UPAVIM: Women Artisans in Guatemala City from Guatemala
In the 1980s, the community of La Esperanza (Hope) sprang up to the south of Guatemala City as the result of massive population displacement during Guatemala's 42-year civil war. Today, La Esperanza and the neighboring settlements of Mezquital, Villa Lobos I, Villa Lobos II, El Bucaro and La Jolla are home to hundreds of thousands of people who live largely without basic services. Work in these communities is hard to find, and the typical monthly income is far under the poverty line.
The women of UPAVIM (Unidas Para Vivir Mejor -- United to Live Better) have been working since 1988 to improve the quality of life for families in these communities through selling handicrafts at fair trade prices. The 80+ women creating these crafts are all mothers and homemakers. Some are widows, and many are the sole economic providers for their children. Through involvement with UPAVIM, these women are able to advance towards their goals, which they state as "Education, health care, employment opportunities, and personal development of women."
"Thanks to the hands-on, peer tutoring approach, the contrast between our school and the two primary schools in the neighborhood is dramatic." ~ UPAVIM's website
The same building where the women work houses a Montessori school for their children, the Center for Alternative Learning, enabling the children to attend classes through the K-6th grades while their mothers are just a few rooms away. In addition, UPAVIM is able to sustain a daycare for younger children, a dental clinic, Healthy Babies growth monitoring, a medical clinic and pharmacy, a tutoring center, and hundreds of scholarships to help children of the community attend primary or secondary schools. These programs provide services to thousands of people in La Esperanza and other nearby communities. Some programs are free and the rest charge a low price. These programs are supported by craft sales and other income generating projects as well as international donations and grants.
As a past UPAVIM holiday newsletter states: "Giving women the opportunity to learn and succeed is one of the basic principles that UPAVIM has worked toward since their beginning in 1988. Also, many of the original UPAVIM members now have daughters in the cooperative, and thanks to their mothers' work opportunities they are now attending high schools and universities, and graduating with professional degrees!"