Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Classes, bespoke orders and Toronto´s own Bob Geldolf. This last week has been fairly hectic, but more for me and Luisa preparing things for the women than for the women in terms of their production rate.
As we really need to sell before we an keep giving lots of beads away and paying for their work, and as it will take a month for the people who have offered to have the merchandise in their shops to make any sales and to collect profits, we have been have had to cut the work a bit for the women. We have been honest with them about it, and as we keep them informed about everything that has been happening they have been fine that the work is cut a bit. They are also excited with developments such a Penny´s big order, Tomoko´s phone charms and feedback fporm the stores and hotels. They are so grateful and have thanked me for going to Antigua to sell the beads etc. I kind of felt a bit unworthy of their thanks. I felt that they should be thanking you for allowing me to be here and paying the bus fare, as I always have fun on the buses and it doesn´t feel like work when you have to wander around a beautiful city like Antigua.
So as we knew that it was going to take us a long time to organise the beads for Penny´s order, we didn´t give them any beads last week. We offered them instead a class to learn a new style, on the understanding that those who came would recieve some beads. Maria and Juana were to teach the class. We thought that only offering beads to people who came might increase attendance, but we were overwhelmed when 32 women turned up!!! They seemed to enjoy the chance to be together and talk as they learnt. I guess they do not have much opportunity to socailise outside family and church, and especially not as groups of just women. They also enjoyed the fact that Luisa and I made them coffee, and brought it to them. Again they must be so used to doing everything for themselves that to even have a cuppa brought to them is something special. As they learnt their children hung around an played with each other. The older ones (who would be 6) are fantastic at looking after their siblings, and there are none of the disputes that you would have at home, so the ladies were able to get on happily in peace, only stopping every now and agin to breastfeed their youngest ones). Linda, who is an American psychologist who volunteers in the special school in the morning also joined in much to their amusement. They were really very kind to her, and she enjoyed spending the time with them too. Anyway she had fun and may pay Maria who was her teacher for a private class another time. This might be another money spinner for them..... I wanted to join in too, but with 32 women who clearly arrived over a period of 2 hours, not at 3pm as requested it was impossible for me to take part. Maybe next time, although the keyrings look hard!!
So the rest of the week was spent trying to source the colours that are required for Penny´s order. Penny´s order is of over 100 styles of bracelets, in a plethera of colours. About a third need to be made up slightly differenty or in different colours to the originals. We have only been able to get 2/3rds of the colours here, so the hunt goes on. But having found the colours, we then needed to match up similar colours of bracelets and weigh the beads and put them in packs to be given out to the groups of women, again taking their compentancies into consideration. I marked all the muestras with tape so that they do not get confused with the ones made by the women. You can imagine how time consuming this was as you have to weigh an ounce of beads for each colour combination. I think I have weighed 500 ounces this week using an old fashioned balance. It takes time! In fact it took three full days for me, three half days for Luisa and this enjoying Sebastian´s help too! Sebastian who is a disabled young man of 14. He suffers from musculuar dystrophy and was also affected by the diaster. He attends the centre in the afternoon and can also do some beadwork from his wheelchair and will attend the next class with the women as long as he is well. He has been helping weighing the materials and sticking labels as his way of saying thank you for the school bag I gave him to replace the one he lost in the mud. Actually I think he really enjoys being useful and being able to do this gives him self esteem. I guess it is OK to let him help as he goes to school in the morning and if he wasn´t helping he would be doing nothing, so maybe it counts as work experience? Anyway he is good at weighing the materials, and picking up the beads is really good exercise for his hands.
Anyway we finally ordered all the beads that Penny had given us, and made up the packs to give the women, and on Monday they came to pick up their materials. Funnily enough the women were quite critical of quality of some of the samples that Penny had left us (indeed I guess some of them must have been lft as samples because they were too poor to sell), and are determined to do better to hang onto her business. It is great to see them taking pride in her work. Lets hope they come up with the goods. We are going to have to be so strict with them next week. It´s a good job Luisa is there as she is much better at quality control than I am. Wejust need to source the other coloured beads now which is easier said than done.
On Thursday last week Lorenda my journalist friend came through again unexpectedly. She had met a fellow Canadian guy called Benny in Guatemala who was organising a benefit concert in Toronto in aid of Guatemalan orphans. He was coming down to shoot come film footage of Santiago to use between sets. Anyhow, Lorenda was doing a piece for Toronto local radio about his efforts, and so had another excuse to come down and see me. She learns a bit more about the beading project each time, and is getting hooked and is now trying to find someone who she can sell the stoy too. Maybe BBC world she thinks, but we´ll wait and see.
Anyway she told Benny about the beads and he thought it was great, and bopught a sizeable quantiy to resell at the concert. I had to speak for his film too and explain a little trhe ladies´work, and surprisingly I was quite coherent. I guess it is easier to speak for other people when you know it is impossible for them to get their voice heard than speaking for yourself. Does that make sense? Benny also has some ideas for places which might want to buy in Toronto, which is fab.
There seem to be soo many fab ideas and promising contacts, but we also need to sell right now! I´m not worried yet, but I may be soon! I have prepared a flier to put in the hospital, ADISA and the ADECCAP projects, and hopefully for some hotels. The only problem now is getting decent print outs! Everything is harder here than at home where i could count on professional colour print outs from the school colour photocopier. I don´t think anywhere outside the capital will have as good facilities as Monkseaton High!
Anyhow Lorenda stayed with me in Panajachel on Thursday and we had supper and a few 3 cuba libres to wind down as I had to be at Los Encuentros on the main highway from Xela to Guate at 6:30am, which is impossible from Santiago. Lucy my Oxfam friend has a friend at home called Charlie Taylor who happens to be a jewllery designer. She has kindly offered to design a line for the ladies, and to help with sales and marketing at home. So we needed to get her some samples. Lucy happened to meet a friend of hers working for an organisation called Health Unlimited who was heading bck to the UK and who very kindly offered to take them to London for us, I just had to be on the main road as they drove past. Aren´t people kind?
I decided to tie in this early start with dropping off the beads at the shops in Antigua, looking for the other colours in Chimaltenango before going to visit Lorenda in Xela as planned for the weekend. Let me tell you that is a LOT of chicken bus- approximately 8 hours. Unfortunately I didn´t manged to find anywhere with the colours we needed in Chimaltenango, but in Xela we managed to get a few odds and ends, but I suspect because they are old colours which they haven´t sold up there as the demand is not as big as near the lake, which doesn´t bode well for finding the remaining colours anywhere. Maybe we´ll be lucky in the capital next week.
The weekend was great fun with Lorenda, the highlight being my first ever Pollo Campero experience, Guatemala´s premier fast food outlet. I felt just like I did when I was an 9 year old kid and was taken to McDonalds for the first time- before I could know any better I add hastily. Hopefully Pollo Campero is more ethical than those of the Golden Arches, but either way it was fun, and our neighbours at the table Janette and Victor (who can be found at the Bendicion de Dios gas station when not eating chicken) were very amused that it was my first campero comida and by Lorenda´s and mine combined excitement!.
So in the mean time orrders have been coming in coming in- all 30 Barbie Bags (see below-as modelled at the top of the page by our wheelchair bound Barbie) are ready for Judy and some phone charms have been arriving, although phone charms and key rings are the focus after Penny´s order when the classes will be on a key ring theme.
Also Luisa put together a prototype fot the mobile phone holder. I think it could be great- wejust need to sort out the strap and maybe include a prettier embroidery. The women are saving the bits of the materials they cut out of their weaving to make the neck hole to make these holders to save cost on materials.
I have also been helping the Catholic School with a fundraising bid. It is all a bit strange but apparently their funding has been withdrawn with only a week´s notice. It all smacks of some misunderstanding to me, but they are applying for other funds hence the translations. Well translations which needed to be totally written in Spanish before English as they were not good and would have had not chance of getting the funds! All good experience though in terms of something linked to education. Maybe I can help them build on this too to get more educational development experience. It was also an interesting insight into the level of education of people here. Even the bishop´s letter was very poor and he had gothis facts wrong too. I was quite happy to help but there were times yesterday when it was a but frustrating-when for instance they told me that they had changed the documents that I had translated three weeks ago and I had to tell them that you don´t ask people who are working for free to do a job twice..... I think the message got through. I just hope that the kids don´t lose out as if they are unable to pay the teachers the likelihood of these kids getting an education this year and of returning to their sudies next year is extremely low.
So when I got up this morning I wondered why I was feeling so tired, but having read what I did last week I guess it is not really surprising. At least today is a quiet day.