Marta Sulema Socón Sacuj – Multicolores, Guatemla
“Before starting the Embroidery Program, I didn’t know how to draw and it was challenging to learn. But I learned that not everything in life will come easy, rather that there are things that will be difficult. And the difficult things are worth more. I value my work because it has truly helped me to get ahead.”
Marta, 34, lives with her husband and four children in Patanatic, a small, rural village close to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. The area is mountainous and houses are typically built on a hillside. Apart from agriculture (coffee, corn, fruit, vegetables; and raising poultry) economic opportunities are few. As a result, many people work outside the community in construction, restaurants, and hotels.
In 2016, Marta happily accepted Multicolores’ invitation to join the Embroidery Program. It was particularly gratifying for her because alongside acquiring embroidery and design skills, she was also trained as a teacher equipped to train other women in the technique. Marta has since formed an Embroidery group with women from her local community.
Of working with Multicolores Marta says, “working with Multicolores is not just a job for me because it’s been a fundamental part of my life, in which ‘I’ as a woman have achieved many things! I have a good job, I manage my own time, I’m with my children, and each month I have income that helps me to pay for my family’s expenses. I’ve seen many positive changes in myself and the other artists through our work with Multicolores. We feel valued and have a new confidence in our own capacity. In Guatemala, since ancient times, there have existed many prejudices against women, many think that as women we have little more to contribute than being a housewife. Now I realize that gender equality is crucial to achieving development in our communities. As women we are capable of making great contributions to our families and to society.”
Importantly for Marta, her embroidery is a source of great pride. Her pieces, inspired by nature and Maya heritage, are a way for her to keep her rich cultural history alive. She loves embroidery because it enables her to express herself freely and creatively. She hopes to always be an enterprising mother, supporting the needs of her family, investing in her children’s education, and always innovative in her work.
Uris Esperanza Cruz de Muñoz – OEF De El Salvador
Uris Esperanza Cruz de Muñoz, lives at Colonia La Pista, Usulutan, a state on the East side of El Salvador, considered to be one of those under extreme poverty conditions and with high rates of irregular migration. Her family includes her husband, Marcos, who is a laborer, and their four children, three of which are still at school.
She has always been a entrepreneur. She used to have a tortilleria, making corn tortillas to be sold. On 2015, she had the opportunity to access her first loan – she received $200 – to enhance the tortilleria. She was able to improve her production and income and diversify with a small grocery store, with a few different products.
She has received four loans since then. By the second one, she stopped making tortillas – a really exhausting activity – and dedicated her efforts and resources to growing and expanding the grocery store. Currently, she received her most recent loan in January 2022 for $500. She used the money to keep investing in the grocery store. She introduced even more diversity of products to become the first choice of stores for her community. She already has enough profit to keep the business, support her family, and afford the payback of the loan.
Kaleah Smith – Urban Corps of San Diego County
Kaleah Smith had a challenging childhood. Kaleah moved dozens of times, attended 30 schools and was in dozens of foster homes and group homes. Kaleah was expelled from school and sent to juvenile hall when she was 14. At that time, she was removed from her current foster home, separated from her younger brother and ran away several times, violating her probation.
This led to Kaleah not finishing high school. At the age of 16, Kaleah was working, trying to support herself living on her own. At the age of 18, Kaleah aged out of foster care and went to live on her own. In 2019, Kaleah and her fiancé moved to San Diego, and she started her second chance high school diploma program at Urban Corps Charter School. Kaleah also got connected to Just in Time for Foster Youth, where they helped her get her first place by herself in El Cajon. This came at just the right time and she is very proud of this accomplishment, after she spent several months in a homeless shelter.
Kaleah didn’t let her circumstances define her. At Urban Corps, Kaleah works with a City of San Diego homeless encampment and beautification crew where she works to pick up trash and bulky items to make neighborhoods, parks, and open spaces safer. Kaleah is graduating from Urban Corps Charter School in December 2022. Kaleah is ambitious and has big goals. Before she graduates, she wants to obtain her driver’s license and receive new trainings and certifications. After graduation, Kaleah wants to go to college for cosmetology, sociology and nursing. Her other goals? To be married with a big family, financially and spiritually stable.