By Stephanie Vail
Project Manager/Product Designer
Everyone remembers their first day of school, right? The nerves, the jitters. Wondering what lies in store for the next months, how nice the others will be. It wasn’t too dissimilar from that when we began the Artisans Thrive Training Program in Guatemala City. The goal of the first day of class is to be inviting and welcoming, yet we didn’t waste any time either, so we dove right in and got to the heart of it on the first day, asking the women to reflect on their own lives.
The very first exercise we completed was to reflect upon your roots, your history, your upbringing. We asked the women to stop for a minute and take a step back and to check in with themselves. How did they feel in that moment? How did they see themselves?, What did they want, picture, or dream of for themselves and their families? We asked them to write down their responses.
As I walked around the room, trying to get a feel for the women’s responses and help assist where needed, I noticed that there was one woman who was not writing anything down. Quickly, I went over to assist her and make sure that she understood the exercise. I leaned in to ask her and Odra looked up at me and said, “What if there is nothing good about my childhood or past?”
Since joining the Artisans Thrive Training Program, Odra shows up to nearly every single class on time or early. It is her biggest pet peeve when she is late! Odra has recently undergone some severe health issues, and while we encouraged her to take care of herself and rest, she was insistent that she wanted to be present at each class.
Much of Odra's life has seemed like an uphill climb. She has been working with the psychologists on staff at World Orphans for the past few years, and they have seen remarkable improvements in her. Odra joining this cooperative is the first time she will have access to stable work and stable income in her life. Over the years, Odra has done whatever she could to provide for her family, which often means working extra long, hard hours with very little pay.
At our training program graduation, Odra said that she never thought that sewing would be something that she could do. And, as she struggled each day to learn and improve, she kept thinking that we were going to give up on her. She kept thinking that she couldn’t do it. But with the encouragement of the other women, the sewing instructor and our teachers, she gradually improved.
Odra working hard at the machine.
Odra is eager to learn and consistently puts in an incredible amount of effort in both the classroom, and working on the sewing machine. We are amazed at her positive attitude, effort, determination.
She continues to be an example of strength and heart every day.
She now has a new dream: that she will be able to teach other women as well. Odra, as well as the eight other women who are part of this program, have a vision for how she wants her life to look. With the help of her new skills and joining the cooperative, she feels even closer to that independence and stability that she seeks.
Comments will be approved before showing up.