What Would You Do with Opportunity?

Did you ever watch a game show on TV and imagine what you would do if you won a lot of money? Winning the showcase on Price is Right? Or being a Jeopardy champion? Or spinning the Wheel of Fortune and being the big winner of the day? Or what about having the winning lottery numbers on the ticket you bought last night? What opportunities that would bring, right?

I have a friend who imagines using her lottery winnings (if she would win) to buy a city block to create a thriving mini-village with community gardens, shared child care, transportation options, and handy-people to help with home repairs. She dreams big, doesn’t she?

In Guatemala, the people who work with Wakami also dream big – but they don’t imagine buying city blocks. They dream of having a bigger house – which, for some, simply means having a separate bedroom than what Americans call the “living room.” (Santos did that, as we shared in an earlier post.) Others dream of having consistent, nutritious food to feed their children and other family members. For many, a good education is the dream they work toward – for themselves or their children, as with Rocio, whose story was also in an earlier post.

While in some lives, opportunity means BIG things, for others it simply means breaking the cycle of poverty. Opportunity to be able to keep food cold. Opportunity to have a separate bedroom in the house. Opportunity to go to school. Opportunity to not have to go straight to work as soon as one is old enough. Opportunity to buy medicine when it is needed.

My dream is all of their dreams. And I have learned that every dream is a big dream. What changes one life may not be the same thing that changes another life, but all dreams like these are life-changing.

When you can turn the cycle of poverty into a cycle of prosperity, the dreams are coming true.

What I see when I visit the villages and meet with the Wakami business leaders and their groups is so different now than what it used to be.

Strength + Opportunity = Change.
A community comes together.

When I go to a village for the first time, I see poverty. I see people with dull eyes who feel like they have no hope because there is little opportunity. For these people, I know that winning a game show or a lottery is not in their dreams. There are sick children, and parents who must choose between buying medicine and buying food with the few coins they have. There are young people, girls and boys, who cannot even imagine what it would be like to graduate from high school, and certainly can’t imagine going to college and earning a degree. Their destiny, at that moment, is to marry young, have families, and, while women tend the house and the children, men work the land as best they can.

Yes, when I first travel to the villages I see poverty, but I also know there are dormant dreams and hidden talents simply in need of an opportunity to come to life. We see poverty, but we do not see poor people – we see people with limited opportunities. Perhaps you see that as a tiny difference, but for us, it is so very important. We look at the circumstances and how they could be changed, and we work together with the people to transform poverty into prosperity.

When we share the Wakami business model – where we incubate businesses and continue to work with the people to strengthen their businesses, where we design and open markets for products that, with their skills, they can make – their eyes change right then. “This, we can do!” they tell me. And we begin.

They create their own group – their own business – of weaving bracelets, creating earrings, dyeing fabrics for clothing, or whatever is best for them – and Wakami works with them to offer their work to the world. Business leaders, like Santos and Marla, Rocio’s mother, emerge to head the groups. They learn about design from Lis and Ana, and learn to mix global trends with ancestral techniques.

And their dreams start coming true. As the women have their own earnings, they can do things that they never thought possible, like sending their children to school and even to college.

No matter where you are in life – in a big city with a big TV that you watch game shows on, or in a tiny rural village in Guatemala, dreams matter.

Opportunity lives in the dreams. Always.

Maria Pacheco