When you meet Angelina, her deep-seated strength is at first hidden behind her quiet voice and calm demeanor. Since the beginning of the global pandemic, however, she has been able to support herself and her children with great determination during these difficult months. By selling her products through our online store at Handmade by Friendship Bridge, she has continued paying her microloans on time and recently purchased monthly data plans so that her children can continue their education online. We spoke with Angelina yesterday to get to know her better and understand how she is adapting during this time.
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Angelina, tell us a bit about your childhood:
I was born in Chaquijya, Solola in 1985. My mom raised my 2 brothers, 2 sisters, and me. She received the support of my grandmother who took care of us while my mom worked on the fields. She worked farming celery and lettuce, packing vegetables and sending them to bigger cities. I did not get to meet my father as he separated from my mom when I was a newborn. Overall, I had a loving mother and grandmother who made a lot of sacrifices for us. I was able to study until sixth grade.
How did you learn to work with beads?
I learned how to make beaded bracelets when I was 8 years old. I wanted to support my mom financially. Learning how to bead allowed me to bring in some money and stay at home. She did not allow me to work outside of our house. I learned how to make beaded bags when I was 12 years old. I like creating jewelry, especially necklaces and bracelets.
How did you learn to create your beautiful handmade baskets?
My grandmother taught me how to create baskets and embroider them. When I was growing up, she spent her afternoons creating baskets to support our family. My grandfather passed away before I was born – and the creation of these baskets supported her financially for many years. I now buy baskets from neighbors and embroider them.
When did you get married and how many children do you have?
I married when I was 20-years-old. Emilio, my husband, and I met when I was working in Guatemala city. When I turned 16, I moved to the capital to find work and support my family. I was working as a clerk in a neighborhood convenience store. We are both from the same area, so we develop a friendship. I have three children (two girls and one boy), my oldest daughter studies at Maia Impact School. She is currently in 7th grade, and my other two kids are in a public school close to home.
How does your husband feel about your small business?
He likes it when I stay at home and work from here. I have a little convenience store and my handmade business. He supports me, but I find it hard to convince him to let me go for the artisan training. Lately, he has seen how much it has helped our financial situation, so I hope he will let me go for the coming year.
What are your dreams for your children?
I want them to have a professional career. I will put on the hard work to make sure my children graduate from university and have the opportunity I did not have. My youngest daughter, Heyday, just started first grade. Bryan is in third grade and Jennifer received a great opportunity at The MAIA Impact School. I know it is a long road. My husband does not support this idea of my children focusing only on school. But I am willing to support them financially until they reach their dreams.
How did Friendship Bridge come into your life?
My neighbor talked to me about Friendship Bridge and their Trust Bank, Tablon Central. She introduced me to the rest of the members. I am very happy with my Trust Bank. We support each other and my group members are on time with their payments. I joined in 2008. My first loan was Q1000 ($130 USD), now I manage a loan of Q10,000 ($1,300 USD). Currently, I am the president of our Trust Bank.
How has your life been impacted by Handmade by Friendship Bridge?
I joined Handmade by Friendship Bridge in 2018. I was invited to participate in the advanced artisan trainings and I liked the topics we learned. I have been using this knowledge for the orders I create. I am happy when I receive orders and develop new jewelry pieces. I have also been developing new designs for my baskets like flowers and words. I have met many new friends, women like me that are working hard to learn new things and put them into practice.
What was your favorite part of the artisan training?
I liked it when we learned how to take photos of our products and all the tricks to make our products shine. I also like costing because I realized how much I am profiting. One of my favorite experiences was the fairs and traveling with all of us together to Antigua Guatemala. I met another business in the fair that I have been working with during these past months.
How is COVID19 affecting your business?
I was working on an order for a company and it got canceled right away when COVID19 started in Guatemala. The neighbors also stopped going outside. The sales of my small convenience store decreased a lot. To expand, I started selling vegetables and fruits, as many neighbors were not able to travel to Solola’s market. I received orders from you and another business. I also learned how to create fabric carpets; I am working on developing new samples in this category.
What are your dreams for your business?
I would like to create new carpet designs and better the quality of my products. I also want to finish paying my loan and expand both my businesses. I dream of having a bigger convenience store and also receive many orders for my necklaces and baskets. I want to meet new international buyers that will help me expand my business. Thanks to you, I now know that my work is valued and respected in the whole world.
Our ‘Here for Her’ email series was developed in early 2020 in an effort to keep our supporters connected to our artisan clients at the height of the global pandemic. We hope this series gives you the chance to learn more about the women we serve in Guatemala and the many ways their lives are impacted by our programs and services.
Handmade by Friendship Bridge (formerly the Artisan Market Access Program) provides artists and artisans with trainings designed to ready them to access new markets – in particular, the global market. Trainings focus on topics such as quality of raw materials, buyer expectations, and tastes and preferences of the North American market. Clients are also trained about product pricing to ensure they receive a fair wage for their work. Learn more