By: Sophie Green
Sophie is from Cambridge, Massachusetts and is a recent graduate of Bard College. She is currently serving as a communications intern for En Vía.
With just two weeks to go, we are well over our crowdfunding campaign goal of 11,000 USD, and we could not be more thrilled! This campaign is to benefit our education program, so I spoke with Yanet, our Education Coordinator, to find out more about where the idea came from, and her goals for the program.
Yanet explained that the objective of the business courses is to help the women in the program to develop their business skills and to strengthen their work in general. The impetus for the crowdfunding campaign was to secure more resources to better support all of the women in the program. For example, to purchase workshop materials, to better develop the curriculum, and to provide stipends for expert local teachers. As we have a range of businesses in our program, we want to provide more business-specific courses so that the needs of everyone in the program are met. As Education Coordinator, Yanet oversees the courses–and teaches many herself!–and makes sure that the women are receiving the support that they need to run successful businesses. From Teotitlán del Valle herself, Yanet is particularly well suited to supporting the women in the program. Not only does she have long-standing relationships with many of the borrowers in the communities, she told me that she was actually a loan recipient when the En Vía program began in Teotitlán. She ran a small jewelry business, before stepping into her current role and becoming a full time member of the En Vía team.
Yanet says that from a young age, she wanted to find a way to support her community. When En Vía began, she channeled her energies into using the organization to help her town, and it continues to be extremely gratifying work. Her favorite part of her job is being able to support women’s businesses, and seeing the success of the business courses. For example, when she sees women using the skills they have gained from their classes, or when they explain what they have learned to tour participants during tours. Yanet does not feel that there are particularly difficult parts of her job, because she enjoys the work! It can be challenging, for example, during classes when women cannot read or write, but she adapts the classes to the needs of women, adding more images and figures so that everyone gets the same information. Because Yanet speaks Zapotec, she is also able to offer business courses in both Spanish and Zapotec, and the women can choose which course they feel most comfortable in.
I asked Yanet if she has observed any particular changes to her community since En Vía’s work started in 2008, and if there have been positive and negative developments. She explained that there was already a significant amount of tourism in Teotitlán before En Vía, but that the tours focused more on the artisans’ woven products, with little to no emphasis placed on the stories of the artisans themselves. Yanet says that tourists who visit the town with En Vía tours actually get to know what the women are like and learn a bit more about their lifestyles, so that the exchange is more personal. She noted that before En Vía, many weavers were not able to run their own businesses, but would instead make work that others would sell. The weavers were not able to sell directly to tourists and could not set their own prices or weave their own designs. Yanet explained that although microloans are common in Mexico, it is extremely unusual to have an organization that gives interest-free loans. En Vía’s program is in this way very helpful to business owners, as it helps achieve a certain independence.
En Vía has come a long way since we first started in 2010, and we are so grateful for all of the support that makes our program possible! We are especially appreciative of everyone who has donated to the crowdfunding campaign. These donations make a huge difference and we could not do it without you!