The end of the year is quickly approaching. Here at Esperanza en Accion, we’ve been working tirelessly the past few weeks to package and ship orders out in time for Christmas. And our artisans have been hard at work too, making beautiful, handcrafted products that we are all proud to sell.
But with the end of the year so close, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about 2014—about all we’ve accomplished in this past year. We’ve held trainings on fair pricing and Fair Trade, we’ve continued to work with our artisans to find new markets for their products, and we’ve started working with a number of new artisans too. And I’ve been thinking about how much more we want to accomplish next year, how many more wonderful artisans there are that would benefit from the trainings we provide.
By giving a recurring gift of $15 each month this year, you will make it possible for us to offer another training each month and support more artisans in the process.
One of our newest artisans is a woman named Evelin Guido, and we are so excited to have her in our community. Evelin learned the art of jewelry making through her job at a costume jewelry manufacturer here in Managua. Earning enough money by working at the minimum wage job was tough, and Evelin spent many evenings and weekends working to make more jewelry using scraps and recycled paper to sell on her own. Even then, not able to tap into the markets, she was barely making ends meet.
When I first saw the jewelry that Evelin was making in her free time, I fell in love with it. The pieces are delicate and beautiful, and you would never know that they were made from recycled scraps. I knew they would be a hit. In talking with Evelin, I realized that she was selling the jewelry for far less than she should, as she wasn’t accounting for the time it had taken her to make it.
We’ve been working with Evelin for a few months now, and already I can see a change in her. At 24, she has only had a few years of formal schooling, and up until recently, attending university was just a distant dream. Now she’s making plans for it. She has faith that with the support from members like you at Esperanza en Accion, she can support her family and also save to go back to school.
Help us make more dreams come true by making a donation this holiday season. Your support will let us work with other artisans like Evelin—people who are looking for every opportunity to change their lives.
A gift of $15 each month will go a long way to support the dreams of so many people. Help us make these dreams a reality.
With love and warmth,
Esperanza en Accion
On December 21st 2013 Esperanza had a meeting with a representative of CASA CANADIENSE (Madeline Mendoza) and artisans representatives of each group benefiting from the educational project financed by CASA CANADIENSE. We had the meeting with the goal to provide tools to help artisans in communication and sales of their products. Some things we talked about that could benefit the artisans include:
1) Catalogs of their products
2) Electronic mail
3) Blog pages
Artisans received training and accompaniment for one year on topics such as:
These topics were provided to artisans with the aim of empowering them in their businesses. Artisans now have more tools to control their small businesses, they can also make their own decisions about their businesses...
Our artisans now have more tools and combined knowledge of craft skills to better handle their businesses.
To the family of Esperanza en Accion the meeting was a huge success!!!
Groups that benefited from the educational project:
Hope in Action had this meeting in San Juan de Oriente as it is a tourist destination and the artisans there do very well and sell lots of product. We wanted our artisans to observe the practices and strategies of well-developed businesses so they can put those practices to work in their own business models.
Recently we had a group of students from Portland State University visit our shop in Managua. After we welcomed the ten students to Esperanza en Acción we talked about the work that we do, our connection with artisans, the importance of fair price, and our partners in the international fair trade market. We also took the students to meet directly with a few of our artisans, where they were able to hear their stories and see them work first hand. We hope that through these experiences the students gain a greater understanding of the work the artisans put into their products and the difficulties they face in getting their products to consumers. This is one of the reasons why the connection between artisans and Esperanza en Acción is key. Esperanza en Acción spent the week working with five students in a variety of capacities. Together we met with an organization in hopes of expanding our current partnerships. Esperanza en Acción worked directly with students in creating additional marketing materials, such as brochures and banners. The students have also assisted with updating our website and creating social media connections.
Working with students from Portland State University has been a good experience that has helped us increase our current knowledge and uses of technology with social media. We will continue to utilize these tools to manage the organization.
Thank you to our partner, Portland State University.
Here are the students listening to the Board of Director member and Portland State University professor Dr. White talk about the importance of fair trade and artisan crafts. Yamileth Perez, Director of the Artisan Program is to the left of the Professor.
The students also had the pleasure of giving a presentation to the General Director, Samuel Reyes, of Rainbow Network organization in hopes of expanding our current partnerships.
Learning in Nicaragua, Part 2
This summer, students from Portland State University traveled to Nicaragua. The group spent a day with Yamileth Perez, Esperanza en Accion's Director of Programs in Nicaragua, learning about Esperanza en Accion and visiting communities. Kelly Sellers wrote the following piece about her experience.
A Week with Esperanza en Acción: Observations & Implications
By Kelly Sellers
As an American community development student from Portland State University, spending a week with Esperanza en Acción was an incredible opportunity. Shadowing director Yamileth Perez through her daily activities shed light on the sheer amount of work that goes into supporting local artisans in Nicaragua. Perez´s strong, supportive relationships with these artisans help support economic capacity and cultural preservation within Nicaragua. Visits to traditional markets, which cater to tourists, and artisan homes highlighted stark differences in quality, price, and treatment of local artisans.
At first glance, traditional markets in Managua, Masaya, and Granada seem to actively support a diversity of artisan wares. Through working with Perez, the actual reality of these markets became much clearer. Focused mostly on pottery, Perez pointed out the lessened quality of many of these vases, bowls, and other crafts. Uneven paint, inconsistent carving, and fingerprints were just some of the flaws in these pieces. After meeting artisans in their homes, the contrast in design creativity and execution became very apparent. Local artisans spoke about the originality of their designs, stating that artisans are not supposed to copy each other’s artwork. Learning about the process from start to finish also exposed other problems with the durability of many pieces sold in the traditional markets.
Solidarity for an Artisan in Need
The Esperanza en Acción staff organized a fundraiser earlier this month for Aura Lila Hernandez Linarte, one of our sister artisans who is struggling with cancer. Pieces donated by other artisans raised over 2,000 Cordobas and an additional 3,000 Cordobas came from Esperanza pieces. Aura Lila is currently undergoing chemotherapy and the US$200 from the fundraiser will help support her during this difficult time.
Check out pictures from the fundraising event below!
Learning in Nicaragua, Part 1
This summer, students from Portland State University traveled to Nicaragua. The group spent a day with Yamileth Perez, Esperanza en Accion's Director of Programs in Nicaragua, learning about Esperanza en Accion and visiting communities. Andrea Wilson, one of the students, went back to Nicaragua at the end of the school program and volunteered with us for one week. She wrote the following piece about her experience.
A Week with Esperanza en Acción
By Andrea Wilson
Human connection has the power to inspire each of us to change how we interact with and affect the world around us. That’s why for Yamileth Perez and Esperanza en Acción, supporting artisans in Nicaragua doesn’t only mean building their capacity to obtain better prices and broader markets for their goods. It includes forging human connections between Nicaraguan artisans and foreign students.
This summer, four students of Community Development at Portland State University learned about Esperanza en Acción’s work and ceramic artists they aid by shadowing director Yamileth Perez in her work.
Students got to meet artisans in their homes, make friends, learn about the pottery making process, and, as Yamileth says, “Hear the voice of the artisans” supported by Esperanza en Acción. The organization has helped small artisan businesses increase their income and sustainability, by providing training in business management, teaching them to ask a fair price and what that means, and connecting them to broader markets through student trips like that of Portland State, and through the shop in Managua where Esperanza en Acción sells art at no cost to artisans.
Experiencing Fair Trade
Paul Spacek attended Esperanza en Accion's first official Fair Trade delegation in June of 2012. The following article are his thoughts about the experience and how the work of Esperanza en Accion fits into the larger fair trade movement.
Comercio justo. Fair trade. What comes to mind when you read those words? A bag of coffee at your local health foods store with the picture of a smiling brown child, a llama wool hat sold at a table at a food festival, a collection of decorative pots on sale after your church service; all of which cost slightly more than what you’d normally pay but cause you to say “oh well, I guess it’s going to a good cause”. Sure, but what does it really mean?
I was contemplating these questions myself when I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua with Esperanza en Accion. As a Spanish major in college with a background in economics I figured that this trip would be a good way to gain an on the ground perspective of the economic and cultural climate of Latin America with plenty of opportunities to connect deeply with the people and surroundings. Whatever expectations I may have had were quickly blown out of the water.
While I have had a positive experience traveling as part of a tour group in the past, I have often returned to the States with the feeling that I perhaps missed out on having a “genuine” experience by visiting mostly tourist locations, and having the majority of my experiences carefully planned and managed. Traveling with Esperanza en Accion provided the exact balance that I was looking for. During our short time we covered a lot of ground, visiting a variety of locations both within Managua and around the country, meeting many different artists, while including information on history and contemporary culture in order to provide a contextual backdrop to our experiences.
I cherished the opportunity to meet and converse with many different Nicaraguans. By entering into their homes and hearing their stories directly gave me a more authentic view into the daily lives and concerns of Nicaraguans. I was able to ask questions, share experiences, and make real connections with the people that we met. I also truly enjoyed the travel time between locations, both within Managua and through the rural areas. Riding in the back of our truck I was able to contemplate the conversations and experiences we had had while soaking in the vibrant city life and tranquil sweeping country sides.
So to return to my question of Fair Trade, how were my impressions changed by this trip? I felt as though Esperanza en Accion is part of a larger group of non-profit, innovative groups that is finding ways to do things right in the midst of so much that is being done wrong. Despite the economic, environmental and political problems which are in large part a result of the tumultuous and violent historical past, Nicaragua possesses vast potential for future growth. Fair Trade in general, and Esperanza en Accion specifically, is focused on reversing the prevailing culture of deference and dependence, encouraging people to take charge, become organized, and provide for themselves. By promoting collective action, offering education courses, and providing micro loans and saving plans, Esperanza en Accion better prepared the artisans with whom they worked to produce products that will be of higher quality and competitive in a larger market.
In a country where work is difficult to find, and people often struggle to provide for their family, fair trade provides an empowering alternative for people to use their creativity and artistry to grow their businesses and support their families. By meeting the people whose lives have been positively impacted through fair trade, I gained a better understandings of the potential which fair trade offers as an instrument for positive growth in under developed countries, as well as the role in that development that those in the first world can play as responsible consumers.
Will You Join Me?
In January, I traveled to Nicaragua to spend time with the small, energetic staff of Esperanza en Acción. It was a terrific opportunity to watch them in action. I was invited to join Emily, Yamileth and Michelle as they visited artisans in several small towns and villages and watched as they worked with each artist in an effort to build a trusting relationship in which strengths, weaknesses and new opportunities could be explored.
During our travels I listened as artists told me their life stories of hard work and hardship. With pride they explained how, with the help of Esperanza, they have found new markets for their art, received fair compensation for their work and reinvested in their small businesses by buying better materials and equipment.
I saw firsthand the daunting job that the staff of Esperanza en Acción has to do.
Often, there aren't enough hours in the day to attend to important tasks. Fortunately, the burden was eased with the addition of Michelle Gubbels to the staff. Michelle's temporary position was made possible through a small grant.
During her time with Esperanza she has made a big difference in promoting artisan work by creating a wholesale catalog for artisan goods.
I witnessed the difference that one person can make in the life of our artisans and the mission of Esperanza. The results are tangible.
To make this position permanent, Esperanza needs steady financial support from all of us. You and I included.
With this in mind, I have made a commitment to support Esperanza by making an automatic monthly donation through Network for Good, a well respected online donation service.
My time with the staff of Esperanza has given me a greater appreciation of the vital work they do and how greatly their efforts are needed. I am gratified to know that my steady financial support is truly changing lives in many exciting ways.
Please join me in supporting the life changing mission of Esperanza en Acción and the desperate need for keeping Michelle on the staff with a monthly donation. Visit our website at www.esperanzaenaccion.org to sign-up.
Nancy Escue, EEA Board of Directors