I have sat down to write this blog several times. Always to be stumped by how to truly paint the picture of the experiences we had in Guatemala with our Artisan Partners.  If I could capture a smile from each of the women I may get closer to sharing this beautiful experience.  I’ll do my best in this first installment.

To reach the first of our Artisan Partners we rode a shuttle to a boat we took across Lake Atitlan to a little village called Tsunana where we then hiked about 20 minutes up an extremely steep hill. When we reached the very last house at the top of the hill, we walked into a small open air home where the faces of the women lit up as they greeted us.

This group is only one year old and in the first four months had three separate leaders who quit for various social and cultural pressures (may cover in another blog).  Now, this group has a fearless leader named Santos, a woman willing to take a risk, go against prescribed gender roles, and start her own business.

In addition to an income, the cooperative educates and provides access to items that will make life healthier and easier. They provide access and partner with organizations to subsidize the items, but do not donate them. Like us, they believe in Trade, not Aid.

On the day we visited, a smokeless stove was installed for Santos’s family. Santos had earned half of the money to purchase the stove.  The stove will make cooking easier (not bending over a fire), safer (not having a fire in the middle of the kitchen) and healthier (not breathing the smoke).  We helped paint with a mixture of limestone and water to brighten the room and seal in the soot covering each wall. What a change this will make to the respiratory health of her children. Santos’s pride was palpable as the women gathered for the first time to make tortillas on her new stove.

We have a thousand photos and stories to share in an attempt to convey the very-real-life impact our team of Fair Trade Partners is making.  We share Santos’s pride.

More to come,