TESA, My main project in the Peace Corps

WOW, hard to believe it is now 4 months into service plus 3 months of trainning. I have been assigned to a huge project (US$4million for 5 years) in a small village with no electricity, no running water and no paved roads!. If you look on the map of Guatemala, I am in the northern part close to mexico, Salacuim, Ecoregion Laguna Lachua, AltaVerpas.

I never know what is going to happend from momment to momment here, nevermind the PC office requests a monthly plan. Sometimes, I take sick people to the hospital and then bring back newborns. The next minute I might be playing with kids, trying to teach them English, then sometime we have a meeting in the office with over 25 people. Other times I am sitting in a village hut learning backstrap-weaving with the ladies of TESA.

I often think of how I can describe my life and work here... The best explanation I can come up with is that my organization is like the United Nations, but instead of working with countries, we work with 50 surrounding villages on community development, farming, income generation, health, village governance, activity organization, health, education-- you name it we get involved. We have a team of like 20 technicos and managers with various different expertise that go around in motocycles and cars to the little villages like a small army on a mission.

My job here focuses on the income generation projects, so I help with financial analysis and management of various projects such as vanilla, honey, reforestation incentives. Our organization also acts like a little venture capital firm. We seek projects to seed funds that hopefully will mature into a sustainable income for the surrounding communities. So constantly I am keeping my eyes out for potential business ventures for the communities. But instead of funding millions of dollars, we fund hundreds and seek profit that can eventually feed the people.

However my main project has been with TESA (Tejedoras de Salacuim) a project that was started with the insight of a previous volunteer with $300 seed money. She started the project when she noticed that some of the women here know how to do backstrap weaving but was not making money. She trained them to make handbags that still using traditional weaving but with a much more modern design. So now I basically manage this project as a business. Our group consist of about 15 ladies of ages from 8-75 who do not speak much Spanish, mostly their native laguage of Achi. They are some of the nicest people that I have met, which makes me more driven to make this project succeed.

My goal is to teach them to manage their own money and production like a real business and to look for distribution whether internationally or locally. Eventhough the money we make is very minimal, and the work involved limitless..but the little money that they do make, can make the difference of whether they can buy meat for dinner instead of eating tortillas and beans. The work has never been more satisfying knowing that my contribution really does contribute to a better life and to be here witnessing the change..

I can go on and on..but photos are worth a thousand words. Here are some of the pictures of the group.
Photos of TESA

and here is a cataglogue of our product..If you have any contacts that would be interesting in buying or distributing our products do not hesitate to let me know.
TESA Product Catalogue

TESA, "Weave of Life"