Empowering women to end poverty is not a new concept. It has been an understated concept, but it certainly isn’t new. Time and time again women have proven that if they are given a voice and an opportunity they will not just “get by” but they will excel, especially if the future of their children is involved.
For one organization in Guatemala, the model of empowering women to be entrepreneurs so they can improve the quality of life for themselves and their families through economic freedom has been a model of success for almost three decades.
Unidas Para Vivir Mejor (UPAVIM) began in 1989 as a simple partnership between a parish in Minnesota and a parish in Central America and throughout the years has grown into a thriving business example, an independent democratically run business cooperatives that provides social services in a growing community of women who receive no assistance or attention from their local or national government.
Today UPAVIM is an 80+ member cooperative on the outskirts of Guatemala City with dozens of employees and more than 60 women working as seamstresses and doing handcrafts. The employees work as teachers, nurses, administrators, cooks, cleaners, secretaries, bakers, soy producers and a lab technician. They are all mothers and homemakers. Some are widows. Some have been abandoned by their husbands. Some have left because of domestic violence. Most are the sole providers for their families. Many have been witness to the devastating horror of gang violence within their own family.
The Fair Trade gifts and crafts created by these women support community educational and medical programs. The women within the UPAVIM cooperative are given access to education, employment opportunities, daycare services for their children, health care services, and programs for personal and professional development.
UPAVIM has also started additional small businesses, including a bakery and soy milk factory. International donors, many of them customers who have purchased the crafts online, continue to fund scholarships for more than 430 elementary and junior high school students. All of these projects are overseen by the Guatemalan all women volunteer-run UPAVIM board of directors and the 5 program committees. At UPAVIM, the women as members have control over their community services and business decisions. UPAVIM also distributes Fair Trade products made by a number of groups in rural areas of Guatemala and buys their traditional cotton cloth directly from weaving families and weaving cooperatives.
The community in which these women live is a community of empowerment. It is a community of hope. It is a community whose future for the children is as brilliant as the handcrafts created.
UPAVIM has graciously offered to give our RainbowKids family a 10% discount when they order online. Visit UPAVIM Crafts. At checkout enter rainbow in the Coupon or Gift certificate code box. Every purchase makes a difference and greatly enhances the quality of life for these women, their families and their community through the numerous programs, schools & services run by UPAVIM.
To learn more about what you can do to become involved in the programs, projects, or volunteer opportunities within this amazing community of Guatemalan women please visit the UPAVIM website.
Autor bio: Julie Barclay’s life has been dedicated to children. A former public school teacher and summer camp counselor-in-training director from the Pacific Northwest, Julie has worked with varied populations of children, always advocating for those most vulnerable. After having a biological daughter and son, Julie and her husband welcomed home an infant son from Korea in 2002.
Just over a year later, the Barclay’s family grew again. After seeing the photolisting of a 6-year-old boy with a heart condition in China, the family welcomed home their third son. In 2008 the Barclay clan welcomed their 5th child and 4th son, a 6-year-old from Ethiopia.
In 2013 Julie’s life was touched by adoption one more time. Through a genetic testing service, a cousin had found her and reached out with a Facebook message, “I believe we are cousins, would you like to connect via email?” The sender? Martha Osborne, founder of RainbowKids.com
Since that day, Martha (adoptee and mom to 5 through Intercountry adoption) and Julie have created a seamless blend between their families. Together, they have joined their passion to advocate for vulnerable children and have expanded RainbowKids from an adoption advocacy website, to a dedicated child and family welfare website.