This is Elena Bernal, she is one of our most successful entrepreneurs. Get inspired by her story and her wonderful journey with Wakami.
The Wakami System
In wakami we inspire the people who use our products and transform the lives of the ones that produce them.
We are conformed by two organisations that work hand in hand: a foundation that gives professional training to rural groups of women and a social business that designs and exports Wakami handmade products made by these women for the global market.
Results and Impact
Stories to Share
EVA SIMÓN, A YOUNG INDEPENDENT WORKING GIRL
In Tzununá, a small village by Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, only 50% of the women knows how to read and write. Only 3 out of 10 of them have finished Elementary School. Most women have informal jobs such as weaving, coffee crop collection and firewood collection, among others. These jobs generate a monthly income of around Q50 to Q100. Due to the community’s low education level, job opportunities are limited, especially for women.
In the small village of Tzununá, the 8 members of the Simón family have their home: of the six Simón children, five are girls and one is a boy. Currently only the son is studying, whereas the five daughters can read and write but they could not finish Elementary School. Eva Simón is the third daughter of this family. When she left school, she started working in the fields, picking coffee and plums in the mountains. Her income per day was about Q7.00, while she was incurring many health risks such as sun exposure. To help her family, she used to give half of the total income to her mother.
One day Eva heard about a job opportunity of a company called Wakami. She wasn’t convinced to approach the group of women involved in it, but she dared. With the support of her mother, she began working in Wakami when she was 15 years old. At the beginning, Eva was not sure if she had the capabilities to make by hand the Wakami products, but the Wakami trainers taught her many techniques and she learned very fast, standing out from the rest of the group. She was then named the official internal trainer for the company “Producciones Tzununá”.
“I feel very happy because I learned fast during the training process and I finally earned my first salary” – Eva Simón Eva Simón has now been working for 3 years in Wakami. Now she is 18 years old and she earns around Q800 per month. She still helps her mother by giving her 50% of her earnings.
By showing her capabilities, Eva is finally gaining her family’s trust, having them realize how important her job is, despite the fact that it often has her to travel to the city, which can be dangerous for a woman. Eva has gained a lot of confidence; she has now joined a program called “Starting Opportunities”, better known as the Girls’ Club. The main objective is to help girls and teenagers by educating them about topics such as empowerment, health, education, productivity and independence in order to increase their chances to succeed. Eva is now in charge of teaching these subjects to the girls and teenagers of the Girls’ Club, and, in that way, Eva helps her community progress. Eva’s dream is to become the leader of the “Producciones Tzununá” group and to go back to school to become a teacher.
Felicito Pérez Días
A little bit about his life: Before I started to work on my company I lived a different life, my family has always been really modest. Although we live with the little things we have, our parents gave my family the opportunity to study since we were kids and that’s something I’ll always be thankful for. When I was almost done studying High School I got this amazing job opportunity.
When I was selected to be the leader of this company my life changed completely; and I think I’ve done a very good job. Last year we set difficult goals to achieve with the team and now we surpassed them all. That’s my biggest personal achievement, that’s my honor and the honor of the people who follow me on the community.
I want to thank Communities of the Earth and Kiej de los Bosques because they have given us great support to get out of the difficult situation in which we live. I have to tell, that I’m very thankful with the people of the community too, because we worked well with love and good intentions. My parents gave me the opportunity to study since I was a kid but now I’m working out my second year of college paying it all by myself. I’m glad that I’ll become a professor in pedagogic and social sciences because I’m willing to help the kids in my community to learn and to grow.
Before I started working with Communities of the Earth I didn’t even know Guatemala City and now I like to come here a lot. Even though people in the community sometimes criticize me for having higher incomes than others, what I really deeply wish, is to bring opportunities for all of them.
His taste and love of music: Yes, I really enjoy band music; I like reggaeton and cheerful songs. I like a song in which a mother prepares her child to leave their home, I think music is inspiring. His favorite time of the day: My favorite time of day is when I’m working, because in the long run is what gives more results and satisfaction.
His favorite outdoor activity: My parents met when they were 17 because my father played Basketball near my mother’s house. I love sports but my mother doesn’t want me to play because I can get hurt. I love playing soccer; right now I’m playing on a team and we will play the championship final next weekend. I am a teacher and I want to set an example for the children: they need to understand that sports are a really healthy decision.
What makes him feel joy: I feel joyful when I’m with my family. I love to feel close to my parents because they give me the best advice I could get. They have always known how to help me to have a better life.
His favorite drink: I love orange juice. His abilities: I really like to cook. My parents gave me a very thorough education; when I was studying in high school I volunteered to teach to my classmates how to cook and they all loved the dishes I prepared.
His dream and message to the world: My dream is to generate income for my people. I’m working to finish my college degree to teach. I want to spread in my country the importance of education. I also want to continue to grow my business and leave a huge legacy for others. “I’d give my life if it was necessary for my people and my country.”
Alejandra Alquijay, “Artesanías Candelaria”
A little bit about her life: Like many other women in Guatemala, Alejandra had to leave her community when she was 13 years old, to work in the city as a housekeeper. This situation forced her to leave school at early age. When she got married, Alejandra and her husband returned to the rural area, where they raised 4 kids. Working as farmers, their income was low and temporary, not allowing them to provide education and good quality of life to their family.
She tells us that it hasn’t been an easy journey. Because of the culture we live in, at the beginning, many people in her community opposed to her work, saying that it was a waste of time. With patience and a good attitude, Alejandra has proven the opposite. Now, even the husbands of her community are helping their wives with their tasks, and Alejandra’s business is growing faster than she thought it would!
Now, Alejandra has an opportunity. With her business with Wakami, income has increased and women in her group stopped working far away from home, being able to give more attention to their family and have a bigger source of income. Alejandra’s company has been so successful, that it’s becoming one of the top sellers of the Wakami network!
How she describes herself: “I am a woman who has fought hard, a woman who has come forward and who really wants others to improve in their lives too. The journey of my life has been tough but I’ve accomplished a lot and I have surpassed too many obstacles on my way to success.
What makes me different from others is that I really want for other women to do the same; I know that the work is not easy but I have faith, because I believe everyone can be better if they set their minds to it. My dream is for the women and girls of my country to go out to work and to study to become better every day. I think that one of my achievements is that the people around me have a better view about themselves, which makes me really happy.” Her favorite food: “I really love to eat rice and beans.” Her favorite sport: “I enjoy playing basketball. Lately I haven’t been able to play as much as I did before, because I have to take care of my kids but some afternoons I play with them and with my husband. It’s a good quality time activity. There’s a court really close to our house, that’s why it’s easy for all of us to play together.”
What makes her laugh: “what makes me laugh is knowing that my children are doing well, we laugh a lot at home; because we have a lot of family jokes and we enjoy telling them over and over again.” What she believes in: I am a catholic. When I was young I did my “Firs Communion.” My heart feels “Catholic” because I truly believe in God and in Virgin Mary. I use every chance that I have to tell this to my kids: I’ve been traveling to the city since three years ago, and every time I return home healthy is because of the will of God, I certainly know that he protects me on every single trip. My job has helped me to strengthen my faith because every time I’m working I feel much more protected.”
Her message to the World: “Everything happens for a reason, there are hard things in every community; it is hard for men to see women becoming better but as women we can get ahead, first we have to fight but then we definitely can go ahead. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to suppliers that distribute our products throughout the world; because if they didn’t value our work we wouldn’t have the success we are achieving.”
Antonia Cos Morales
A Little bit of her story: When Antonia was twelve she had a goal: she wanted to study; but the truth is that she could not study because she didn’t have enough money to pay for school. “When I realized that, I made the decision to have a job to pay for my school, and since then I have two goals: education and money to pay for it.”
Antonia didn’t have the opportunity to study, because she lacked money for it. Her day to day activity was staying at home, taking care of her brothers and sisters. Then when she was fourteen she went to work as a housekeeper, but she had to take care of kids and that was making her really tired. When she was working there, she had the opportunity to participate on a “girls club.” (A club, were a trained team gives tips and talks to the ladies of the rural areas of Guatemala). Antonia says she loved that club: “that’s where my future started because I started to learn, that’s my happiness.” Later on that club, she was offered to work with Wakami. She loved the idea and always participated in every activity she could. She started working in the Wakami business that was on the incubation process. Antonia was faced with the challenge of leading the business when the former leader could not continue. Now 15 young women like me, work with me and we are a great team.”
“I have to tell that when we met Kiej de los Bosques, Wakami, and Communities of the Earth, the work process and the dreams began. I decided to improve my economy and I fixed my goals. Now I like to concentrate on my work because here I have the opportunity to decide whether I win or lose money, before I started as a leader I asked my parents if they gave me their permission and they told me that I was good enough to make my decisions and they supported me and have done so since that day. I am a lucky young woman.”
“Right now I am preparing to study; I will start my first grade of high school next year. I want to be a Spanish translator to Quiché; I am now learning to speak the original Quiché because the one we actually speak is sort of mixed with Spanish. I am very grateful to Communities of the Earth because of their support. I really love my new job and I am happy to fulfill my dreams.”
Her love and taste for art: “I like it, my books are always there for me; I paint and draw anything I find, the truth is that my books are my companions. I also help my siblings with their homework and support my family to read and write.”
Her first activity when she wakes up in the morning: “Actually when I wake up I have a Bible close to my bed and the first thing I do is read. My goal is to read a chapter every morning. After I read I like to take a shower.”
She likes to drink: orange juice; “I like almost every natural juice.” If she could learn something new she would choose: “I would learn anything. I like to study and learn new things so I’m open to learn anything; the truth is that I really could not choose (laughing)” She likes about herself: “what I like about myself is that I like to know new things. I seek to learn and experience new things. I like to get to know also, people coming from far away or people I don’t know.”
Her message to the World: “Give life a chance, opportunities come once in a lifetime and we can’t let them go; we must seize chances. My message goes to all the young people of the World because we, the young people, are the future of our countries and we need to make this world a better place: let’s do something.”
A little bit about her life: Francisca lives in Pochuta, Chimaltenango. She’s married and has 5 children. She never went to school, but the fact of not knowing how to read and write hasn’t stopped her from becoming a successful business woman.
Before starting her business, Francisca used to work as a housekeeper and she had to travel leaving her children alone during the day. The opportunity to work for Wakami came through a savings group in her community, formed by 15 women. Now Francisca is persistent; she is determined to make the business grow and fights daily to make her dreams come true. Francisca wants to continue giving study to her children and buy land to build a new house.
Her most valued thing in the World: “Myself, I like that I do not give up, I like to get what I want, and I know I can achieve it.” Her taste for music: “I like romantic music; I love to listen to Ricardo Arjona and Ana Gabriel, almost every song.”
Her weekend activities: “I like to go to the village with my family. We’re also planning to go to the beach for my children to have fun”. What makes her laugh: “Happiness, I like my kids, they make me happy and we laugh all the time. My granddaughter makes me laugh too because she is starting to talk and do things. The friends of my children have funny stories that make me laugh.
Her favorite drink: I enjoy drinking “Rosa de Jamaica”. Her message to the world: “First of all don’t you ever give up on what God wants, we must succeed if we have the greatest gift of all: LIFE. I hope that you accomplish all of your goals. I feel happy and proud of my work, look out for that feeling because it’s the best one you’ll ever get. “