These past days and weeks, I think we can all agree, have been a roller coaster, acknowledging the reality and how to deal with it, while trying to keep the positive vibes and finding opportunities (or keep creating them) all at the same time.
Our plans keep changing by the day; some things stop or come to an end while new things begin or are transformed.
This week I had planned to write to you about our new sewing center. As the week went by the task kept being postponed because the story didn’t seem relevant during this time. But as I said before, as the days passed, the plans kept changing – and the story about the sewing center completely changed and became the one that gave us hope.
Our sewing center was created in alliance with Rotarians. It was inaugurated last month, and we were ecstatic about it. We still are. Because for us this sewing center is a door for new opportunities for Wakami women. It is a place where women can come to learn new skills that can then be transformed into new sources of income.
The sewing center started with a space that had sewing machines, a cutting and pattern-making table, an iron, basic tools, and fabrics, all this donated by the Rotarians. A few weeks later the sewing center really came to life, when Kendall, a Wakami team member, along with Laura, the pattern maker and teacher, put together a training program and the women came to learn.
Laura started teaching and the women started learning and suddenly an order came in. Wakami needed packaging bags.
In Wakami, we had made the decision to change our packaging to one that was more sustainable and could be made with leftover fabric. When we designed this packaging the sewing center was just an idea. But when it opened, and Kendall told us how quickly the women were learning and creating, the connection became obvious, it was the perfect place for our new packaging to be made.
The center had just finished their first order when we heard the news that Guatemala had the first Coronavirus case and everything had to close; the whole country was going to be in quarantine.
Wakami had to close.
The sewing center as well had to close.
We knew that our priority was to take care of our team and our artisans. At this moment, we had two forces pulling against each other. One was to protect our artisans and our team and keep them healthy, and at the same time do what we could to provide them with a source of income.
To keep our women and team safe and informed we decided to make kits that contain masks, soap and a sanitary guideline document. Our first plan was that we would purchase the items to put into these kits, and we had planned to distribute the kits to our artisans.
We soon realized that the masks we could buy were super expensive – and very hard to get also. It was then we realized that making the masks in the sewing center could be the tool to protect our artisans and at the same time create a new source of income.
The sewing center had to be closed but Laura, along with other women, started making the masks at home with the fabrics the Rotarians donated. The space wasn’t being used, but all the skills that the women learned there, along with all the tools, were. Just as Isa mentioned in her previous post, we realized that the concept of community has nothing to do with location, but it’s about being there for each other, as a safety net.
It was definitely our story of hope.
During this time, we are grateful to all our partners that keep supporting us and the Wakami women and give us the tools to keep finding and creating new opportunities.
We definitely couldn’t be doing this with all your help. I invite you to share this story with the hashtag #Masks4All to help us spread the word. You can also purchase masks which will be donated to families in rural Guatemala (and you’ll get a tax letter) – here: DONATE NON-MEDICAL MASKS.