Stop for a moment to consider the clothes you’re wearing. For the majority of Americans, it’s likely the fabric was woven on a machine loom and the garment pieces cut and stitched using an overlock sewing machine in a distant country.
But for Sandra, a mother of two sponsored children in Guatemala, the process of making clothes is much closer to home.
In Guatemala, approximately 40 percent of the population is of Mayan descent. As an indigenous group, the Maya have retained many of their customs. The most visible is in the form of traditional clothing. Sandra and many others in her community are of Mayan heritage, and the bright colors and traditional designs of the clothing’s fabric are commonplace.
A “corte”, or a traditional skirt, is a wardrobe staple for Mayan women. The designs and colors vary by region, and sometimes it’s possible to tell what town someone is from based on the patterns on their clothing.
Sandra is part of a mothers group through Unbound that has started a business making cortes. These women do it all, from weaving the fabric to stitching the seams, and it takes about three days to make each corte.
“We got the idea from the staff at Unbound,” Sandra said. “Social workers talked about seeking economic self-sufficiency and how they were willing to support our abilities.
“This is how we got encouraged, then we got organized and we decided that we wanted to start a business making cortes.”
The mothers sell their wares in their community and are branching out to surrounding areas. Some of the largest orders come from Unbound when other families in the region request traditional clothing as one of their sponsorship benefits.
Before starting the business, Sandra and the other mothers had the enthusiasm but not the know-how or materials to make cortes. They received training on how to run a small business and were able to take out a loan from Unbound so they could get their business going.
“Unbound also provided an instructor to train us on how to make cortes,” Sandra said. “He gave us training for over three months. We started from zero knowledge to being able to make a corte by ourselves. We learned about color combinations, decorations and figures to satisfy different customers.
“Unbound gave us a loan, but we felt confident that we could pay it back because we trust Unbound. It’s not like a bank where there are big amounts of interest. Thanks to God, we will soon pay off our loan.”
Sandra’s greatest motivation is her three children. The sponsorship benefits that two of her children receive have helped Sandra send them to school and meet other daily needs. But as the children get older, the costs of education will increase. She sees the corte business as a good way to meet those costs and wants to see it grow.
“I would like to learn to make other styles of cortes and maybe expand my business,” Sandra said. “I dream of having a bigger, successful business with my group of mothers. We want to move forward with this business and have better sales.
“I want to be a good role model for my children and mothers, and sell our products in other communities in our country.”
Sandra remains grateful for the help she has received.
“First, I want to thank all of the staff at Unbound for their encouragement,” she said. “Mothers must fight for their family, day after day, with courage regardless of situations that may come. Family is the most important motivation that you can have to reach your goals.
“Thank you, sponsors, for your unconditional support. Thank you for joining our fight; thank you for your donations. May God bless your good deeds.”
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