Kiej do los Bosques
"We dream of an ideal world -- one where everyone lives in harmony, where diversity is celebrated, and where rights and responsibilities are treasured. These aspirations encourage us to find solutions in which prosperity and well-being are common to everyone." ~Maria Pacheco
Kiej de los Bosques, a fair trade enterprise founded by Cornell University graduate Maria Pacheco, collaborates with five rural artisan groups throughout Guatemala. A strong focus on community development, social entrepreneurship, and fair wages has vastly improved the lives of its eighty women artisans and their families.
Before they joined Kiej do los Bosques, these artisans had no market outlet for their work and no way to generate income. Most live in very small villages where there are no jobs, and many were forced to leave their children behind to take work in larger cities. For them, the income generated by Kiej do los Bosques is a dream come true, an opportunity to keep their families together and to send their children to school for the first time.
Located in the tiny village of San Lorenzo Pastores, Concepcion became Kiej do los Bosques's first artisan group in 2006. Economic opportunities were slim in the village then, and an important nutrition program was coming to an end -- jeopardizing the very health of the children. Local moms came together to find a solution, and Concepcion was born. The group has become very successful making and selling jewelry, and their families' lives have improved markedly. Inspired by their success and eager to apply their new business skills, Concepcion has opened a bakery and convenience store. "It has taken a lot of effort to start a business, but now, everybody in the village admires us," says group member Matilde. "We have been able to start something, that today is small, but in the future is going to be something really big. We know we still have to make a lot of sacrifices and work hard, but we are happy, because we can see the results everyday."
The Monte Redondo group resides in Guatemala's central area, about 20 km from Guatemala City. Despite their close proximity to a large urban area, the community was as isolated as any in the remotest jungle. Twenty women artisans now belong to the group, supplementing their husbands' meager incomes. Group leader Sandra Solares puts it this way: "Kiej do los Bosques is a dream come true for my community. I feel satisfied to be the bridge that makes it possible for women in my community to generate income; this not only makes them feel important, but also helps them provide a better life to their kids. For me, Kiej do los Bosques is the force that gives me the opportunity to keep studying my communication career at the university."
These artisans were trained under the former First Lady of Guatemala's "Creciendo Bien" project, a program that teaches jewelry-making skills to underprivileged women. The artisans had the skills to produce lovely pieces, but had no way to get their work to market. They became a Kiej do los Bosques group in 2006, producing some of the organization's earliest collections -- earning a substantial income for the first time. Now, Dona Adela, the leader of the group, conducts ongoing training workshops. Her attitude is an example of great leadership: "We are very excited because we have good benefits, that is why we enjoy producing so much, a little piece of our heart goes in every product: Because we feel happy to have a job!"