March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to celebrating women and their achievements. Sharing the Dream is fortunate to work with many amazing women. Many of the artisans are women, the elders at the Elder Center are primarily women, the majority of the scholarship students are girls and young women, and Sharing the Dream is a women led organization. We have found that by working with women, it improves their self-esteem. This improved self-esteem means that their entire family, including their husband, looks at them differently, and often times treat them with more respect and equality. Women also invest in the health, education, and general well-being of their children and family, which leads to positive changes in future generations.
Isabel, our Artisan Development coordinator, is one of these amazing women. Years ago, a little girl from a mountain village was introduced to Diane. She wanted to go to school, but her father had died and there wasn’t any money. Even though she was only in middle school, she would go to school in the morning and weave by candlelight at night to earn a little money. She was malnourished and the family ate primarily tortillas and salt. They spoke very little Spanish. The man who introduced them asked for a scholarship for Isa so that she didn’t have to weave at night. A generous woman from Sharing the Dream sponsored Isabel through middle and high school.
Isabel lived at the Sharing the Dream office during high school and cleaned in exchange for her rent. It was then that we discovered her talent for a variety of handicraft techniques. Isabel started as an assistant to our Artisan Development coordinator, and when that person left, Isa was hired in that position.
Years later, Isa is still with Sharing the Dream and is doing a great job. Her shyness disappeared as she became more confident. She is now married and has two little boys, who are healthy, well-nourished, and well loved. Her oldest son goes to school, which he loves. Isa is proud of her family.
What a difference having an opportunity made for this shy village girl. Isa is poised, accomplished, a terrific mother, and a wonderful role model. Isa was given a chance. That is what most people here need. By purchasing a product from Sharing the Dream, you are providing opportunities to people in Guatemala so that they can provide for their families and change their lives.
Antonio, STDG's Assistant Tutor and Administrative Assistant
Meet Antonio, our assistant tutor and administrative assistant. Antonio is an important member of our team in Guatemala. He is always willing to jump into whatever is asked of him, and he finds joy in tutoring the scholarship students. Antonio is from the small community of Chacaya, just outside of Santiago Atitlan. Taking the place of his brother in our scholarship program, he studied hard for five years and graduated with a degree in accounting. He then began his role as tutor and administrative assistant at Sharing the Dream. As a tutor, he travels to meet with scholarship students in Santiago, Panajachel, and Chichicastenango, helping other children to receive the education he did when he was a student.
Antonio is passionate about learning and reading. He particularly enjoys the Reading Circle he runs with the scholarship students. With a smile, he talks about the program, “We created a reading group with the scholarship students. Once a week, the students come to the Tutoring Center to read together. I enjoy it because it is interesting: we need ideas and imagination to share together.” He hopes to continue studying English, to attend university, and to travel so that he can share his experiences and Guatemalan culture. Antonio wants to share the message that anything is possible. His diligent work ethic and kind spirit are among the many reasons we are happy to work with Antonio.
Reflections from US Director and Founder Diane Nesselhuf
Free trade and fair trade. They sound alike, but they are two different things. What does each of them mean?
Free trade has to do with the commercial activity across countries. Free trade focuses on the reduction of barriers and policies that favor certain countries or industries. This can be good in many ways but can be destructive because global companies may bring more jobs, but many of these jobs are outsourced because international workers can be cheaper to hire and are willing to work with fewer safety protections. There are many pros and cons to free trade. It can be beneficial, but there may be long-term consequences.
Fair trade is quite different. Fair trade’s focus is on the wages and working conditions of the people doing the labor. When we work with people in Guatemala we work with them on the price of an article. How much is the material, how long does it take to make it, how complicated is the pattern, what is the living wage for people in the community? This process can take a long time and must be done for each craft item. Sharing the Dream has an Artisan Development Team that works with the groups and individuals to make sure they are getting a fair price, learning skills, and have good working conditions. We make sure that the people doing the work do not outsource it to other families or people who are not paid a fair price. When you buy an article from Sharing the Dream it is not only fair trade, but we have spent hours with the groups helping them advance their techniques, their marketing, and their knowledge of working in a group. Fair trade for us is a way to keep people in their homes (where they want to be) and to help them sustain their families.
If you want to learn more about fair trade, join us on one of our trips.
Learning Trip to Guatemala with Director Diane Nesselhuf, February 2-11, 2020
This people-centric trip takes you off the beaten path to experience the sights and sounds of Guatemala and leaves you with an understanding of the struggles that Guatemalans face and an appreciation for their vibrant culture. Throughout the trip, you will have the opportunity to listen to the hopes and dreams of the Guatemalan people that we meet with, and be invited into their homes to learn how they make their traditional handicrafts.
If you are interested in this trip, please contact Diane at email@example.com.
Artisan Wares and Gastronomy trip to Guatemala, June 15-24, 2020
Experience for yourself the delight of the Guatemalan cuisine, which has evolved from Maya, Latin American, and western traditions. As part of this remarkable ten-day trip, the participants will learn about and participate in workshops on backstrap weaving, ceramics, basketry, and beading, techniques that the artisans have learned from past generations.
For more information about this trip, please email Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also learn more about our trips by visiting our website: https://www.sharingthedream.org/trips.html
Reflections from US Director and Founder Diane Nesselhuf
October is fair trade month. What does fair trade mean exactly? Of course, it means paying people fairly, having good working conditions, etc. But what does it mean to me as far as being director of a fair trade nonprofit?
My background isn’t in design or business; I have learned about these things over the past 20 years. My background is in counseling. How does this apply? I think my background has helped in my philosophy of fair trade. To me, it means working with groups that don’t understand some basic things that we take for granted in the U.S. For instance, having high quality products, getting things done on time, and following through on commitments. It is not that the groups don’t know how to do this. I think it is that sometimes when they don’t understand something, people give up on them, and they give up on themselves. It is imperative that when we work with individuals and groups we know how to reframe.
Fair trade can take time. More time than a lot of people want to give. It is about working with people and teaching. I am always telling the staff, “This is a teaching moment. What do we do to teach?" This philosophy moves slowly, it is easier to just stop working with a group than to figure out what the problem is and work with them to solve it. This happens again and again and sometimes takes years to work with people who have not been to school and speak a language other than Spanish.
About 20 years ago, I went up into the mountains where there were a couple of weaving groups, but no one had been there to work with them. They were really poor, their children were malnourished, and they just seemed hopeless. A woman came to me to buy a purse that she had made. The sewing was terrible. She had a malnourished child on her back and was holding the hand of her other malnourished child. It would have been easy to give her a little money for the bag, but I didn’t. It was poor quality, and I didn’t want her to think that was okay. Instead, I sat with the group for several hours while we brainstormed. They were just learning sewing. After a couple of hours, I noticed one of the ladies had a scrunchy in her pony tail. I asked about them making scrunchies. It was a good place to start with them, and it was a way they could see progress. I ordered 500 scrunchies. It took quite a few years to sell them all, but meanwhile, we worked with the group on other products, quality, and how to maintain a group. With the help of Dalesburg Lutheran in Vermillion, we helped build a sewing center and a weaving center. The women are now pretty self-supporting. There are still some issues once in a while with this group, but over time they were able to help sustain their families.
Yes, it took twenty years. Twenty years of going to the mountains in overcrowded buses and having the women come to our office, often times traveling six hours each way. The main thing was not giving up.
Sharing the Dream is about dreams. Dreams that the individuals we work with have for themselves and their families. They want to be able to feed, educate and take care of their children. For me, fair trade means sharing those dreams and working with them to fulfill them. I love this quote by William Yeats. “But I, being poor have only my dreams. I have spread my dreams under your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” As a fair trade organization we need to tread softy and be open to the dreams of the people we work with in Guatemala.
Help to support people's dreams for themselves and their families by purchasing fair trade. Celebrate Fair Trade Month with us by saving 10% off your total order in our online store using the coupon code FTMonth at checkout. Offer is valid only in the online store.
Sharing the Dream helps Guatemalans to find their voice, become more confident, and take control of their lives and futures.
Empowerment is a buzz word in the non-profit community today, but what does it really mean? Oxford Dictionary defines empowerment as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights.”
Sharing the Dream is different in that we don’t just give handouts, we expect something in return. The scholarship students must show up for their tutoring sessions, complete volunteer hours, and participate in educational activities. Our partner artisan groups are expected to participate in workshops and meetings with our Artisan Development staff to learn new techniques and skills. The elders have formed several committees involved in the running of the Elder Center. They also give back to the Center by volunteering their time helping to prepare meals or taking food home for a neighbor. We feel that giving back is an important part of each program, because it gets people involved, allows them to feel ownership, and gives them a voice. This voice allows the participant to become stronger and more confident and carries over to other aspects of their lives, thus empowering the individual.
Several months ago, we formed an advisory committee at the Elder Center. When we first started meeting, we would ask the committee for feedback, and they would tell us that everything was wonderful. Although it’s nice to hear that you are doing good work, the point was to know how we can improve. Little by little, the elders have found their voices and now offer thoughtful feedback during the meetings. Many of them had never been asked for their opinion before, and now they participate on a regular basis.
Sharing the Dream is more than just donations and crafts. We are on the ground in Guatemala, working in partnership with the local people, learning from each other and helping our partners to become stronger, more confident, and take control of their own lives and futures. Thank you for being a part of that.
Please consider making a donation to support Sharing the Dream so that we can continue to work in partnership with the Guatemalan people and help them to become stronger, more confident, and take control of their own lives and futures. 100% of your donation will go to programming.
Sharing the Dream in Guatemala
Diane Nesselhuf is Sharing the Dream in Guatemala's director and founder.