Summer's been busy for Guatemala City Cooperative!

By Stephanie Vail

Project Manager/Product Designer

Summer always seems to fly by, and it is no different here in Guatemala. Our Artistans Thrive Training Program has been heating up as the women gain confidence both in the sewing room as well as the classroom!

As we reflect on the past two months, we have a lot to be thankful for. Weekly, we have seen our women progress professionally with their sewing skills, business acumen, and personally in their lives. We've chosen a few of our favorite highlights below:

Artisan Highlight: Dona Refugio came to class, sat down at the sewing machine for the first time, and picked up as if she had just left off. There was an ease and confidence about her, a sense of pride, almost as if she was rekindling an old friendship. Dona Refugio shared that when she was about 10 years old she learned how to sew from her grandmother. She had always wanted to pursue it, but life had never given her the opportunity... until now.

One day, as a part of our creative sewing exercise, the women were encouraged to create something new using white fabric. The goal was to create something that represented their life. They were given full creative freedom to take the fabric and morph it into their vision, telling their story.

Many of the women took a long time, contemplating and weighing their options in their mind- playing with the fabric or sitting for a moment, not sure of which direction to go. It was a different scenario with Dona Refugio. Quickly, she got to work, pinning the fabric, measuring and tackling the task with tenacity and determination. She was the first one to head to one of the sewing machine and worked diligently on her project. Seeing she had completed her project, I went over to her to see what it was that she had created. She shared, with tears in her eyes, “My whole life has been a struggle. I made my cloth into a web (like a spider’s), because I feel like I’ve always been trapped in the middle. I left one part open because I’m holding onto the hope that there will be a way out.”

As the oldest member of our cooperative, Dona Refugio comes bearing a sense of wisdom and a peaceful leadership style that is respected by all. Dona Refugio sees the opportunity to be a part of this cooperative as a way to have consistent salary that will provide her some peace of mind. You can see her eagerness, determination and leadership when she shows up everyday.

Program/Curriculum Highlight: We are grateful for the opportunity to join the community and connection that World Orphans and AMG have established with La Verbena; we have found that with their additional resources and support on sight, we have been able to take a more holistic approach to our curriculum by utilizing their support, knowledge and expertise.

For example, as part of our curriculum, we work to also tackle topics that can be difficult to approach. Together, we were able to put together a workshop for the women titled, ‘Say Yes to a Life with Rights.’ Through the half day workshop, we covered the rights that all men and women around the world have, such as the right to life, the right to work, have a family, right to education and health care, and right to have a life free of violence. The experience was both challenging and a reminder of what each woman deserves in her life. Through the partnership with the psychologists, the women also know of additional resources they can turn to in the future.

Stay tuned for more updates, stories and highlights from our Artisans Thrive Training Program in La Verbena as we continue to progress! We can’t wait to share with you.

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