Graduating Mujeres Con Vision in Guatemala

By Stephanie Vail

Project Manager/Product Designer

After nearly four months of our training program, the highly anticipated day had arrived. The excitement and thrill could be felt in the room. The morning was a mix of preparations and eagerness for the evening’s events. Bustling around the workshop, putting final touches on their products to be displayed and sold that evening, the women went, one by one, to be pampered - by getting their hair done, nails painted and makeup done by the thoughtful World Orphans staff of psychologists. The day had finally arrived: it was the day the women would graduate from the Artisans Thrive Training Program.  

After spending nearly four months working with this group of nine women, I truly believe that it was this particular group of women that made this program a success. It was them that made a decision to commit themselves, put in the effort, and to show up every day for class. They came to class eager to work, learn, and  participate. It is because these women wanted to and chose to do so, keeping their dreams in mind, that the program was a success.

Graduation Day!

That evening,standing before their husbands and children, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, grandparents and friends, the women glowed as they were able to share a little about their personal stories and what the program had meant for them. Doña Refugio had opened up, sharing to everyone in attendance, that at one point, when life was really hard in the beginning, she was not planning on returning to the cooperative. She said that when we called her, to invite her back to join, it was such an incredible moment. She thought that she had missed her opportunity, but felt welcomed back by the group and was so proud of herself for being there, that night, having learned and now graduating from the program. Refugio shared how she made a spider web earlier in the program as an illustration of her life  up to that point. With a tear in her eye, she explained how she felt like she was finally moving out of the web.

Doña Refugio bravely shared how the opportunity to join in this cooperative had been what she had been looking for and hoping for most of her life

Ingrid, another participant and single mother, stood up to share a little bit about what the program had meant to her. She told that shortly before the program began, her mother passed away. She did not want to participate in the program and was unsure of what her future held. Someone then told her bluntly: you need this in your life, you need the change. Standing at the podium, in front of her friends and family, Ingrid bravely shared about how the very first class when we asked a question to the group  as an icebreaker, if you could be an animal, what animal would you be? Ingrid responded that she would be a butterfly, because she needed a transformation. With a tear in her eye, Ingrid shared that throughout the course of the program, this had provided her with a transformation: of learning, growth, and community. By boldly sharing, she displayed incredible courage.

Often times, it takes just that, courage, to step up and step out of the life we have known and take a chance on an opportunity like this. As the graduation ceremony concluded, the celebration continued. We shared cake and coffee, took photos, shopped the new products made by the women. It was a beautiful moment to celebrate and share.

Looking back while writing this, while this night marked one end, it was also a stepping stone.  In the days to come, the women  would venture further into their roles as business owners, entrepreneurs, artisans, and leaders. We can’t wait to see what next in store for them as a cooperative and individuals.

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