Looking at this photo, you might see a work of art. A sculpture carefully crafted, textured and painted to convey a new meaning for each new angle it’s viewed from. Or maybe, and more accurately, you see a mushroom farm.
For Guatemalan mother Ana, this mound of chopped corncobs, corn husks and mushroom cultures represents another step toward economic self-sufficiency.
Ana’s daughter, Dairin, is sponsored through Unbound, and Ana is part of a group with four other mothers whose children are sponsored.
“We are very close friends and we have been working together [on livelihoods] for some time now,” Ana said. “It gives me other choices and other ways of helping my family.”
The women work together to make different products, such as chocolate for a hot chocolate drink, pinol, which is a corn-based drink, and baskets that can be used as a purse or for shopping. But they didn’t want to stop there.
“So one day we said, ‘We are capable of doing more, what else can we do?'” Anna shared. “Diego, the Unbound social worker, said ‘why don’t you raise mushrooms?’ and so we did. We did it because it is important for us to learn new things and find ways to make more for our families.”
Ana and the other mothers liked raising mushrooms best out of the ideas they discussed with Diego, and requested training and startup materials from Unbound. Within four months they had their first harvest, yielding a pound of mushrooms. In Guatemala, a pound of mushrooms sells for about $2.50 USD.
“We ate our first harvest,” Ana said. “We ate them in tomato sauce. We sold our second harvest. … The amount we harvest should continue growing. We believe we can produce up to 40 pounds in one harvest season [three months]. … We are grateful because Unbound also provided mushroom [cultures] to start this livelihood.”
Ana is grateful to be a part of Unbound and have the fellowship of other mothers working toward sustainable solutions to poverty.
“My livelihoods mean that I can take my kids to the doctor and send them to school,” she said. “I am proud because when my kids say ‘I need a new pencil,’ or ‘I need a pen,’ I can go and buy it for them. My livelihoods have doubled my monthly income.”
The mushroom cakes, as Ana calls them, though not fine art, still hold great beauty. They represent the hope for the future Ana and her fellow mothers have for their children and for themselves.
“If you are a woman, it does not mean that you are weak,” Ana said. “You have the same gifts as any other human being and you can achieve great things.”
Donations to Microfunding help mothers like Ana find sustainable ways to support their families.