The Artisan’s Thrive program in Guatemala is a collaboration between World Orphans and Women’s Partnership Market. The program was developed and is led by Women’s Partnership Market, while World Orphans assists with identifying the group members, securing the location, and providing Guatemalan staff necessary to facilitate the program. The group is wrapping up three months of twice weekly training sessions which will be followed by nine months of mentoring and monitoring.The training not only teaches the women skills to produce product but also provides them with training in entrepreneurship and business management, including quality control, budgeting, savings, marketing, and customer service.
As I sit and reflect on what it was like to prepare my family for Hurricane Irma, I realize that I caught a fleeting glance at the lives of the women participating in the Artisan’s Thrive program. The weight of each decision. The hesitation caused by knowing you have no control over the forces that will impact you. The awareness that your children’s lives are at stake, depending on how the winds blow and the rains fall. I unpacked every possible scenario in my mind. What if the house floods? What if that tree blows over? How long can we go without electricity? If we need to relocate, where do we go?
These were temporary experiences for me, but they are part of the life fabric for these women—women who face the daunting reality of an impoverished life. While I spent a week engulfed in the forecast, planning out scenarios based on the way Irma shifted, these women spend day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, uncertain of the way the winds will blow and the rains will fall. They have no forecast with which to plan their futures. The storms of life could demolish all that they’ve strived to accomplish within a second, and many of these women have no means through which to plan for that. For these mothers and caregivers, Artisan’s Thrive is not just a welcome opportunity, but a lifeline. This is their chance to create income that enables them to care for their children, plan for their futures, and escape the web that has been entangling them for much of their lives.
Stephanie from WPM tells the story of Dona, one of the members:
Many of the women took a long time, contemplating and weighing their options in their mind—playing with the fabric or sitting for a moment, not sure of which direction to go. It was a different scenario with Dona. Quickly, she got to work, pinning the fabric, measuring, and tackling the task with tenacity and determination. She was the first one to head to one of the sewing machines, and she worked diligently on her project. Seeing she had completed her project, I went over to her to see what it was that she had created. She shared, with tears in her eyes, “My whole life has been a struggle. I made my cloth into a web (like a spider’s), because I feel like I’ve always been trapped in the middle. I left one part open because I’m holding onto the hope that there will be a way out.”
This is what we want to accomplish through our empowerment initiatives. We want to offer a thread of hope to families who previously thought they were trapped because of their neighborhood. We want to offer opportunity to women who thought their lack of education meant it would never be possible to take care of themselves and their families. We want to equip them to recognize the inherent dignity they have as creations made in God’s image.
We believe that providing training and creating opportunities to affirm dignity is essential in moving from surviving to thriving and breaking the cycle of generational poverty. These women want to provide stability and set a positive example for their children. Participating in the Artisan’s Thrive program is giving them that chance.