A letter and update from our Founder and US Director, Diane Nesselhuf
Most of us have choices. This week, I chose to have my grandkids come and visit. They are 7 and 3. As they get older they will have activities and more friends and might not want to spend this time with Grandma. I have decided that I will be very careful in my life. I won’t go to a place where there are crowds; I will wear my mask when I go out in public, and I will keep on sanitizing. I won’t, however, be fearful. I won’t give up seeing people who make my heart happy.
As I think about these choices that many of us have, I think about our friends in Guatemala. I have been in correspondence with many NGO’s (non-government organizations) that are there. Many of these groups are doing food distributions. This is really important. Guatemala has had a national lock down several times and may have one coming up for 15 days. In a country where so many people live in poverty, this will be devastating for many families. Many of these families have no choice except to ask for food. I think the artisans we work with in many communities do have choices. They have choices, because we are offering them work.
Our philosophy at Sharing the Dream is to give work, not handouts, but in this time of turmoil and starvation what do we do? It would be easy to start handing out food bags. Is this the right thing for us? This question has been on our minds for weeks. This past week, the Guatemalan staff asked if we should start distributing food, as so many people are hungry. It would be so easy to do this.
It is hard to decide, so we stepped back and did some research. We contacted several friends in communities where we have programs. We learned that there is a lot of food distribution going on, and that like any tragedy, most of the resources come immediately. What we need to do for long-term sustainability for families is to keep on giving people work. Through the generous donations we have received, we have been able to do just that. It is difficult for our Guatemalan staff to get the orders and money to the artisans, but they have been working very hard to do it. We have been able to purchase from eight groups. This week, we will have a shipment come up that includes ceramic mugs, jewelry, and scarves. These orders were all done during the past several weeks. People are eager for work.
I think we may have to reevaluate what we are doing every week. This week, the staff took food to our elders again. We have asked them to look at the elders’ extended families to see how they are doing and if they are able to get food. We are also looking at our scholarship students’ families. In Guatemala, like in many places, when the food first comes it goes to people who know how to work the system and the people who really need it don’t receive it. There may come a time when most of the other organizations that do food distributions leave and we may have to step up. We will be there then. We will do it with thought and with preparation, but for now we will stick to our philosophy of giving work.
Sharing the Dream is in these communities permanently, and we don’t want to be seen as the hand out organization. We want the local people to know that we believe in them and we expect accountability. That may be in the form of a good artisan product or our scholarship students doing their volunteer work. We want people to move forward, and I think the best way to do that is to believe they have worth and merit and can sustain their families.
We can’t deviate from our mission, which is to create long term sustainability. This is really hard now. We are so thankful for all of you who have donated and bought items in our online store. We could not do this without you. Because of all of your help, we are able to stick with our mission. We will be reopening our Vermillion store and Sioux Falls Marketplace on June 4th. We will start by opening Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I don’t foresee us having lots of customers. If there is another surge in the virus, we may have to close again. We want our volunteers and customers to be safe. We are really counting on our online sales at this point, so we thank everyone who has done an order and who has passed the information on to friends and family.
I would also like to do a big thank you to many of you who gave part or all of your stimulus check to us. I know there are many organizations who need our help right now, so thank you for believing in Sharing the Dream. With your continued support we can continue to provide work for our Guatemalan friends and partners.
We will keep you updated. Until then be safe, wear a mask and love those people dear to you.
Sharing the Dream in Guatemala
Sharing the Dream in Guatemala
Diane Nesselhuf is Sharing the Dream in Guatemala's director and founder.