Besides visiting schools and seeing their progress from our last visit, a main purpose for the January trip to Guatemala was to visit the women’s groups that make the artisan crafts and weavings for us. Our first stop was at the San Jorge Women’s group in San Jorge La Laguna. This town is extremely poor but the women’s group has joined together to not only benefit themselves but also their community. With the help of a local NGO, Mayan Families, they have organized into a group of 215 women and have benefited from a variety of projects such as raising chickens to sell and taking sewing classes. We purchased jewelry, crafts and weavings from this group. They had been making jewelry for us prior to our visit and had a variety of beautiful necklaces, bracelets, coin purses and billfolds. See the website for their jewelry. Since we follow fair trade practices, our purchases gives these women a living wage, a fair wage, for their work in making the jewelry. In addition to paying a fair price for their jewelry we help in the community too. In the past we have delivered Spanish language books to their school to start a school library and have made many other shipments of shoes and aid for the really poor and more books for the school.
In San Juan La Laguna we visited several women’s groups. The group “La Voz Clama En El Desierto” (The Voice Crying in the Desert) Women’s Group makes many types of weavings for us. They weave on backstrap looms and make beautiful and intricate weavings.
We were unable to meet with the women of this group until Sunday because the women were in the mountains picking coffee during the week. They only come home on Sunday during the coffee harvest season, November thru February. Coffee harvest is very labor intensive because it is all done by hand. Generally the whole family goes to pick coffee, which is why summer vacation for school children coincides with coffee harvest. Because Hurricane Stan in 2005 destroyed a large percentage of coffee trees in the San Juan area, the income from selling their weavings is critical to the family income of each woman. We were very glad they had so many beautiful weavings ready for us!
A new group we got acquainted with during this trip was Ajbatz’ Bal’ Women’s Group also in San Juan La Laguna. There are 40 women in this group and their purpose of forming was to help educate their children. We found them to have very high quality, beautiful weavings. We will be visiting with them again in our next trip because of the quality of their work!
Be sure to check out the Education And More website for all these beautiful weavings and pieces of jewelry. Each and every purchase helps the women so much and the more we sell the more we can help the schools. And remember all our purchases are made using fair trade guidelines —giving the artist a fair daily wage for her work!