Today we visited another little village on the shores of Lake Atitlan to start conversation with an artisan group that we are considering helping in our Fair Trade Handcraft division. The Director of our Sponsorship Program told us about this group and a little about their background so with her information we went to San Antonio Palopo to visit with the group.
San Antonio is a really pretty little village but it clings to the side of the mountain which is a problem when storms bring massive amounts of water.
San Antonio Palopo was, in my opinion, the hardest hit of the villages around Lake Atitlan during Tropical Storm Agatha last summer and this familial artisan group suffered horrendous tragedies from the storm. There were 6 family members that died during the storm and within the extended family they lost 8 of their homes due to the mudslides.
We visited with Cristina, who had lost her 6 yr old son, her brother and his wife and their 3 daughters during the mudslides along with all of their homes. The grandfather and grandmother also lost their home and have only a little lean-to to live in at present. Both of Cristina’s sisters lost their homes too!
If, after more conversation and studies, we decide to work with this group, it will be a while before they can begin producing because all their weavings and looms and their other handcrafts were lost in the mudslides too. They just completely lost everything!
It was so very hard for us to grasp the massive tragedy for this family artisan group and how they are coping. They need a lot of help to get back on their feet with their weaving business but also time to heal and grieve from the losses.
We spent several hours with this group today and will meet with them again on the weekend to help them understand how our organization works with artisans and also to get to know each other. Our work is based on mutual trust and relationships that continue and grow for the artisans as well as our organization and we must have a firm foundation with all information shared to begin to work with them.
We will present the information at the next Board meeting and make decisions then but definitely this group is in desperate need of help.
Be sure to read and learn about Fair Trade on our website and see how we work with our artisan groups.