving and her answers were becoming more expansive. Ana swiftly graduated from the training program and was soon earning a livable wage. For the first time since she was 8, Ana was no longer working in the garbage dump.

Just three years after beginning her studies, she was preparing to walk across the stage for her 6th grade graduation, and two years later she graduated from middle school. As her educational journey progressed, Ana’s persona and self-esteem blossomed. This was manifested in her innovative jewelry designs and her proud smile when she handed in her work. In addition, we saw her growth demonstrated in her participation in Creamos’ extracurricular activities and her new friends and colleagues in whom she confided. Ana was no longer the quiet woman in the corner. She was a leader within the organization.

Today, Ana has earned her position as Creamos’ Product Instructor and receives a regular monthly stipend for her work. Her teaching style is nurturing yet she believes in holding her students accountable. In her trainings, she creates a supportive environment and fosters trust with other women. We wholeheartedly believe that much of Creamos’ growth is due to Ana’s welcoming nature with new women in the program. We have watched so many new artisans show off their new skills and make the similar changes Ana made. These women have never failed to credit “my teacher Ana”.

Ana in Action - Photo by Anna Watts
Ana in Action - Photo by Anna Watts
Oct 24, 2018

A Decade of Leadership to Come

A portrait of Irma     - Photo by Anna Watts
A portrait of Irma - Photo by Anna Watts

Creamos’ mission is to create long-term financial, emotional and educational opportunities for the local women and families in the community surrounding the Guatemala City Garbage Dump. For the past ten years, Creamos has gradually grown from a initiative, to a program, to an association. Taking the time to reflect on past successes while looking to improve aspects of our organization is imperative for continued progress. 

Since inception, one of Creamos’ primary organizational goals has been sustainability in both a financial and leadership aspect.  Participant leadership has always been an important component of our vision; however, this dream forces us to often confront interpersonal conflicts and mistrust amongst affiliates. Despite these clashes, certain women have emerged as leaders in our organization. These women have defied societal norms and fought for a better future for themselves, their families and colleagues. Creamos recognizes these women as our future leaders, managers and directors of the organization.

Although one may identify her as one of the more humble participants, Irma G. has been a leader for the last ten years. Three years ago, one of our participants in the program was losing her sight and could not complete an order for a notable client. Irma anonymously handed in double the amount of money that was asked in order to ensure the woman would get paid. No matter how many hardships Irma experiences at home, she has been one of the women we can rely on to emotionally support other women and go the extra mile to complete orders.  

Two years ago, we appointed her as the leader of our newest initiatives, Wakami. Wakami is a Guatemalan company who has trained Creamos participants to produce macro-made jewelry. Wakami teaches our chosen leaders specific jewelry techniques, and the leaders are then responsible for disseminating the information and skills to the rest of the women. In addition, this leader is responsible for the distribution and production of orders, facilitating trainings, organizing payments, and holding colleagues accountable for issues regarding respect and timeliness.

Although Irma was hesitant to accept this role in the beginning, she has thrived as a leader. She has been challenged to rise up in times when conflict resolution was needed, devised and implemented creative strategies to ensure orders are completed, and has fostered a culture of fairness and accountability. She advocates for other women when she sees injustice, while also setting clear expectations of their behavior. Watching Irma interact with the group of whom she leads, is something special, and the respect she has earned from the rest of the participants is indisputable.

Despite her innate leadership abilities, Irma is very adamant that she is first and foremost a mom. Irma has single handedly raised her 6 children and continues to ensure they have access quality education and support from her. Irma’s two daughters are following her mom’s footsteps and working for Creamos while they continue to study. She uses her extra earnings from her leadership role to provide for her family and foster a nurturing environment in her home.

Our vision at Creamos is to foster leadership amongst our affiliates because we believe in them. We believe Creamos can one day be an organization that is run through the skills and leadership of our participants. Through methodical leadership training, access to education and thoughtful organizational structure, we know we will soon be able to tell many more stories of leaders like Irma.

Mothers from Wakami - Photo by Anna Watts
Mothers from Wakami - Photo by Anna Watts
 
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