I’m something of an impostor… a fraud, in fact. Although I’m posing as a business person and own a Fair Trade store, I’m really just a minister.
After serving the church for 11 years, I began following my husband’s career four years ago and the result has been a lot of substitute preaching, serving part-time as a college’s Chaplain, and starting a Fair Trade store in both of the towns we’ve lived. I haven’t always made great business decisions, harking back to the ‘poser’ admission, but the decision to spend my time with Fair Trade has never been in question. It is good. Very good. For everyone.
I’ve always wanted to learn about Guatemala, beadwork and weaving and when I started hinting to Sharon that I would like to come on a learning trip, she was encouraging and enthusiastic. She even suggested that our whole family come (which includes a six and nine year old – yikes), made reservations for us and lined up an exciting itinerary. She was there to meet us when we climbed off of the van and hosted us throughout our time in Guatemala. I can’t share my thanksgivings enough for her hosting of our group. We were time consuming and, I’m sure, somewhat difficult.
I’ve ordered from Unique Batik since we started the store in the church around seven years ago. They are good with me as a retailer and what I saw of Sharon in Guatemala is that she is excellent with the producer groups. After being around here for all of these years, I expected nothing less, but it was great to see it for myself.
Many of the family groups we visited have been business partners with Sharon for well over a decade. They expressed their sincerest appreciation for her consistent orders. There was a subtle pride expressed by the artisans that was moving. For many of those we met, Sharon’s orders were nothing short of life changing. Their children were in college because of Fair Trade, for goodness sakes! It certainly added to my resolve to do the best I can at selling their goods.
I also was fortunate to see the beginning of the process of working with a new, potential partner. The design process seemed slow and difficult to me… and uncertain. I would never have the patience to inch along like what I witnessed with this group and even with other well established co-ops as well. There are so many cultural nuances to navigate along with the obvious language barrier. (Knowing Spanish is not enough when working with indigenous groups in Guatemala. They all have their own languages and many do not speak Spanish at all.)
Some of our favorite jewelry is made by a family group in Santiago that we were able to visit. There are four sisters, a good friend, and a brother who work together to fill Unique Batik’s orders. They speak their native language. Diego, the brother, speaks both their native language and Spanish. He and Dane got along well. This group was SO FUN for us to all be with and I was delighted to see the ladies making the exact pieces that I love to wear! Our boys want to go back and share more stickers with the ladies’ kids.
It’s been hard to know what to share about this trip because it was layered with so much that I’ll be processing it all for some time, but I hope that you can feel my appreciation for Sharon, Unique Batik and Fair Trade through these words. I’ve started, and will continue, to blog about specific parts of the trip on my own blog in case you would ever like to scan a bit more.
May we all continue to keep learning in whatever ways we can… to think about how we use our time and our money… to support the things we feel are right and good… and to bring others along with us.
May it be so, indeed!