Isabel, STDG's Artisan Development Coordinator
Reflections from US Director Diane Nesselhuf
I have been in Guatemala for six weeks. As I reflect on my time here, I have so many stories I could share of the relationship Sharing the Dream has with the people we work with. I will share one of these stories.
Years ago, there was a little girl who lived in a mountain village who wanted to go to school, but her father had died and there was no money. Even though she was just in middle school she would go to school during the day and weave on a back strap loom at night so that her family would have some money. She did this by candle light as the house had no electricity. She only ate tortillas and salt for many years and was thin from not having proper nourishment.
A man brought me to this village and introduced me to this very shy little girl who didn’t speak a lot of Spanish. Would Sharing the Dream be able to find a sponsor for her so she could continue with school and not have to weave into the night? A woman from Vermillion, Vicki Fix, said she would sponsor Isabel, and she did. She sponsored her through middle school and high school.
Isabel spent her last few years of high school in Guatemala City. At that time the Sharing the Dream office was in Guatemala City. We thought it would help Isabel if she could live in a room at our office and help with the cleaning for her rent. She did this for several years, and we discovered she had a gift for weaving, designing, knitting, crocheting and after sending her to sewing lessons, a talent for sewing. She then started as an assistant to our artisan development coordinator. She worked during her last few years of high school and started college. College wasn’t easy for Isa and she didn’t have the skills needed there to be successful. She continued to work for Sharing the Dream and when our artisan development coordinator left she was hired in that position.
Isabel’s shyness disappeared little by little as she became more confident. She was able to eat better, and her health improved. When we moved the office to Panajachel, she moved with us. This was much closer to her home village.
Years later, Isa is still our artisan development coordinator and doing a great job. She is married and has two darling little boys. Last night, I took Isa and her two little boys out for dinner. Isa’s husband works during the week in Guatemala City, but joins his little family on most weekends. The boys ate a hamburger and French fries. The boys' chubby little cheeks showed that they did not have to eat just tortillas and salt. They had on clean matching shirts and jeans, and their hair was slicked back and combed. Although Carlos, the older one, was a bit shy, they both looked healthy and well loved. Carlos goes to pre-school just a few blocks from their small apartment. He loves school, and Isa is proud of his accomplishments.
What a difference having an opportunity made for this shy little village girl. Isa is poised, accomplished and is a terrific mother who is proud of her family. She was given a chance. That is what most people here need. As my friend Barb said, “people here are intelligent, they just don’t have the opportunity to be educated.”
Through the years Sharing the Dream has had many scholarship students. Isa’s story is just one story among many. This year we have 25 scholarship students. It will be interesting to hear their stories in a few years and how this opportunity made a difference in their lives. Thank you to all of you who sponsor and have sponsored one of these students. You have made a huge difference for not only the student and their families, but for the student's future family.