A few days ago, a young Mayan girl tried to sell me a bracelet on Skype. I was in the middle of a Skype training with Michelle, the current CE Solutions Field Consultant in Solola, when she wandered into the cafe where Michelle was sitting and took it upon herself to join in on our Skype conversation. I told her that the bracelet was very beautiful, but that I live very far away…and she said (very seriously) that my friend should just buy it for me and send it to me later.
It was an adorable but strange experience. It reminded me of the interconnectedness of the world – how easy it is for me to plug my computer in and instantly be connected to a country thousands of miles away, and feel like I’m literally sitting in a small cafe in the town of Panajachel. How this young Mayan girl didn’t even flinch upon seeing my face up on the computer screen – in a tourist town like Pana, I’m sure she’s used to seeing gringos with their technology. And then there’s the (perhaps obvious) point – that this young girl, at 2 pm on a Wednesday, was wandering the streets of the town, selling bracelets for maybe 5 quetzales (less than a dollar), instead of in school. For many Mayan families, selling their handicrafts is a main source of income, so each sale – no matter how small – can really make a difference in their day-to-day well-being. I’ve seen Mayan girls as young as 5 or 6 selling their products around the town, and it saddens mean that for many, this might be their only employment option.
But that’s where organizations like CE Solutions come in. Both through my training sessions and through the independent research I’m doing for my senior capstone project (which I’m writing about the MicroConsignment Model), I’m learning a LOT about CE Solutions’ unique and sustainable approach to development, through business development and market access. In yesterdays training, we talked about the structure of SolCom (Soluciones Comunitarias, the Guatemalan social enterprise that CE Solutions partners with in Guatemala), and who to talk to about which products – certain entrepreneurs or coordinators are more familiar with certain products, depending on which products are more popular in their regions. We also went over, in detail, the specific strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities of both the Solola region as a whole and of the individual entrepreneurs whom I will be working with – three teams in total, plus two additional “puntos de venta” (points of sale).
All in all it’s extremely exciting, though a lot to take in in a pretty short amount of time – but between the time I’ve already spent in Guatemala, my work with the Global Poverty minor, and these Skype training sessions, I’m hoping I won’t be too overwhelmed when I arrive in just over a month. All that stands between me now is my capstone project, two final exams, and three graduation ceremonies – and then I’m off!