Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Noonday Collection Ambassador Trip: Guatemala 2016

It’s a Friday afternoon in Santiago, Guatemala—a small town with a large indigenous Mayan population on Lake Atitl├ín. I’m standing on a cleanly swept dirt floor around a long wooden table, watching a group of local women sit and sift through piles of beads before they string them into beautiful multicolored beaded cuffs. I’m here with eleven other Noonday Ambassadors, on a weeklong trip to visit four Artisan partner groups.

As I look back on our week in Guatemala, what I will be taking away from this experience are the people I got to meet and what I learned from them, especially from the leaders of our Artisan partner groups.

During our time with Ana, an amazing woman leader working in Santiago, I loved seeing the sense of pride she has in her work. She enjoys who she works with, laughing and learning alongside them. She is always trying to improve—from constructing a tin roof over their rear workspace to switching from a wood-burning fire to propane gas to heat their dye (which can be hazardous for their health and also enables them to produce more—and thus earn more). Ana is proud of the work she has created for her community and leads them well.

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On another day in the nearby town of San Juan La Laguna, we got to meet Cristobol, one of Noonday’s key Artisan partners in Guatemala. Cristobol has a passion for empowering others, despite the difficult circumstances he went through in his past. I was so moved by the way he has built a network of teams in his workshop—we met the eight women who each have their own team, allowing them to learn leadership skills, and they even share the various steps involved in the creation of each bracelet.

Because of the work they’ve received through Noonday, each of these eight women leaders in Cristobol’s team have been able to open their own personal bank account and he’s also currently training twenty-one additional women to have a trade and soon join his team. He’s looking out for his community and I walked away from our time together inspired to grow even more involved in my own home community.

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Finally, I loved meeting Rosario and her team. Rosario has a determination to pursue her dreams. She drives four hours one-way every weekend to attend university and is also putting her daughters through school right now. In a community where it’s often typical for a girl to only complete education through sixth grade, Rosario’s determination to see her children and all of her female Artisans complete their education was humbling and inspiring to witness. She said that Ambassador trips always bring her joy and peace. It was amazing to realize our connection was just as meaningful for both of us.

This trip was a beautiful picture of how no matter what your role is in life and in the world, you matter. Whether you’re a Noonday Artisan partner, Ambassador, Hostess or customer, every role is vital and dependent on each other. I am so thankful to now have that perspective.

Now when I see our pieces, I see more than jewelry—I see the faces behind them, and the stories they shared with us. Just as the women in Rosario’s workshop transformed individual glass beads into wearable works of art, I now feel an even stronger connection with the story of Noonday—all of our individual stories, of Artisans and Ambassadors, woven together across the world.