A Week with Esperanza en Acción
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.
Another thing students learned is that when artisans sell to middlemen in the traditional market, their buyers often require them not to sign their work. As PSU student Kelly Sellers put it, one of the greatest problems this poses is that “With no name to go off of, tourists are unable to contact the artisan directly, and are largely unaware of their personal stories or struggles.”
On the other hand, Kelly observed, Esperanza en Acción’s work to “promote fair trade, direct-sale relationships with local artisans translates to an increased quality of life for many rural Nicaraguans. For American students and tourists, learning about these relationships increases their awareness of the connections between price, quality, and treatment of workers. By bringing student groups directly to artisan homes, students get the chance to introduce themselves and connect with local artisans.”
Esperanza en Acción’s work to educate foreign students facilitates communication, cultural exchange, and connections between Nicaraguan artisans and their consumers, helping Americans make more educated and just decisions about where and how to spend their money. The real and lasting, educational connections Esperanza en Acción facilitates greatly expand the impact of their local work.