Why We Go: Kerry Little in Ecuador
Being a Noonday Ambassador has to be the best gig around. I’ve had jobs that were interesting or fun or challenging, but I’ve never had a job tha was interesting AND fun AND challenging AND meaningful. It’s such a unique combination of everything that I am passionate about. And then to also have the opportunity to travel with Noonday to visit the very Artisans who were the whole reason why I signed up in the first place? Amazing!
This past week in Ecuador has been incredible on so many different levels. The first part of our week was spent in Quito learning about the culture and getting to know each other better. When I first joined Noonday I was unprepared for the bond that I would have with my fellow Ambassadors. I had no idea that a whole tribe of world changing women were out there and that they would embrace me and share my passions for social justice. While we explored the breathtaking city of Quito together and admired the spectacular views, we laughed, cried, dreamed, and enjoyed each moment. We served at a home that offers support to children who live in the surrounding community, and we bonded over coloring and reading and making cookies with those precious children. I love that we have a community of strong women who are so much fun and live their lives with so much purpose! Working alongside them is such a blessing.
Later in the week we started meeting our artisan partners, people whose stories we have told to numerous Hostesses and customers over the years. We met Gladys and her son, Jose Luis, who are our tagua seed suppliers. They showed us with great pride the lengthy and detailed process they use to take the tagua seed from its raw form to a beautifully cut, polished, and dyed piece that will eventually find its way into one of our accessories.
Gladys is passionate about tagua and making a superb product! With her earnings she is able to support her family and help her son go to university where he is studying business and hopes to help the family business develop. Gladys shared that she is “fighting to move forward” to continue to grow her business and send her kids to school.
Two more of our artisan partners, Luis and Marina, told us that before partnering with Noonday they would sell at the market every day, rain or shine. Luis had dreamed of being an Artisan since he was a young boy, but it didn’t provide enough income to support their family, so he had to find work where he could in construction or agriculture. He worked long hours for very little money and the work was inconsistent. With orders from Noonday, he told us that he can now pursue his passion and make a living as an Artisan. We asked him what his dreams for the future were, and he said that being an Artisan that could provide for his family was his only dream from a very young age. He never thought that he would be able to have dreams outside of that…now he can dream bigger!
Marisol, a vibrant young woman who works in another of our artisan partner’s workshops, shared that she is one of ten children and her mother is not able to help her pay for a university education. With her income from making jewelry for Noonday, she is able to help support her mother and younger siblings as well as save money for her own education. She was overwhelmed by how much this opportunity for a dignified job at a living wage means to her. During our visit, Marisol and others in their workshop taught us how to make a tagua necklace. The work was so challenging and gave me a renewed respect for the skill these women have. Seeing how they work together, helping one another and laughing together, was such a joy!
Being able to embrace these Artisans, spend time in their homes and workshops, and learn about their struggles and achievements was a dream come true for me! Witnessing them seeing their creations in our lookbook for the first time and seeing their huge smiles and the pride in their eyes over a job well done was the highlight of my trip. All of our artisan partners expressed how much they love working in collaborative communities and having consistent work in a job that is creative and allows for artistic expression. They are passionate about producing an excellent product and making beautiful designs. They want better futures for their families and education for their children. And they want to see others in their communities have this same opportunity.
As we said good-bye and began our journey back to the States, their hopes for the future stuck with me. It was beautiful to see firsthand how similar their dreams for their families and communities are to my own. And even more beautiful to see that through our work with Noonday, these dreams are becoming realities for us all.