“Más Pedidos, por favor.” That was the simple refrain from many of the women who make the beautiful and unique handicrafts that we sell at farmer’s markets, craft sales and on our Beyond Beads website. This simple experience brought home to me an important part of our mission statement – helping people to help themselves. “Más pedidos, por favor” translates to “more orders please.” These women were not looking for a hand-out, they were looking for more work!
“From the Field” posts don’t often have my byline, but I’ve been fortunate to spend the past 10 days in Guatemala, working with our team and visiting some of our projects and partners first-hand.
On Monday we visited Delores and Maria, two sisters who have not ever attended school, speak only their indigenous language of Tz’utujil, and who rely on our orders to help support their family of 8. They were very appreciative for the work we are giving them, but wanted more orders.
We learned that the women who do the bead work in our program enjoy slightly higher wages and on-time payment for their work. But it is still difficult for them to afford even the basics of daily living. In our efforts of going beyond fair trade, we are surveying their needs and will provide a 10-year water filter for those who now must boil their water in order to make it potable. This filter ensures that the entire family stays healthier by not drinking contaminated water. We are also investigating doing nutrition and healthy home workshops and providing other tangible items to improve their quality of life.
Field work is so important because it helps me understand the realities of each situation.
My first reaction to learning that the women could not afford a water filter was that we should simply pay them more. From our North American perspective, that may make sense, but it is not that easy. The local coordinator explained that this would upset the bead-work economy which is built on much more than our orders. Also that paying more might mean people would buy a water filter – or it might mean they would buy more Pepsi and junk food, which seems to find it’s way into even the most remote villages. Being uneducated, many women don’t even know that giving soda to a baby is unhealthy! So our holistic approach of providing support for healthy homes with water filters and nutrition education will be much more beneficial in the long run. And of course this should be coupled with “más pedidos” so they can have financial stability as well.