By SARAH MIERS, Spark Fellow
Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. The civil war in the 1980s devastated the county and the financial crisis in 1998 crippled its projected economic recovery. Today, the country is still facing serious development challenges:
- 51% of Guatemalans live on less than $2 a day and 15% of the population lives on only $1 a day.
- Guatemala is reported to have the most unequal income distribution in the hemisphere.
- Its social development indicators, including chronic malnutrition, illiteracy and infant mortality, are some of the worst in the Americas.
I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala last summer in the highlands near Quetzaltenango and Lake Atitlán and was greatly affected by the reality of these challenges.
Indigenous rural communities are particularly impacted by poverty and malnutrition. Many of these communities create beautiful textiles and artisanal crafts, but they do not have access to markets or resources to insure consistent income from these goods.
I am therefore very excited about Spark’s newest grantee The Chuacruz Women’s Weaving Cooperative, as it will work to support women weavers in the village of Chuacruz and help them generate sustained income.
The grant will provide the following:
- Foot-pedal Loom: The women in this community are back-strap weavers, a time-intensive weaving method that makes it impossible for them to create and sell enough textiles to support their families. Spark’s grant will supply a traditional foot-pedal loom and foot-pedal loom classes to increase their skill set and production capacity.
- Business Classes: Additionally, Spark’s grant will provide a 12-week Business and Design Curriculum to teach these women business skills that will help them turn their unique weaving into a sustained income.
- Microbarter Loan: After the women are successfully using the foot-pedal loom and have completed their business training, our grant will provide the community with microbarter loans to start a business. This unique opportunity allows the women to pay back their interest-free loan by selling their goods in the US market. Our grantmaking partner Nest will assist the consistency of these sales by connecting them with a vast network of designers and distributors here in the US.
We are so excited about the success that our grantmaking partner Nest has had in other Mayan communities in Guatemala and this opportunity to support this community in Chuacruz that we have decided to feature this new grantee for our upcoming Cocktails for a Cause event.
Please join us at Spark’s Cocktails for a Cause event on April 20, 2011 to help raise funds for the women weavers in Chuacruz.