The one word I heard the most in Guatemala…

Happy Wednesday lovely readers!  I know I’ve apologized profusely for our lack of blog-posting the last few months, but now that the kiddos are back in school, we’re energized and ready to get back on the fair trade front lines!  Want to know what we were up to all summer?

Well, on June 16th, Brandi and I boarded a plane to heaven.  Yep, we left the Newark airport and 5 hours later, we landed in heaven.

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Okay, so it wasn’t heaven, but it sure felt like it!  Did you have any idea that Guatemala was so beautiful?  I certainly wasn’t prepared for how breathtaking it would be!

Unfortunately, despite the beauty, Guatemala’s history is full of earthquakes, volcanoes, civil wars, high crime rates, and a lack of infrastructure that makes it difficult for it’s people to rise out of poverty.

However, what Guatemala does have is a history rich in culture, heritage, and tradition!  We were excited to travel to Guatemala with Noonday Collection to meet with our artisan groups that create gorgeous scarves and bracelets.

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Their traditions of weaving and beadwork have been passed down generation to generation, and the amount of time and skill required to make each piece was simply amazing!!

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I honestly could write an entire blog post about each one of the products, the unique materials used, and how they’re made (and maybe one day I will!) but today I want to focus on what I learned from the artisans we met on this trip.

We met with 4 different artisan groups (2 weaving and 2 beading) and we were intentional about spending time with each one.  Learning their names, talking about their families (and our own), and hearing their stories, the good and the bad.  We learned that communities had been torn apart by natural disasters (one mentioned lava from a volcano) and guerrilla warfare (their most recent civil war ended in 1996).  There were families with 8 or more kids, some with special needs.  Girls who had no school to attend after 5th grade.  Children denied the opportunity of education in order to sell fruit or other goods on the street.

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Working with artisan groups that partner with Noonday Collection has provided each of them an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and create a pathway to a better life for their families.

The one word I kept hearing over and over again was CONSISTENT.  As in, “Thank you for the consistent work.”

Here’s a quote from Rosario, the lead artisan of one of the beading groups (they make the beautiful Laguna Cuff)!

If each woman could tell their story they would tell you a story of need. From abandonment, to poverty, from natural disasters or people that lost their homes, sometimes someone just needs a leg up. We can help them develop this ability and offer them a chance to join this group.
We have 50 employees and they each have family at home working too.
The work is sustainable, consistent.
When they didn’t have work it’s hard. Noonday sends consistent orders.
We’re working on the biggest order ever. A holiday order!

It was apparent from the moment we arrived in Guatemala that there are many, many skilled artisans there.  The streets were full of colorful huipil blouses and corte skirts handmade by the women, and markets full of vibrant scarves and paintings.  As you can imagine, as soon as we stepped into the central courtyard in Antigua our group of 12 (very tall!) American women was approached immediately by vendors looking to sell their wares.  Many of them were children not much older than my own.

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Selling products to tourists on the street, as well as in the markets, is the only hope that most artisans in Guatemala have for income each day.  I talked with our friend Olivia (did you see her guest blog post?) more about life in the market to gain some insight into that way of life.  She spent a few months living and working closely with locals and had so much to share:

They are working there basically seven days a week, twelve hour days (at the very least). When it isn’t tourist/mission trip season, they are extremely slow and barely make anything. Usually things go really well for about the two months during the summer of June and July and they make great wages. But, the other ten months of the year, they hardly make enough to survive. It ends up being extremely hard those months because on any given day, they have no idea if they’re going to go home with a lot of money or nothing at all.

This is why Noonday Collection is making a huge difference in the lives of artisans!  By creating a marketplace in the United States for the talented men and women in Guatemala (and in other countries!), we’re able to provide consistent orders all year round that aren’t dependent on the weather or tourist season.  Many of the artisans in the groups that we met with are paid a daily wage, or a salary, that they can count on.  This a complete game changer for their families: now they no longer fear what will happen the next day or whether they’ll have food for their families.  They can maybe save for a new home, or start up a new business.  Kids can be sent to school instead of out into the street to sell fruit or other goods- and the cycle of poverty ends for that family as they begin to invest in the future.

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Here is what we heard from Angelica, the lead artisan of one of the weaving groups:

Thank you for the consistent work that you give us. There is a lot of competition in the market and many times women do not get paid for their work. It does not even cover living expenses. But with your orders we are paid well. I just couldn’t even thank you enough. It has helped our families so much. Because it’s sure work. I know when I make one of these scarves it is going to sell. We’ve been able to help our kids and our family. Our kids are able to go to school. Please keep fighting for them.

This is Angelica and the lovely scarf that’s named after her (it’s a top seller!):

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Meeting with our artisans in Guatemala, being welcomed into their workplaces and homes with hugs and kisses and sometimes homemade food and handmade gifts, and just spending time with each of them is something I’ll never forget!  I loved every minute and was so honored to be a part of it all.

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Want to be a part of something big too?  Have you checked out Noonday’s new fall lookbook??  So many gorgeous new pieces handcrafted by our friends in Guatemala and all over the world!  You can use your purchasing power for GOOD by shopping online or opening up your home for a trunk show!

Rosario compared all of us to a team of ants: each with a different job, working together towards a common goal.  Noonday Collection is able to alleviate poverty only through the amazing skills of the artisans, and the work of the ambassadors, hostesses, and customers creating a market here in the US.  Join us!

In style & love,

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