Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women

by GRACE Cares, Inc.
Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women
Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women
Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women
Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women
Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women
Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women
Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women
Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women
Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women
Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women
Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women
Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women
Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women
Economic Empowerment for 300 Indigenous Maya Women
Albertina weaving a band for a sun hat.
Albertina weaving a band for a sun hat.

The Community Finance Guatemala (CFG) team works hard to understand how the services we offer are actually benefiting the women we serve. Our CFG Program Director, Wilfred, recently took the opportunity to visit several of the women that participate in both a Savings and Solidarity group and the rapidly growing artisan business, Ixoq’i. Ixoq’i recently became an officially registered small business in Guatemala and has become an income generating initiative for not only the participating women but for CFG itself!

Wilfred regularly expresses how great it feels to receive the gratitude of women such as Albertina, and then to share that gratitude with the greater Generosity Network of supporters like you. Albertina spoke with Wilfred about how many women, mothers in particular, have benefited from CFG’s support.

She said that “mothers don’t have many opportunities to work and it is hard to depend only on the fathers, who sometimes do not have work.” She then went on to say that “in my personal life [working for Ixoq’i] has helped me a lot with my children, to be able to give them, maybe not everything, but to cover their needs.”

The peace of mind that comes from knowing that the family’s survival is not completely dependent upon just one source of income is one of the greatest gifts the mothers we support have received. And in return they have given us the gift of gratitude, and well wishes.

Just as Wilfred passes on this gratitude to us, may you now receive it and pass it on to others.

“Thank you to Wilfred, and to all the people who made it possible for this project to come [to Tonajuyu].” -Albertina

 

 

Wilfred recorded a part of his conversation (in Spanish) with Albertina which you can see below: 

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Welcome Brenda to the Team!
Welcome Brenda to the Team!

Welcoming our Newest Team Member, Brenda!

Hat sales to Sunshine Tienda have been so successful that we've been able to create a new position especially to manage our budding and growing artisan program. Meet our newest team member, whom we welcome as our new Artisan Program Coordinator! Brenda is a self-made entrepreneur, and we are excited to share with you a little bit about her history of hard work and determination. The fifth of twelve siblings, Brenda was born on April 18, 1994. From an early age, she has had to confront the reality of living with scarce resources to support a large family, but thanks to the hard work of her parents and her own efforts, she was able to study and graduate with a degree in accounting.

Because of the lack of employment opportunities in her community, after graduating at age 18, she traveled to Panama to work as a domestic laborer for one year. As her first work experience outside of the home, the year was an opportunity for Brenda to earn her own money for the first time, and to experience life in another country and culture.

Upon returning home, Brenda had few work prospects and decided to enlist herself in a series of workshops for youth on entrepreneurship and employability, during which a new opportunity emerged to become a caretaker and domestic worker for a family in Guatemala’s capital city, where she worked for five years.

But Brenda did not forget what she had learned in the entrepreneurship workshops, and although she was busy with her work in the capital, she decided to use her weekends to simultaneously pursue her own entrepreneurial endeavor, taking coursework in Cosmetology. Eventually, she began to work as a beautician on weekends to supplement her income.

Brenda and her husband got married in 2020, and now she is four months pregnant with their first child, back in her hometown of Comalapa. She and her husband dream of being able to provide a stable and secure future for their children.

Since joining a CFG Savings and Solidarity Group in 2019, Brenda has not only developed the habit of saving money, she has also taken advantage of every opportunity she could through the program. She is still cultivating the family garden we helped her start last year, and has raised and sold the chickens she received, using the income to purchase more chickens. She and her husband plan to continue to grow their family farm in order to make a business out of it. Brenda has also worked to weave bands for Sunshine Tienda hats, and this has helped her save money in the hopes of being able to construct a home through the FOPAVI program.

Brenda says that being part of CFG has been a blessing in her life, and now as an official member of the team she is grateful for the opportunity to commit herself fully to the work of serving her community.

Let’s welcome Brenda as the new CFG Artisan Program coordinator!

Click below to read our full first quarter report of the successes you are contributing to as part of our Generosity Network.

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Happy to receive her new egg-laying baby chickens
Happy to receive her new egg-laying baby chickens

2020 has been a challenging year for all of us, to say the least. However, all of these unforeseen difficulties have not stopped the Community Finance Guatemala team from finding ways to continue to support the 15 communities we work in. As you know, towards the beginning of the pandemic we responded by providing helpful information about the pandemic to the families we support --- some of whom don’t have television or internet access. We encouraged them to wash their hands regularly, keep a safe physical distance and always wear a mask when around other people.

Along with the informational support, we also helped them to start their own home gardens by providing them with seed packets and instructional pamphlets. Their gardens have flourished this year and the multiple harvests of leafy greens, cauliflower, radishes, and more, have greatly supplemented their typical diets of corn tortillas and black beans. As the weeks passed and the pandemic showed no signs of going away, the local team came up with a new idea for increasing the food security of the families: egg-laying chickens!

After shopping around at nearby farms, the team found a great deal and purchased more than 1500 chickens to distribute among the families. Each family received about six baby chickens and a few pounds of chicken feed to get them started.

One of our Community Finance Advisors, Doña María, who is always thinking about ways to promote sustainability in the communities, came up with a simple chicken feeder design made from recycled two-liter bottles. As the team visited the families, they facilitated short workshops on how to make the chicken feeders, best practices for raising chickens, and how to plan their small homesteads to be as sustainable as possible.

Now, as we look ahead to 2021 we are seeing potential to continue along this same path towards greater resiliency. We have big plans to help our families achieve greater health financially, physically, mentally, and emotionally. From new projects such as designing composting chicken coops to new workshops on holistic stress management. We believe the incredible resilience of the families we work with will provide a solid foundation upon which they will continue to develop themselves and their communities in 2021 and beyond.

Showing off her new home-made chicken feeder
Showing off her new home-made chicken feeder
Receiving her new chickens
Receiving her new chickens
Admiring her home garden
Admiring her home garden
Listening during a workshop about raising chickens
Listening during a workshop about raising chickens
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Preparing the soil for planting
Preparing the soil for planting

During the past few months, the COVID-19 virus has continued to spread across Guatemala. Fortunately, as far as we know, no one in the Community Finance Program has been infected to date. While many people in their communities were minimizing the threat of the virus, our local team was ensuring that all of the program’s families had access to the most up to date and accurate information. Once those communication channels were established a culture of prioritizing the health and safety of the community quickly emerged. From that solid foundation, the local team was then able to design and implement further support.

Since economic and food insecurity was quickly on the rise due to the loss of jobs and other income generating activities, the team decided that providing home garden kits was the most sustainable and cost-effective way to support the families. We provided seed packets, how-to guides, and a video series that taught them how to start their own home gardens. Each family received 250 radish seeds, 250 swiss chard seeds, 250 spinach seeds and an ounce of mustard seeds. These vegetables are not only high in nutrition, they are also easy to cultivate and fit into the typical diet of the region.

Since receiving the support, the families have already harvested baskets and baskets of nutrition. They were so successful, that many of them began selling their extra harvest to their neighbors as an additional source of income. Many family members told us how enjoyable and satisfying it was to grow their own gardens and are planning to continue this practice even after things return to “normal”.

So far, there is every indication that the virus will continue to be a threat for the remainder of this year. And as some of the nearby communities become higher risk, the need for more support is increasing. Currently, the local team is planning on creating at-home medical kits that will consist of basic medications such as ibuprofen, simple thermometers, vitamins and other immune system boosters.

Receiving their seed packets
Receiving their seed packets
Showing off her home-grown salad
Showing off her home-grown salad
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Fellow community member's handwashing station
Fellow community member's handwashing station

While the usual savings group activities have been put on hold for the time-being due to the increasing threat of COVID-19 in Guatemala, the social capital that has been built up over the years is in full force, as Community Finance members support one another by sharing project ideas, helpful information, and good humor via program specific social media groups in WhatsApp and Facebook.

One project idea that is catching on was spearheaded by Adelina, one of the program’s Community Finance Advisors. In rural Guatemala, the typical way people wash their hands is in wash basin called a “pila”. They scoop the water from the basin with a small plastic bucket and pour the water over their hands. As you might imagine, it is quite difficult to wash your hands for 20 seconds without running water, and to ensure that everything you are touching is sanitized.

To address this issue, Adelina created a no-touch handwashing station, inspired by a similar project implemented in another GRACE Cares program in the Dominican Republic. She then recorded a video in her community’s native language, Kakchiquel, in which she explains how she built it, while her niece shows how to use it (see photo taken from video). Adelina shared the video in the program’s social media groups and encouraged her fellow community members to create one of their own. Now, other families are building their own no-touch handwashing stations, reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19, and making the typically boring task of washing your hands, fun for kids too!

Adelina explaining no-touch hand washing station
Adelina explaining no-touch hand washing station
Example image that inspired Adelina
Example image that inspired Adelina
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Organization Information

GRACE Cares, Inc.

Location: Brattleboro, VT - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Cindy Levine
Brattleboro, VT United States
$15,383 raised of $18,000 goal
 
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