On my recent trip to Guatemala, I had the pleasure of meeting Gladys.
Gladys has sewn hundreds of products for Liz Alig from her tiny one room workshop off her home—with a great view of the surrounding volcanoes. I was connected to Gladys through an acquaintance of DeeDee. The women said Gladys wanted more work because her son had a heart condition and the family was looking for ways to pay for the expensive surgery. I will never forget the look in her eye when saying that the work seemed to come at the perfect time...
For the past six years I have slowly developed products for Gladys to make from her workshop recycling the traditional Guatemalan corte and huipil fabrics.
I always love meeting someone in person who I have known or worked with for years—it is interesting to see how closely my idea of them fits the real person. I also enjoy it because inevitably people are surprised by my sixteen year old looking self. Weirdly enough, Gladys was exactly who I had pictured. She is kind and analytical and has this smile that takes up every corner of her face...and yeah she said that she expected me to be an old women with a couple of kids.
As I was leaving her house after teaching her how to make a few new garments, showing her what uber is, and asking her where to buy the best street food, a teenage boy in a soccer uniform rushed past us.
She later explained that he was her son who had had the surgery about five years ago.
I think sometimes it is difficult to quantify the difference purchasing fair trade can have—it is difficult because the change is slow and honestly it does not look like what we think it should. Sometimes it is just employing one person more sustainably.
But I do know Gladys is grateful for the work.
Gladys has been able to care for her family as she works from her own home for the past several years—something she explained to me was her dream when her father taught her how to sew. She talked about sitting in the hospital for weeks waiting for her son’s recovery, but she was still determined to fill orders at the same time. She talked about her dreams of doubling her income with more projects.
Honestly, most of the success of this story is due to Gladys’s hard work, but it is always humbling to play a small role in someone’s story.
Every time I meet the seamstresses or weavers we work with the story is the same—they thank me for the work and sheepishly ask for more.
When I was in Guatemala this time, I met another woman who is looking for a sewing job—she currently works as a house keeper, but has to travel away from her family during the week and it does not pay well. I would love to employ her too!
This is just one of the many faces behind the people who make our clothes. Thanks for supporting them and playing a role in their story as well!