Guatemala is one of the most beautiful places we've visited and with its tropical rainforests, beaches, volcanoes, valleys and warm climate it's the perfect place to grow coffee, fruits, sugar and vegetables.
But in contracts to its beauty, especially Guatemalas Western Highlands have one of the most extreme mixes of systemic poverty, illiteracy and inequality in the hemisphere. Ever since the Spanish conquest in the 1500s, the indigenous Maya people have been excluded from sharing the benefits of the country’s economic growth, resulting in poverty, malnutrition, poor health outcomes, high rates of illiteracy, and low levels of educational attainment. Today 74% of indigenous Guatemalans live in poverty, 90% of kids in poverty never graduate from high school and 33% of indigenous adults cannot read or write.
Education is in theory compulsory and public schools do exist, but school access is a harsh reality for many indigenous children and families. The majority of Maya do not have access to affordable, quality education and to aggravate the problem, schools in rural areas of Guatemala do not have the knowledge and resources to facilitate learning, resulting in illiteracy and high dropout rates. Shockingly, only 55% of every child in Guatemala will complete the 6th grade and only 18% will complete High School and the cycle of poverty continues.
A lack of institutional support to invest in basic education or more advanced business skills for women, in particular indigenous women, has significantly contributed to the high levels of poverty amongst these women in the rural areas of Guatemala and many of the artisans we partner with did not have the opportunity to receive a formal education when they were young.
At Collective-Stories, we are dedicated to break cycles of poverty and improve the future for our artisan partners and their families, through traditional craft practices. Our mission is to create sustainable employment opportunities to foster rural economic development within the artisans local communities.
To generate real social impact for the artisans we partner with in Guatemala, we work with a local nonprofit social enterprise who provide the artisans and the cooperatives with the necessary training to build self-sufficiency via classes such as literacy workshops, basic business training, education on female empowerment, women's health education and natural medicine education and much more.
Our partnership with a local world fair trade organisation in Guatemala means that with each order we contribute to the education and well-being of the artisans. Besides education, health is another essential factor for increased well-being and quality of life, which is fostered via different initiatives aimed to increase health education.
Via these initiatives, the Nahualá Cooperative has for example established a functioning community medicinal plant garden and learned the basic characteristics of medicinal plants. They can now identify the different medicinal plants in their garden and have learned how to prepare these plants as teas that treat colds, and what medicinal dosages for people of different ages are. Recently the artisans have received solar dryers for their medicinal gardens, which help dry the organic medicinal plants faster so they can be used not only for medicinal purposes, but to create natural products like balms and soaps.
At Collective-Stories, we understand that when we invest in one woman, we are investing in a generation. The artisans we partner with in Guatemala are mothers and wives, and they manage their households as well as their family’s crops. Our partnerships with the artisans has to be beneficial to all parties, which it is so important for us to work with a local non-profit organisation in Guatemala who understands and know how to improve the livelihoods of the artisans. In short, the artisans are amazingly capable and strong and we feel lucky to benefit from their craft expertise to create our homeware collection.