Dona, a lively, energetic woman, becomes solemn as she begins her story. Tears melt into her weathered face as she talks about her five children and abusive husband.
With very little income, her family lived in a makeshift cardboard shack on the streets in the Zona Roja. She was unable to work and was reliant on her alcoholic husband to bring home food for her family. On numerous occasions, she found herself lying awake at night, hungry because her husband never came home and fearful that once he did come home, she would have to take her children and flee to avoid his abuse.
One morning, Dona awoke to find her daughter sick and needing immediate medical attention. She had heard of a free clinic in the Zona Roja run by a non-profit called UPAVIM or “United for a Better Life,” and immediately set out on foot in search for help.
While waiting for her daughter at the clinic, Dona learned of a program at UPAVIM that employed women to produce fair trade crafts for the local and export markets. As the woman from UPAVIM rattled off all the services provided to the members of the cooperative, including childcare and education for their children, hope slowly started to flow through Dona’s tired and desperate heart. She knew that UPAVIM was her only escape.
After completing 32 hours of required volunteer service, Dona’s membership into UPAVIM was accepted. She started working for their crafts program and immediately her life began to change. With her new found income, Dona was able to free herself from her dependency on her violent and unreliable husband. She became the sole provider for her family and was able to break the cycle of hunger and abuse, which had plagued her children since birth. Today, in her sixties, Dona lives in a cinderblock house near the UPAVIM headquarters. Through her work, Dona has been able to provide her children with an education so that they may further their lives. One of her daughters has decided to follow in her footsteps and is being trained on craft production. Dona spends her free time helping Angela, UPAVIM’s craft director, maintain her rooftop garden.
She is proud of her accomplishments and even though it has been years since she lived on the streets, she still becomes emotional when she shares her story with others. I am inspired by Dona’s courage and determination.
She is just one of hundreds of thousands of Guatemalan women faced with the constant threats of poverty, domestic abuse and hunger. UPAVIM in partnership with World of Good, Inc. provides a way out of this cycle of poverty for thousands of women in Guatemala City.
Established in 1988, today the cooperative has nearly 70 members; their craft sales, soymilk production and newly developed internet center support a dental and medical clinic, pharmacy, as well as tutoring, alternative learning, day-care and nutrition centers, all on site. UPAVIM is an outstanding example of what a community can accomplish and is making sustainable and influential changes where Guatemala City needs it most.
World of Good has been partnering with UPAVIM since 2007 to transform the lives of women in Guatemala City by offering them consistent orders and financial stability.