I have been in Guatemala since February 5th working with our Sharing the Dream staff. We've had many meetings with artisans, other NGO’s (non-government organizations) staff, the board, and people who have heard of us and drop by for a meeting.
I have been thinking about many of these meetings and the philosophy of Sharing the Dream. When I meet with people they sometimes ask me if my background is in business or design. When I answer that it is in neither, it is in counseling, they sometimes look at me perplexed.
When I encounter some of the fair trade NGOs and businesses here in Guatemala, I see that their main goal is to grow and bring in more money I am not faulting this, but I believe that Sharing the Dream is different. Coming from a non-business background, I try to ensure that when we work with our artisans we are actively fostering sustainability. For us, the artisans come first and not the profit. A few of these large Fair Trade organizations call the people they work with "producers." In contrast, we call the groups we work with “artisans."
Many of these organizations have designers that are not based in Guatemal, and some of these designers have never even met with their “producers." When this happens, the organization usually owns the design and the “producers” can’t sell it for several years. I understand this. Because they are paying a lot for the designs, they can’t have anyone copying it and need to sell it. We need these organizations because they are giving work to hundreds of people.
Sharing the Dream is smaller and our philosophy is to work with the groups so they can learn how to design their own products and market them to anyone. If we believe in sustainability for the people here we must work this way. The Sharing the Dream staff offers workshops to our groups on design, quality, marketing and other things that will help them move on the continuum line to sustainability. The greatest success we can have is when one of the groups we work with does not need us because they can do their own designing and marketing. Let me tell you this takes years and years, it doesn’t happen overnight.
We want Sharing the Dream to be sustainable too, so there has to be a business aspect. We are fortunate to have two boards that help with this goal. We have a great board in the U.S and they make sure we are always in the black. We have a wonderful board here in Guatemala made up of artisans and other interested people. We just had a board meeting last week. I will include a photos of that meeting. This board is remarkable too as they have good ideas on how we need to move forward.
I am so proud of our staff, boards, and volunteers here and in the U.S. They “get” it and it is making a huge difference to the artisans.
The people we work with are artists, and we need to treat them as such.
Greetings from Thailand. I am here on a working vacation but it wasn’t going to be about Fair Trade. My niece lives here and we are working on a few book projects together. She is a writer and is helping me do some writing.
When I got here I remembered that several people on the Sharing the Dream board suggested that maybe it would be good to have some fair trade products from other countries that are different than our Guatemalan products.
I joined a digital women’s Chiang Mai nomads group and asked about fair trade. I didn’t think I would get much response. I did however, I heard about three groups so I decided to check them out. I have visited all of them and it has been really interesting. All three projects work with refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma). These refugee camps are located in the Northern part of Thailand. Some of these camps have been there for 30 years, and some of the people have lived there that long. The people in the camps cannot leave and have no chance at earning a living. They almost completely rely on donations from NGO’s (non-government organizations). The fair trade groups I met with are working with people in these camps to continue their tradition of back strap weaving and helping them make items that will sell in the international market. Thus helping them to have some income.
I learned about one group that works with caladium fiber to make cloth that they use for bags and journals. These are really quite interesting. Another group that I am interested in dyes cotton and weaves some patterns that are different than our Guatemalan weavers. There is also a group that stamps different patterns on woven fabric.
I would like to show you some of the products and see what you think. Let’s have coffee Saturday Jan. 27th at the Sharing the Dream store at 10 AM. I will share some photos, and talk about the products. By then they might be priced so that you could even buy something new and different.
Come experience life in the ‘Land of Eternal Spring’
Diane, director and founder of Sharing the Dream, is taking a group to Guatemala in early February, but for your convenience, here are the next trip dates:
Sharing the Dream’s philosophy is that we travel to Guatemala to “be” with the people instead of “do” for the people. We believe it is important to understand that we are on equal terms with them.
The Guatemalan people are very kind, respectful people who have built a relationship with the Sharing the Dream staff and have taught us a lot over the years. Throughout the trip you will have the opportunity to listen to their hopes and dreams and learn about their vibrant culture. We will be welcomed into their homes to learn how they make their beautiful crafts and about their work with Sharing the Dream.
If you are interested or have any questions, please contact Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In case you weren't on our mailing list (email or snail mail), below you'll find writings from our winter newsletter. If you'd like to be added to a mailing list, please email email@example.com.
To donate to Sharing the Dream, you can follow this link, or find the button at the bottom of this page.
Chuk Muk Project Advances, Donations Needed
Those of us at Sharing the Dream in Guatemala have been talking about building an elder center for years. The land we looked at was always so expensive that we gave up the idea until the village of Chuk Muk gave us some land. Then the dream started again. In January, I (Diane) was in Guatemala with my son Seth and my husband Ed. They were both excited about the land and drew up different plans for the construction. This now has more meaning than ever since my husband passed away in July. He was a wonderful man who supported my dream for 20 years. He was excited about the elder center and he and my son came up with the idea of the village concept instead of one large building. It is hard for me to move forward with my life and these plans, but as Ed told me, “Diane, we both have new chapters in our life, we have to move on.” It is with Ed’s blessing that I will help undertake this project. It will be a new chapter for our elders in Guatemala, too.
We’ve had lots of exciting developments over the past year on this project that will include an elder center, artisan workshop, tutor center, and hostel. We are just starting to look at the plans with a contractor so we can begin construction. Above is a draft drawing of the village concept. The orange building is the elder center with the guard’s house on top. The blue building is the artisan/bead workshop with a small fair trade store, offices, and storerooms on the bottom floor, and a large space on the second floor for our beaders. We are hoping to hire at least 20 women from the community as beaders. The green building is our tutor center on the first floor and the hostel on the second floor. We want to do this in three phases with the first phase being the elder center.
Our philosophy is to be as sustainable as possible. We are hoping to do more of that with the bead group and the hostel. We are also working with the Chuk Muk community to apprentice people in every aspect of the building project.
Please consider helping us financially with this project. We have been working hard to secure funding for our new elder center village in Chuk Muk, Guatemala. We have been given a matching donation of up to $100,000 by a very generous donor and have raised about $20,000 toward this goal. We greatly appreciate any contributions toward this project.
Remembering Ed Nesselhuf
Sharing the Dream tries to work in creative ways to help create independence not dependence. This is quite a bit of work as so many NGO's just have the philosophy of giving money and not expecting any thing in return. As a trained counselor I know that for the improvement of people's self esteem and for their continued growth we need to let people take control of their lives. We are working with some young people in some very interesting ways. Just let us know if you would like to help.
Julia is 25 and has only gone through middle school. She applied for a scholarship several years ago but asked if we wouldn't give it to her sister. Her sister Sara Hilda just graduated from high school. Julia has been working at the elder center as a tortilla maker and a helper in the kitchen for the past few years. She only works part time. We asked her if we hired her full time if she could pay for her own schooling. She is very excited and nervous to go to high school. She has become the assistant for Bernabela with the elders and the bead group. The added expense for Sharing the Dream is $150 per month.
Tomasa is in her last year of high school. She was not going to go this year as she did not have the money. We needed a weaver periodically to weave samples for the artisan development program. We are giving Tomasa a partial scholarship of $250 and she will be paid for helping with the weaving and can then pay the rest of the money for her school.
Hector was a scholarship student of ours since middle school. He graduated from high school this year and wanted to go to college for social work. He doesn't have the money as their is no father and his mother is a weaver with 3 other children. Two of them are disabled. He was going to go to the city to help an uncle sell fruit. We offered him a part time job if he would go to college and pay his way. He is going to be our tutor in Pana and Chichi. He will also help around the office. It will cost $150 a month to pay him part time.