Why We Go: Ambassador Erin Weber in Guatemala
At Noonday Collection, we love witnessing the connections that form between women from different parts of the world when they realize that no matter where they’re from, they aren’t so different after all. This summer we’re taking Noonday Ambassadors to meet the Artisans who create our handmade finds in Guatemala, Ecuador and Rwanda – and we can’t wait to see them find places of connection with the people they meet.
Erin Weber, a Noonday Collection Ambassador from Washington Court House, Ohio, had the chance to travel to Guatemala this past week. We asked her to share some of her experiences and how this trip has changed the way she thinks about her Noonday business.
During my week in Guatemala, I was able to experience the beauty of partnership – the linking of hands and voices —that we have with Noonday. It really is a collaborative relationship between the Artisans, the Ambassadors and our Hostesses. None of us could fill our role without the other. We’re able to accomplish so much more together. This collaborative effort was a constant thread throughout my trip.
My favorite part of the trip was when we spent time with Ana (the namesake of our Ana’s Scarf) and the women she employs in her artisan business. That morning we found ourselves on a boat, heading across a beautiful lake. Ana met us at the dock and walked us up the steep hill to her workshop.
It was amazing to see the process of making Noonday’s scarves from start to finish. Ana explained the dying process for us and was quick to point out the upgrade she was able to make to this step of the scarf making process. Traditionally, the scarf fibers are dyed using bark, leaves and flowers over a large campfire. The smoke from the fire is unhealthy for the women, the firewood takes up a lot of space, and the process of building and preparing the fire is long. Ana has been saving to upgrade this process and was recently able to purchase several propane burners. This allows the women to double the amount of fiber that they can dye at once and provides a healthier work environment.
Making the scarves is an involved, multi-step process. The women wash the fibers, then dye, dry, and wind them. Then, after counting and organizing the fibers, they weave them together on a backstrap loom to create a finished scarf. Each woman specializes in one step so that the process moves smoothly and quickly and a high quality is maintained. I was amazed at the time and skill that goes into creating each scarf! The women are able to do a large part of the weaving from home with their children at their sides, which enables them to earn an income while caring for their children and maintaining a traditional art form that dates back thousands of years.
After leaving Ana’s workshop, we headed over Angelica’s workshop, where we met the Artisans who make the Angelica Infinity Scarf. The women who work on the scarf shared with us what the Ambassador partnership means to them. Today, they have a consistent, reliable income that has given them a power they have not had in the past. Angelica explained how, in Guatemala, the indigenous woman has been discriminated against three times over: once for being poor, again for being a woman and a third time because she’s indigenous. She went on to share that “every scarf sold is an opportunity” for them.
It was powerful for me to see firsthand the beauty of the partnership that we have as Ambassadors. Many of the women in Ana and Angelica’s town and around Guatemala are very skilled in a traditional art form of some sort, be it weaving, beading or embroidery. However, what small market exists there in country is overly saturated by handcrafts and the opportunities for reliable income are too few.
Without exception, each group we visited throughout our trip communicated the same thing: thank you for working with us, and keep selling our product so that we can provide more people with jobs!
Ana has always had a strong voice and a vision for her community. And because of her partnership with Noonday, Ana now has the power to provide consistent work in a positive work environment for the women in her town! I have power and a loud voice simply because of where I come from – and I believe I have a responsibility to share it. The partnerships that Noonday has opened up for me as an Ambassador have provided me with the opportunity to share my power with my fellow sisters, to amplify their voices.
These days in Guatemala have made me reflect on how I’m doing when it comes to sharing those things. How can I do better? How can we do better? Our artisan partners matter. We matter. You matter! You have power and a voice that is loud, just like Ana and Angelica! How are you using it? From Artisan to Ambassador to Hostess and customer, we’re all in this together. Together we’re building a flourishing world where children are cherished, women are empowered, people have jobs and we are connected!
Are you inspired by the stories you’ve read? We’d love for you to be part of our flourishing world by hosting a Trunk Show or becoming a Noonday Ambassador! Join our Ambassador community this summer and you could earn the chance to travel on an Artisan trip of your own next summer!