Meet Mary’s Pence – Svitlana Iukhymovych

I step off the Green Line train onto the rustic pavement of downtown Saint Paul. The building I am heading towards is old yet stately, packed with bustling offices. This is the home of Mary’s Pence, also my new work-home for the next 11 months. I feel excitement and a hint of tension as I walk in the door, as I’m new here – the St. Joseph Worker for 2016-2017. Good day! My name is Svitlana.

for_blog_1St. Joseph Worker Program that I’m part of is a harbor for young women who are passionate about justice. SJWs spend a year living in an intentional community and serving at social justice organizations such as Mary’s Pence. Beyond that, the program helps us find a spiritual compass, exercise leadership skills, and build connections with professionals throughout the country. When I realized that Mary’s Pence was on the list of potential placement sites for SJWs, I knew that I would end up here. After all, Mary’s Pence brings into life the voices and imaginings of actionable change. My love of language will be of use at this organization.

A couple of months ago, I graduated from Macalester College with a double degree in English and Psychology. Throughout my senior year, I worked at a cognitive neuroscience lab, translated renowned and contemporary poems from my native Ukrainian into Engish, and breakdanced. Some of the translations I’ve authored were published in the anthology Letters from Ukraine, a volume that came out in honor of the Lviv-Wroclaw cultural exchange. My capstone in literature focused on translations from Vasyl Stus, a Ukrainian dissident poet who had been imprisoned for his outcries against the brutalities of the Soviet system.for_blog_2 It’s a work in progress, as I am still compiling drafts and commentary. Vasyl Stus’ work carries as much intensity as his life story, and is kindred to all who seek and express a true voice even in the middle of political turmoil. This awareness I’ve built for the intersections between the personal and the political within every human story will enrich my experience at Mary’s Pence.

The mission of Mary’s Pence to support community projects for women resonates with important aspects of my identity. As a graduate of Emma Willard, the oldest all-girls’ boarding school in the nation, I recognize how vital it is to empower women. Collaborations among women do have the tremendous power to bring innovation, non-violence, and progress into the world. As someone who grew up in rural Ukraine, a land traversed with patchwork of private gardens, I know that the dearth of resources for local start-ups and small projects can be lethal to communities. With that, the focus of Mary’s Pence on smaller-scale projects initiated by women conjoins the values I hold dear.

Perhaps just like Mary’s Pence grantees, I feel vulnerable to the realities of non-profits, conferences, constant noise of money and power. I am honored to start my work journey, encouraged by the stories of women who keep up their stubborn pitch of kindness.


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Mary’s Pence Summer Reading List 2016

Mary’s Pence recently sent out our Summer Reading List. Each summer we enjoy sending out this list because we know that you, our supporters, are intelligent and curious people who seek to know more about the world around them. In growing our understanding of the world we discover injustices, but we also discover innovative solutions to these injustices. Most importantly, we find hope and healing in community. This is what our Summer Reading List represents.

The books on this year’s list were placed in four categories: Powerful Memoirs, Truth in Fiction, Global Change-Makers, and Peace and Hope . Click here to see the full list.

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ESPERA Women Have a Will to Thrive

Gabriela Bandini de Unánue reflects on her first year working with women participating in the ESPERA community lending program as the ESPERA Business Facilitator.

Reflecting on the year since I joined the Mary’s Pence team, I would like to share with you what has happened so far and what this experience has meant for me.

I’ll begin by thanking every one of the people that is part of this great team for the confidence, comradery, constant support, positive energy, dedication and talent that has gone into all of our activities. From the beginning of my work in June of 2015 I have felt welcomed and supported in a process of continuous learning and growth, as much personal as professional. To know each one of the women and men that are part of this team – office staff, donors, ally organizations, volunteers, and the board – makes me more proud every day to be part of this work.

Grace, Development and Communications Liaison, and Gaby, ESPERA Business Facilitator, visit some women in their home near Suchitoto, El Salvador.

Grace, Development and Communications Liaison, and Gaby, ESPERA Business Facilitator, visit some women in their home near Suchitoto, El Salvador.

Each meeting with the women who are part of the ESPERA program in Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico has confirmed for me the positive impact that the program has in the daily lives of every one of the women. The organizational process that entails managing the community-owned fund involves open spaces of sharing and moments to make decisions collectively. This ensures that each one of the women plays a role in the process, considers the needs of the rest. They all join in their capacity to support something with the others, which leads them to operate in full solidarity and empathy.

Access to loans and the flexibility of the payment system together with the delivery and allocation of funds that each one of the groups establishes favors autonomy. The ESPERA model gives each one of the women participants new opportunities to improve their quality of life. They mobilize financial resources that they normally do not have access to and create new sources of income that are better adapted to their hopes and needs. With the loan pool they not only look to cover the basic needs like nutrition, housing, healthcare and schooling for their children and contributing to the circles they want to influence, but also, as women, they develop their skills and the self-esteem to make their voices heard in their families and communities.

Gaby (left) and Eva (middle), ESPERA Promoter visit Esther, who raises chickens and sells eggs.

Gaby (right) and Eva (middle), ESPERA Promoter visit Esther, who raises chickens and sells eggs.

The ESPERA program is made up of women who are fighters, creators, workers, generous and resilient with a tenacious internal force that is reflected in their refusal to be defeated in spite of constantly confronting difficult situations that at every moment remind them that they are also vulnerable. They bet on life and wellbeing, to challenge poverty of mind and spirit to counteract the shortage of material possessions. They work for equity between men and women, they protest against violence, and believe firmly that if we all exercise our political, social, economic and cultural rights, our communities will develop in greater harmony.

Their economic initiatives represent their will to thrive, to come out ahead, to protect who they are as human beings. The initiatives are their way to use all their talents, to capitalize on the resources they have, and to generate life. The women who participate in the ESPERA program are ready to grow their businesses, to maintain them, and to put all of their energy into them. The women work from sunrise to sunset with the firm conviction that if they can make their businesses function in the best way, they will continue to be like open windows that allow them to take deep breathes of fresh air.

Gaby chats with women from the Concertación de Mujeres in Suchitoto, El Salvador.

Gaby chats with women from the Concertación de Mujeres in Suchitoto, El Salvador.

For me, it is a privilege not only to know each one of these women, but also to be able to work with them and join them in the dream for economic justice; to combine their abilities with mine to achieve their own goals and particular dreams. This work requires that I travel many miles to meetings, get on an airplane every three weeks, and sleep always under a different roof. But what makes all the hard work worth it is have the opportunity to work together to apply tools like planning, administration, accountability, marketing, human resources, quality control, selling and design of products and services within their businesses in order to make them into elements that protect a variety of ways of life and alternative economies.

Thank you for this first year and thank you for being Mary’s Pence!

Gabriela Bandini De Unánue, ESPERA Business Facilitator

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Breaking the Cycle of Recidivism Through Advocacy—MAYA Organization

Imagine this: You have been in an abusive relationship for several years. With no experience, you struggled to find a job to support your family so you have been earning your income as a prostitute. You’re a mother and have been battling addiction for as long as you can remember. You were recently arrested and have just been sentenced to the county jail for prostitution. You enter the system and find yourself struggling daily with depression and damaged self-esteem. Your world feels as if it has been hopelessly turned upside down. How will you ensure that you do not re-enter the system after your release? Will abusing drugs and alcohol continue to be your vice? Will you ever be permitted to see your children again?

Then, your cellmate tells you that the jail has a program offering free counseling for the incarcerated. You attend a single 60-minute session and after a year, you are attending regularly. Your counselor helps you slowly rediscover your confidence and sobriety and inspires you to work to get certificates in vocational skills.

Eventually, you are released from the jail and routinely reach out to your counselor for support. You relapse, but you do not want to hinder your progress so you re-enter the rehabilitation program at your own will and find sobriety once again. Your determination provokes a job offer at a local company and, as a result of your progress, you are finally reunited with your children.

This story reflects one of many success stories that the MAYA Organization has witnessed since the foundation of their Counseling for Incarcerated Women Program (video) in 2014.

lsMe and You Always

The MAYA (Me and You Always) Organization is a first-time Mary’s Pence grantee located in Pittsburgh, Penn. MAYA was originally founded in 2009 by Tomilyn Ward, Executive Director, with a mission to provide counseling and support for pregnant or adoption-seeking women and their families. Ward established the organization shortly after adopting her daughter, realizing that her daughter’s birth mother was not receiving any postpartum and post-adoption support. Ward became the birth mother’s only support system; she contacted social workers and an attorney to help during this sensitive time. She began doing research in graduate school and found that, more often than not, birth mothers do not receive follow up from adoption agencies post-adoption.

Ward started to follow up with birth mothers in MAYA who had given their child(ren) up for adoption and learned that many of them were or had been in prison and consistently recidivated—which means they re-entered the criminal justice system. As Ward continued to research this issue, she learned that 95-percent of incarcerated women are separated from their children. That same percentage of incarcerated women have also been victims of abuse. This inspired her to establish the Counseling for Incarcerated Women Program at the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ).

This program has provided over 1,000 hours of pro bono counseling services for trauma and addiction thus far. They have utilized their Mary’s Pence grant to fund needs such as purchasing clothing for the women in the jail, housing and foster care resources, and rehabilitation services.

Advocacy Influencing Justice

Those in the criminal justice system have been systematically silenced and degraded. Many of the women in the system, many are survivors of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. These women are more likely to engage in negative, self-defeating behaviors which can drastically amplify mental illness.

Ward considers the most important element of the Counseling for Incarcerated Women Program to be advocacy. “We do whatever is necessary to ensure women are heard,” she said as she reflected on a situation where a schizophrenic woman was jailed without her medications for six weeks. Ward and her team worked tirelessly, reaching out to doctors, local law enforcement and jail officials, and were able to help provide the woman with her medication.


MAYA Organization staff and program clients express their gratitude for Mary’s Pence after the Color Vibe 5k in Pittsburgh in May.

With advocacy comes the need to accept all women, and hear them without judgment. This is important in breaking the cycle of women who are victims of abuse becoming prostitutes and entering the criminal justice system.  MAYA provides resources for these women to reestablish their self-esteem. They counsel women by recognizing signs of abuse and reducing violent tendencies, that many victims often redirect on their own children.

MAYA supports women inmates seeking recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, recognizing that relapse is a part of the recovery process. They support the women as they work to stay clean and break habits, and encourage positive decision-making and consistent therapy attendance. Notably, women are able to continue attending counseling at the MAYA offices after their release for as long as they need.

The Future

The future for MAYA is bright, as they continue to grow in size and funds. They are actively reaching out to better serve and involve the community by showing the impact of their work. “We are absolutely community-centered,” said Ward. They hope to continue to influence systemic change and social justice for women by expanding their programs in the Pittsburgh area and eventually beyond.

By Maggie Singerhouse, Development and Communications Intern, 2016

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Mary’s Pence Grants and Social Justice – Application Deadline Coming Up

Our work flourishes because it is based on the values of dignity of the human person, call to community and participation, rights and responsibilities, subsidiarity, preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, global solidarity, and care for creation.

These values are at the root of both Mary’s Pence Grants and our ESPERA program. Earlier this year a committee reviewed and confirmed the criteria that shapes our Mary’s Pence Grants decisions. Full criteria can be seen here.

We fund projects that are women led – for the benefit of women and their families; community centered – a group, preferably made up of those impacted by an issue, are leading the way; focused on social justice values; and working for long term sustainable social change.

Granting to social justice projects is different than supporting charity. Charity meets an immediate need; justice changes the situation of the long term. Both are important. Our focus at Mary’s Pence is justice and social change. One of the most important questions we ask ourselves when reviewing grant applications is “Will something be different in the future because of this work?”

Youth Rise Presents: "My Life Without You" Youth Impacted by Incarceration & Deportation at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center on August 15, 2015

Youth Rise Presents: “My Life Without You” Youth Impacted by Incarceration & Deportation at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center on August 15, 2015

Here are some of the ways our grantees work for long term change.

  • Shifting public opinion about justice issuesYouth Rise Texas in Austin is doing this by creating and performing monologues to raise awareness of the effects of familial deportation and incarceration.
  • Forming alliances and collaborations across diverse populationsNew Sanctuary Movement in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is working to organize immigrant communities and faith communities for immigration reform.
  • Creating change in unjust structure or policiesKinship Care / The Contact Center in Cincinnati is advocating that non-parental relatives providing foster care receive the same amount as unrelated foster care providers.
  • Building capacity by building skills – leadership, organizing or other skills. Wishwas in Queens, New York is organizing immigrants, mostly from Bangladesh, to learn sewing and marketing skills, with the goal forming a cooperative that will provide income generating capacity to this community.

As our grants selection committee gathers twice a year to review applications, this criteria guides us. We’re always happy to talk over a project with a prospective grantee as they are thinking about applying, to help them consider the criteria and the ways their work is moving their community forward.

Our next grants deadline is August 1See criteria and application. Please pass this link on to projects you know of in the United States and Canada, and encourage them to contact us and apply.

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Taylor Says Goodbye

This June marks my last month as a St. Joseph Worker for Mary’s Pence.

Since August, I’ve participated in a service program through the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet emphasizing social justice, community, spirituality and leadership. There were twelve women in the program this year, each in a different placement.

(From left) Nadine, Grace, Taylor and Katherine from the Mary's Pence office

(From left) Nadine, Grace, Taylor and Katherine from the Mary’s Pence office

Mary’s Pence was my full-time placement. I worked in communications and whatever else needed to be done. I had the opportunity to join the grants selection committee twice, implement social media strategy, speak about the Mary’s Pence Grants program at events and conferences and work closely with ESPERA staff to create a written history of the ESPERA community lending pool program. All of this has allowed me to hone my writing skills and passion for both social justice and accompanying women.

Mary’s Pence taught me a great deal about international development. There is a right way to give and to work in solidarity with “the poor and vulnerable” as Catholic Social Teaching says. Mary’s Pence was founded to provide women greater access to resources—that is to say, to put money in the hands of women who have projects that are creating lasting good in the world—and that’s exactly what Mary’s Pence is doing today, and what drew me to this community.

When I started this year in the St. Joseph Worker Program, I didn’t define community in any particular way. I thought of myself as highly independent, the kind of person who leaves her home state to go to college and travels internationally on her own. I still am that person, and I still value my independence, but after nearly a year of living with four other women and sharing meals, chores, dreams, ideas, fears, hopes, prayers and the ins and outs of our days working at social justice placements like Mary’s Pence, I now value community very highly, and consider myself part of many communities, including my university and church communities, my family and friends, and the national and international Mary’s Pence community. Relationships with the women of Mary’s Pence staff, board members, ESPERA women, grantees, donors I’ve met, have all strengthened my place in this community.

Grants committee, grants calls, grants articles where I got to interview grantees. ESPERA History, working with Gilda and Gaby, learning about the women’s businesses and way of life and challenges and triumphs and community. Learning so much. Writing about it.

I was initially drawn to Mary’s Pence because we do social justice at home and abroad—right under our noses and far away where our actions affect the most vulnerable. There were also spiritual and very feminist components that drew me in, and continued to engage me in the work throughout the year. I’m proud to have been a part of the almost 30-year history of Mary’s Pence.

As I turn to go, I am struck by the enduring compassion and fiery passion everyone who’s involved in Mary’s Pence holds for the work and the women, from members of Concerta to Gaby and Gilda, to former board members Judy and Pat, to current board members, to past staff members, to Katherine and Grace and Nadine in the office, interns and volunteers, and the donors we meet at conferences and who call or send us note, and remind us how engaged they are with the work all of us through Mary’s Pence. Communities of women in working solidarity with one another, this is Mary’s Pence, and this is bigger than any one of us. That’s what I’ve been a part of this year, and that’s why I’ll continue to support Mary’s Pence as I move on from my year as a St. Joseph Worker.

Taylor Harwood was a 2015-2016 St. Joseph Worker for Mary’s Pence.


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Meet Mary’s Pence: Maggie

Good morning Mary’s Pence supporters, readers, and grantees!

Meet Maggie

Maggie and her godson, Seth, on the St. Kate’s St. Paul campus.

My name is Maggie Singerhouse, and I have recently started my position as the Development and Communications Intern at Mary’s Pence. My work this summer is supported by the Career Ready Internship Program through the Center for Community Work and Learning (CWL) at St. Catherine University (St. Kate’s). This program allows junior and senior students to have internships at non-profit organizations, such as Mary’s Pence.

Over this summer, I will be working with a variety social media platforms, learning about grant writing and editing, and writing articles about Mary’s Pence grantees. When I was initially applying for internships, Mary’s Pence message of women empowerment truly resonated with me, as I hope to teach at a women’s university one day. Furthermore, I was inspired by the inclusion of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching in our work to advocate for women in Northern and Central America. These principles have been enforced throughout my college education and are considered the core of the St. Kate’s social justice initiative. While I have always found that many of these principles intertwine, one has stood out to me as the most paramount: the principle of solidarity.

Meet Maggie Herb

Maggie posing with the Herb Brooks sculpture at the River Center in downtown St. Paul, MN.

Solidarity promotes the recognition of ourselves and others as significant individuals who are part of the human family. This principle disapproves of violence against others and instead stands for peace and the common good. It is a principle that I actively attempt to engage in my daily life. In my first few days as an intern at Mary’s Pence, I’ve witnessed the importance of this principle in our work. Whether we are publicly establishing solidarity with women across the Americas through social media outreach, working to help women advocate for themselves or encouraging each other to address social justice issues effectively, solidarity is a consistent theme.

In the autumn, I will be returning to school for my final year at St. Kate’s where I hold several roles: Editor-in-Chief of The Wheel newspaper, Senior Representative for the St. Kate’s Senate, neuroscience/biology research assistant, and Student Coordinator for the Assistantship Mentoring Program through CWL. In my free time I enjoy cooking, reading, going for runs, and exploring the Twin Cities. I will be graduating in May 2017 with a baccalaureate in neuroscience. After I graduate, I hope to attend graduate school and eventually receive a Ph.D. in neuroscience. My long-term goals are to perform neuroscience research on Alzheimer’s disease and cognition, publish articles in scientific journals, and teach neuroscience or biology courses at a women’s university.

I’m really looking forward to working with such an inspiring group of hard-working women this summer. This journey will allow me to learn more about writing and communications, social justice, and women’s advocacy/empowerment in ways that will be applicable to my future, while also making an important difference in the lives of women.

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Drought in Central America: Snapshot from Concertación in El Salvador

By Gaby Bandini, ESPERA Business Facilitator

More than 30% of the population in Nicaragua and Honduras, 25% of Guatemala and 20% and El Salvador live in poverty. In February 2013, the research organizations CRS, CIMMYT  & CIAT [1] published the results of an impact analysis about the effects that climate change can have on El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua’s corn and bean production by 2025. The panorama shown was not positive for most of the countries, except for Guatemala, which will have better opportunities in production due favorable conditions in its mountainous region.

Photo by Mirna

Photo by Mirna

In Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador changes in climate are prolonging drought; combined with the current soil degradation and poverty levels within these three Central American countries, at least 1 million of small farmers who produce 70% of the local consumption of corn and 100% of the region’s auto consumption of beans [2] will struggle in the next ten years with a significant reduction in production levels for the two most socially, economically and culturally important crops within the region.

A significant reduction in those yields could have severe effects in food security and sovereignty of people in rural areas; especially in El Salvador, which has been shown to be more vulnerable in terms of food access and stability of future food supply, followed by Honduras and Nicaragua [3].

For Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, corn and beans are the main source of nutrition and energy within households and culturally are present in almost all traditional dishes; in average consumption per capita in these 4 countries is 76.4kg of corn and 13.9 kg of beans. In El Salvador for example, most traditional and daily basis dishes use corn and beans as main ingredients, including pupusas, tamales, atol, pastel de carne, empanadas de plátano y frijol, enchiladas, pacalla and chilate.

Photo by Mirna

Photo by Mirna

Vilma, the local ESPERA coordinator of Concertación de Mujeres de Suchitoto, reported some of the effects that drought has had in women’s milpa (the name used in Latin America for the traditional way of sowing that combines beans and corn in the same field) during the 2015 agricultural cycle. Usually farmers have one harvest of corn per year and the opportunity to grow twice as many beans during the same period.

With a lack of rain during more than 20 days of the first harvest period, at least 8 women from 3 different communities of ESPERA groups lost their entire milpa plantations. Even though they tried to sow beans in the second period, the harvest was not enough to meet their family needs for the year; therefore, they had to buy beans and corn needed for regular consumption and the loan that was invested in inputs like fertilizers got lost too.

Photo by Mirna

Photo by Mirna

According to local ESPERA coordinator Eva’s information, when a harvest is good, women usually get from one plot 60 quintales (eq.100 kg each) of corn; however, during 2015 most of them got only 35 quintales. A good harvest of beans can normally bring 16 quintales, but in 2015 most of the women got 8 quintales or nothing.

At the national level, Eva said it is estimated that during 2015 El Salvador lost 14 million quintales of corn and 142 thousand quintales of beans, affecting more than 104 municipalities located mainly in the eastern part of the country. The food security of families is highly dependent on climate change.

With a deficit in production, El Salvador usually imports corn from the U.S. and México and beans from Nicaragua and China. Prices during 2015 in Suchitoto were around US$35 per quintal of beans and US$18.50 per quintal of corn during harvest period.

Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador share some characteristics of vulnerability in food security, mostly related with a low ability to adapt to climate changes:

“Rural households will go through a particularly difficult time to deal with climate change where infrastructure (equipment and road) is inadequate, access to natural resources (water and land) is limited, financial resources are scarce and capital is very weak (specifying social capital as lack of organization among small producers).” [4] (p.2)

In this sense ESPERA, together with the women’s organizations, attempts to sort challenges that women farmers are facing, like the lack of access to traditional financial resources, and to reinforce social capital, taking action by organizing themselves.

Women in the Chaguitón Community in El Salvador recieved new loans at the end of May 2016. They displayed great enthusiasm in taking measures to prevent major losses with their new loans. One of the women will plant the majority of her crops on in a different area near her community, while two other women have decided to invest their loans, $300 each, in other activities—cattle and a store.

This is part three of a three-part series on the drought in Central America and its effect on the women of ESPERA, as reported by ESPERA staff. Click here for parts one and two.

Written with support from Taylor Harwood.

[1] Catholic Rescue Services (CRS), Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (CIMMYT) and Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT)
[2] Eitzinger A; Läderach P; Sonder K; Schmidt A; Sain G; Beebe S; Rodríguez B; Fisher M; Hicks P; Navarrete-Frías C; Nowak A. 2012. Tortillas en el comal: Los sistemas de maíz y fríjol de América Central y el cambio climático, CIAT Políticas en Síntesis No. 6. Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia. 6 p.
[3] Ibid p.2
[4] Eitzinger A; Läderach P; Sonder K; Schmidt A; Sain G; Beebe S; Rodríguez B; Fisher M; Hicks P; Navarrete-Frías C; Nowak A. 2012. Tortillas en el comal: Los sistemas de maíz y fríjol de América Central y el cambio climático, CIAT Políticas en Síntesis No. 6. Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia. 6 p.
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Drought in Nicaragua Limits Access to Raw Material

In the last post, Mary’s Pence Local ESPERA Coordinator Auxiliadora wrote about the drought in Nicaragua and her visit to Doña Isabel. In this post, Auxiliadora brings us more experiences of the drought from the women of ESPERA.

From the neighboring community of El Portillo, Doña Trinidad also tells how this phenomenon is visibly affecting her in the manufacture of her artisan products, which use tusa, corn husks.

Doña Trinidad

“This drought is affecting me because the raw materials that we use have been scarce during this year because it didn’t rain last year,” Doña Trinidad said. “In our company, Compania de Odili, another member of the collective, between the months of January and March we usually start to collect the husks. Once we had to collect the husks from fields that were far away from our community so we didn’t have the opportunity to select them. Nearby there is a woman who provides us with husks on consignment from whom we used to buy between 6 and 8 sacks of individually-selected husks when the winter was good, but this year we only were able to obtain 2 sacks – one for each of us – for which we have had to save as much as possible to be able to make the products and fill some orders.”

“This situation really affects us a lot,” said Doña Trinidad, “because one of the difficulties that we face is that we can’t just tell a client that we don’t have raw material to make their orders; what we do is explain that there is a scarcity. It has been a struggle for us since due to this crisis we are paying more for all the raw materials and using what we have without wasting anything. On several occasions we have had to go out to other communities and look for the corn husks, the espigas (spikes), and other plants that we use to produce our products because we don’t want to lose a client due to lack of raw materials.”

el portillo 2

“This drought is economically affecting our nutrition because corn, beans, fruit, and vegetables are more expensive and what we make is not enough to be able to buy the necessary food.”

“Also,” Doña Trinidad continued, “with this drought, my sour orange, nance (nancite), and papaya trees, among other fruit trees that I had on my home’s patio for our personal consumption have dried out. Another problem that we have as an effect of the drought is the scarcity and rationing of water, high temperatures and a very hot sun.”

Doña Trinidad and the other members of the collective are facing the challenge of this environmental crisis together, adapting to the circumstances of the drought as creatively they can despite the real hardships it brings.

Translated from the Spanish by Luisa María Rivera Izábal and Shelley Coppock.

This is part two of a three-part series on the drought in Central America and its effect on the women of ESPERA, as reported by ESPERA staff. Check back for the final post during the last week of May.

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