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Guatemala: Coming Together to Multiply Our Impact

Allison Ezell is a Noonday Ambassador who traveled to Guatemala last month to meet a few of Noonday’s Artisan Partners. She had a wonderful time during the trip, and she learned a few inspiring lessons that she is excited to share with the Noonday community. In the wake of the volcano eruption that has affected so many in Guatemala, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the beauty of this special country–and the tenacity of its citizens. To find out how you can help with recovery efforts in Guatemala, check out this recent article from Bustle

When you hear multiplication…

…what comes to mind?

For some, the question probably brings back memories of elementary-school math. But this past week in Guatemala, I learned a new use for the word—one I hadn’t seen enough of before. I learned the power and beauty that come from multiplying an impact.

Back in Guatemala, twenty-three Ambassadors had come together from all over the country. We hadn’t known each other long, but we’d quickly become like sisters. On our third day, near the shores of Lake Atitlan, we gathered in the grassy area of a beautiful hotel where we were joined by Rosario, Alvaro, and Cristobal—leaders from two of our artisan business partners in Santiago.

As they shared their stories and experiences working with artisans, I began to see this idea of multiplying impacts become a running theme.

Multiplying the good jobs

Cristobal’s story began when he first started working with beads at 12 years old. Now, he’s been growing his own business for over 20 years, providing about 100 jobs for people in his community. 90 percent of Cristobal’s employees are women, and 60 percent of them work exclusively on Noonday Collection designs. Cristobal’s dedication to his artisans has earned him a local reputation for being the man with the good jobs.

Cristobal (right) with three of his Artisan employees

Although he creates as many opportunities as possible—he’d like to offer even more. He had the courage to share that people are knocking on the door every day, morning to evening, asking for work. He wants to double his business this year, and he’s dreaming of the day when those doors can open wide with an abundance of orders to fill and plenty of exquisite handmade jewelry to be crafted.

As Cristobal spoke, my bracelet and earrings became more than accessories. They became symbolic of a community and its livelihood. And Cristobal wanted to multiply that livelihood through us.

Multiplying the gifts we’re given…

Alvaro and Rosario, the brother-sister duo, graciously shared their stories as well. Their journey was not an easy one; they encountered many hardships while growing up in absolute poverty. Despite such a rough beginning, their hard work and faith carried them through to starting and running a business of their own. They now employ between 30 and 50 families (depending on the season and size of the orders they receive), and their father and sister run a thriving tourist shop in nearby Panajachel. While they’re doing well today, their humble beginnings have taught them what’s at stake in their surrounding communities. So they dream bigger. They, too, want to multiply their impact.

I remember Rosario saying something that has stuck with me ever since. She told us that we all have something to bring to the table—even those living in underdeveloped countries like hers. “God gives us each a gift, and we have to use it and share it,” Rosario explained. “We all have something we can offer each other.”

What might the world be like if we could all think that way?

We had the opportunity to see how our woven styles come to life!

Multiplying laughter and family…

The question followed me the next day as we visited other Artisan Entrepreneurs like Angelica and Ana. These women have been with Noonday Collection for several years, and the community they’ve built with their employees is certainly evident. There were so many laughs and giggles and elbow prods with Angelica’s group, and it was clear that they really love the work they do.

These women were more than co-workers. They were family.

Angelica (blue shirt) with some of her Artisan employees

Multiplying  freedom for women… 

As we sat down to hear from Ana, the idea of multiplication showed up yet again. Ana is an incredibly successful young woman who engages with her work in unique and personal ways. She’s very innovative—always wanting to push the envelope and create new and exciting products. Ana’s designs have been a total hit in the US. Their popularity has empowered her to offer precious job opportunities to more women like her, bolstering the entire community.

What struck me about Ana, along with everything else, was her commitment. For the past nine years, she’s spent her weekends driving six hours each day to earn her Master’s Degree. She understands that education means freedom for women in Guatemala. Her biggest desire is to multiply that freedom in surrounding cities so that more women can experience the security that comes from a stable job.

Every Artisan Partner we visited had impacted at least one community in tremendous ways, but there’s still a massive need for stable and dignified work in Guatemala. These dedicated entrepreneurs understand that need, and they know the best way to fulfill it is to multiply their impacts even further.

It’s that simple.

Multiplying our worldwide community!

I sat with that idea for a while. Multiplying impacts. I think it translates to our Ambassador community as well. Like Rosario said, we all have something unique to offer.

Some of us are business savvy, some of us are artistic and creative, and some of us are gatherers and community-builders.

On our trip alone, we had introverts, extroverts, professionals, rising stars, and newbies. We had actors, writers, and photographers. We had biological moms, adoptive moms, foster moms, moms-to-be, and bonus moms.

And we came together from near and far to become this beautiful, multi-faceted symphony of sisters, each bringing something different to the table.

I think the biggest lesson I’m carrying home from Guatemala is that our entrepreneurs, Artisans, and the Ambassador community all share the same goal: We want to bring our gifts to the table and multiply their impacts.

We are united in that goal, and we work together to achieve it. Without the Ambassadors’ passion for building communities and helping markets flourish in the States, our entrepreneurs would have far less room to grow and reach their potentials. Without the entrepreneurs, there would be no one to foster a dignified working environment for artisans. And without artisans, who contribute their hard work, time, and talents, we wouldn’t have anything to share with communities at home—no beautiful jewelry, no stories, no impact. Working together, everything we do becomes exponentially greater—it multiplies.

As it says in the Ambassador manifesto: When we look across the globe, we don’t see strangers; we see ourselves. That could not be any truer. It’s an honor to now call these Guatemalan world-changers my friends.

What kind of impact will you multiply?

Author: Allison Ezell

Allison is a wife and mom-of-three in North Texas. She is a former middle-school teacher currently spending her days writing, chasing her kiddos, and avoiding the laundry. She has been an Ambassador for two and a half years and was able to bring her youngest son home from China thanks in huge part to her Noonday Collection business. She is passionate about encouraging women, creating community, and Tex-Mex.

Photography: Karina Tobin

Karina is absolutely thrilled to be an Ambassador for Noonday Collection, where her love for jewelry and her passion for empowering women came together at last! Karina currently teaches video-tech to kids in middle school, and she’s been videoing weddings for 12 years in the Portland/Vancouver area. She took up photography about six years ago when she decided to switch her video camera out for a DSLR. One person asked for photos, then another, and it spiraled into a dual business that is still going strong today. She is also the mother of an amazing little 8-year-old girl and a 4-year-old son who likes to frequent her photo shoots. Karina is quite a fan of chocolate, coffee, music, movie quotes, and fair trade products, and she is surprisingly talented when it comes to Just Dance on Wii.