And I understand why. Donors and supporters want to know how we have helped artisans to change. How we have helped them progress and what we have to prove that we have done it well.
We do see progress and results. We see it everyday. Artisans make improvements to their homes. Jacobo Nororis from San Juan de Oriente recently put up a concrete wall to divvy off his own part of his house from where he was living with his aunt. He then upgraded from a dirt floor to a ceramic one and put in shelves to display his artwork. This is huge for a small artisan like Jacobo.
And there are other changes as well. Artisans make investments in their businesses. They learn to better promote themselves by making a catalog, or getting business cards. They learn how to calculate a fair wage for their work.
But sometimes the progress is in the things that don’t change.
In a place like Nicaragua there are so many things that change on a daily basis. People are accustomed to losing things, not having things that were there one day and then not the next.
• Electricity (Depending on where you live the electricity can go out for up to 8 hours a day)
• Cost of food (The price of food has been increasing almost on a weekly basis)
• Water (In many barrios the water comes on only between 12am and 5am, then goes out for the rest of the day)
• Reliable transportation (you don’t know if your bus to work will pass by, when or if it will break down on the way)
When you live in a world where almost nothing can be taken for granted, having things stay the same is a gift in itself.
A large part of our work in Nicaragua is helping artisans to maintain their work as small artisans and to create more sustainable businesses. Helping them to stay in their homes, in their communities and with their families. And it’s not only about helping them to stay there; it’s about helping them to thrive there.
So that’s what we focus on. We work to empower artisans, to give them the tools to better manage their businesses to make them sustainable. To help them stay the same.
This means that artisans like Isabel Betanco can continue to use her hands to make clay beads. She pinches off a small piece of clay, rolls it between her fingers and places it next to the others waiting to be fired. She lovingly decorates each one, giving them different designs and textures and then strings them together to make earrings, necklaces and bracelets.
Isabel has lived many changes in her life. She used to travel to Costa Rica six months out of every year, leaving her beads, her husband and her children behind, to work as a housekeeper in some else’s home.
Now, thanks to her partnership with Esperanza en Acción she hasn’t had to go to Costa Rica for more than a year and a half. What a blessing to have things stay the same.
So sometimes, I think we need to look at development not only as changes, but we need to also measure progress by what stays the same.