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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com
You can also learn more about our trips by visiting our website: https://www.sharingthedream.org/trips.html
Sharing the Dream in Guatemala
Diane Nesselhuf is Sharing the Dream in Guatemala's director and founder.