A letter and update from our Founder and US Director, Diane Nesselhuf
I hope you are all staying safe and practicing social distancing. We are all on an unfamiliar road and not sure what the future holds. I know that Sharing the Dream will survive. We have hundreds of people in Guatemala counting on us, and we will do what we can to keep our programs and our staff. We will look for OPPORTUNTIES.
Here are a few changes that we are experiencing. We were doing really well with our two brick and mortar stores but have now temporarily closed them. We have transitioned to strictly online sales for the foreseeable future. We rely on our outside sales for the spring and summer, but all of them have been canceled. This is a challenge, but we need to see it as an OPPORTUNITY to really ramp up our online store. Please shop and pass the word on about our online presence at: www.sharingthedream.org.
Because Coronavirus is a pandemic, we are seeing the affects in Guatemala, too. There is a shutdown of all transportation and the airport is closed. Guatemala relies on the tourist industry, and that has been decimated. There is a 4PM curfew and everyone must be in their homes at that time. This makes it challenging for people to live and work.
We are thinking outside of the box in regards to how we are doing our programs in Guatemala and how we can maintain our staff. Our 60 elders have been told to stay at home, and the staff has educated them on hand washing and given them soap and bleach. The staff has taken food to them twice now. The food will last them several weeks. Without this help our elders would go hungry. We need to look at this as an OPPORTUNITY to work more on sanitation with the elders.
In order to sustain their families, our artisans need to have work. The jewelry artisans have finished up an order for us, and we are hoping to give them another order soon. They are working from their homes. The weavers are working on samples for our fall order. We are looking at this as an OPPORTUNITY for the artisans to come up with new designs and think about new markets.
Although our scholarship students are not in school, we do not want them to fall behind. Our tutors are using phones and other ways of communicating with the students to keep them educationally active. This is an OPPORTUNITY for our students to learn that education is more than a classroom.
In Guatemala, it is sometimes difficult to think outside the box. Most available jobs are pretty black and white, and the school system does not promote creativity. We are working with the staff and reminding them that this is an OPPORTUNITY to be creative. This is a steep learning curve but will help the organization in the long-run.
Thank you for being a part of the Sharing the Dream family. We have some OPPORTUNITIES for you. We know that your family comes first, so please know that we are not putting any pressure on you. Again, we just want to give you some options to help.
Again, thank you for your help, and please stay safe.
Sharing the Dream in Guatemala
An update on the COVID-19 Crisis in Guatemala from Guatemala Director, Lauren Vaske
I hope that this email finds you safe and healthy. I know these past few weeks have been challenging for everyone. Know that we are in this together, and that despite all of the bad news, positive things are still happening. We are so grateful for your support for the people of Guatemala during these challenging times, and we want to keep you abreast of what’s been going on.
As of Tuesday night, Guatemala is up to 168 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and it is now community spread. The restrictions scheduled to expire this past Sunday have been extended until the end of the month. This means that the 4pm curfew is still in place, all public transportation has been suspended, and many towns have decided to close their borders to non-residents. Despite all of the restrictions, some positive things are happening.
One of the positive things that has come out of this situation is that people are thinking outside of the box. Our staff in Guatemala is no exception. Creativity is not stressed in the Guatemalan school system, so asking the staff to be creative in their work has been challenging for some of them, but everyone is doing a great job. I want to share one such story with you, Antonio. Antonio is one of our tutors. Since he is no longer able to do in-person tutoring, he has been doing virtual tutoring sessions. He is also now offering story hours for families in his community and providing tutoring to struggling students from the local elementary school, all the while following proper social distancing guidelines. It’s thanks to your support that Antonio is able to continue working and receiving a salary so that he can support his family.
Here are some more positive things that have been happening thanks to your support.
Director in Guatemala
A letter and update from our Founder and US Director, Diane Nesselhuf
I would like to thank everyone who has donated and bought items from our online store. It is really helping and will make a difference.
I am not hearing good news from Guatemala. As the pandemic goes on, more people there are diagnosed, and there is a shutdown of all transportation and almost all businesses. The people have to be off the streets at 4PM. When you already live day to day, shutting down the country means people will not be able to survive.
Lauren, our director in Guatemala, has temporarily left the country. She was notified by the State Department that she should return to the US. She did not make one of the six charter flights from the State Department but was able to book a flight on Eastern Airlines, which was the only flight other than the State Department’s flights that left Guatemala. The State Department prioritized families and older people first. Leaving Guatemala was a difficult decision, and she spent 4 hours outside the airport waiting to get in and then 3 hours waiting for the flight to get cleared so they could depart. Lauren will spend 15 days in self-quarantine, and then we are hoping she can come to Vermillion and help out here.
The staff is working hard in Guatemala to keep everything going, and Lauren communicates with them many times daily via phone and Skype. We must keep paying our staff and financing our programs.
I know it is difficult here, too. We are all feeling the strains of being housebound, and many people here have lost their income. Our prayers go out to people all over the world.
I am going to make a pledge, and I am hoping those of you who are able to will also make the pledge. I am going to pledge my government stimulus payment check to Sharing the Dream to help the people in Guatemala. I realize not everyone can do this, and I don’t want people to feel guilty when they need their stimulus check for their family or others in need. Please join me if you can.
Sharing the Dream in Guatemala
Please donate via the website at or send a check to:
Sharing the Dream
10 W. Main
Can you help?
We have temporarily closed our two non-profit fair trade stores in South Dakota. Our off site spring sales have been canceled.
During this difficult time, we are maintaining our programs and paying our staff in Guatemala. Without this help, our elders would go hungry and our staff would not have an income. There are no safety nets in Guatemala. Sharing the Dream in Guatemala is their safety net. This is a huge responsibility. We need to have income of about $15,000.00 per month to keep things going in Guatemalan and here in the states.
How can you help?
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.
Artisan Wares and Gastronomy trip to Guatemala, October 9-17, 2022
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
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
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