Artesanía Success Stories
Solfina came to ToH scraping by in a scrap shanty, trying to raise three children. Her determination to make a better life for her children had her persist, and now she proudly shows her home, complete with electricity, appliances, and a bathroom. She is a most devoted member of ToH and has developed a firm faith showing much wisdom and grace in group discussions. Her oldest son, Gustavo, completed law school, paid for mostly by his mother and is a practicing attorney in Lima. In 2016 we saw the beginnings of the second floor of their family home where the adult children will have their own living spaces. (Multi-generational living is very common in developing world countries.) Her school age granddaughter, Dyan, charmed us all when she said, “You must be getting good marks for your sewing, Grandma.”
Isabel has three children, becoming a single mother about five years ago. Her textile art is now her sole source of income. She is grateful to be home when the children arrive home from school, a supportive mother in a challenging environment is a godsend. Having moved in with her parents a few years ago; she put up a curtain divider, so the light didn’t bother her sleeping children. That is all in the past now as Isabel has completed construction on her new flat which is on the second floor of her parent’s home. Her extended family is a lovely, supportive group. She is resilient and determined, taking a refresher dressmaking course recently to continue expanding her skill set. Isabel is a most responsible president of her sewing group. In prior years, all income went toward education expenses until she was able to focus on her home. It was a joy to tour her home recently and see a study carol with a computer for her children’s school work.
Susana and her family came from the mountainous region to look for work when she was 15. She was later encouraged to join ToH by her mother who is also in the project. Susana learned quickly and now surpasses her mother in her detailed work. She is married to Edgar, a dear man, and they have two precious boys. Susana and Edgar bought a plot of land on the hillside with her earnings, and they built a simple plywood structure in which to live. They are so pleased to be able to educate their boys with her earnings while saving for their future permanent home. Their boys are fantastic students with such proud parents. In 2015, Edgar loaded the ToH group into his cholo, a three-wheel family *car*, and carried us up to the high hills of Pamplona Alta. He was so pleased to show us the progress as he and Susana turn their plywood home into a solid brick structure. Susana has been a superb treasurer for the group for the last several years.
ToH began purchasing textiles from this Andean mountain artisan group in 2013. We were immediately attracted to them through the village entrepreneur named Edelberta. This remarkable woman organized many of the women in her village into their first sewing cooperative and found work for the group in nearby towns. It was sewing work they could carry with them to the fields while they cared for babies and monitored grazing livestock. She’d go into the nearby town, pick up fabric and skeins of thread and then parcel out the work to the sewing group. After completion, she’d go back to town to receive payment and pick up another batch of work. Textile work comes in this way to many high, remote villages. The Hope Grant Fund supports communal projects in these remote villages. After a year of buying textiles from Cochabamba and selling them in the US, the artisans were asked what they needed most as businesswomen to perform their craft. The answer was quick and straightforward. They needed rain and shade shelter, needles, thimbles, sharp scissors, and if it wasn’t too much trouble, chairs to replace the rocks they use for stools. ToH was honored to approve this grant, buying supplies to build the shelters, hiring local villagers to build the communal structure, and then to furnish them with tables, chairs, and sewing supplies. The shelter was a bonus to the women who sew, but beyond that it was their gift to their village for all to use. Women’s handwork has added stability to their lives and a stronger sense of community to their village. In 2017 their grant request was for small livestock as an income producer and protein food source for their children. They also received school supplies for all the children, as requested.
Sol de Oro Artesanía
In 2014 ToH learned of an Andean village that had initiated training to empower the village artesanía into a sewing business, learning all aspects of business management and artistry so they could be 100% free of middlemen and business owners. Threads of Hope met with them and piloted a project of guidance and support to become textile producers. The sewing group made tremendous progress in the first year and remain eager to learn more about business, exports, and textile production. It is an ongoing effort to empower this fine group of people to stronger skillsets to be able to produce and sell efficiently in the global marketplace. Slow but steady is our mutual goal as they juggle the ongoing demands of an agrarian lifestyle.